Art & Entertainment

Devdutt Pattanaik: It Is Perfectly Fine To Spend Your Entire Life Without Reading A Single Book

Devdutt Pattanaik candidly opens up about how audiobooks are different, his experience with the new medium, the reduced attention span of today’s youth, whether or not audiobooks are hampering the charm of hardbound books, his message to budding writers and lots more.

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Devdutt Pattanaik
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Devdutt Pattanaik is massively popular among Indians when it comes to books on mythology and historical fiction. His work is not only followed by billions of people not just from India but even from across the globe. Not just people who know about mythology, but even youngsters who’re discovering mythology and are trying to figure out what’s the real meaning of scriptures – everyone follow Pattanaik.

Devdutt Pattanaik has been instrumental in debunking myths and breaking down the historical verses in a way that even the layman can understand what’s the real underlying meaning of some of the verses written down and believed to be sacrosanct for centuries. His books and audiobooks are read by people from all generations.

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Talking to Prateek Sur, Devdutt Pattanaik candidly opens up about how audiobooks are different, his experience with the new medium, the reduced attention span of today’s youth, whether or not audiobooks are hampering the charm of hardbound books, his message to budding writers and lots more. Excerpts:

You have worked with Audible on multiple audiobooks and podcasts. How has the experience been so far?

This has been a very different experience. It's very different from writing a book. It is not reading a script, but it is talking extempore on a particular issue so that the audience can feel I'm talking to them. So, it's not like a performance on stage. It is like attending a private Literary Festival.

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How different is audio as a medium and the creative process of creating a podcast as opposed to writing a book?

When you're writing a book, you can go back and forth through pages, paragraphs and chapters. But when you are talking or listening, the audio medium cannot do this easily. It is difficult to cross connect. That is an important point to remember. That was a real challenge.

If you had to pick one filmmaker in today’s times to recreate your books for a screen presentation, who would you want that to be?

I think you're confusing me with fiction writers who write fiction. Only my mythological fiction book, ‘The Pregnant King’, has been used for stage. My books are difficult to adapt for the screen because they are based more on ideas and thought rather than action.

Audiobooks and podcasts are the new norms of this generation. What’s your take on them? Is it a boon or a bane?

It is yet another way of communication. For thousands of years, Indians preferred the oral transmission of stories and ideas. I think this is a new form of the old traditional model of oral transmission. So it is nothing new for me. It has its own benefits. It has its own issues.

Personally, what would you prefer – a hardbound book to read or an audiobook of the same which you can listen to while working on something else as well?

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When I'm doing research I prefer written material, so a book. But when I am traveling, I prefer to listen to podcasts. When I want to get a quick understanding of a complex subject, I prefer to hear podcasts. But if I want to peruse it in depth, I prefer a book.

Doesn’t having audiobooks and podcasts reduce the attention span of the young readers?

Audiobooks are just one way of learning things. They are not the complete way and they are not the only way. But they are far better than watching social media that lets you taste a lot of things but digest nothing.

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If there was one thing that you could tell an 18-year-old Devdutt Pattanaik right now, what would that message or that learning be?

My message would be pay as much attention to physical exercise as you do to intellectual pursuits and aesthetic pursuits. Nerds like me focus more on the mind than the body, when both need equal attention.

One message for budding writers who want to write but are always scared that they wouldn’t be able to finish up and it would be left unfinished for life.

I think those who want to write must focus why people would want to read their stuff. I think many writers are excited by writing because they want to express themselves. They never consider the fact that maybe there is no one out there who wants to read their work.

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What would your message be to all those people who keep saying that whenever I pick up a book to read, I end up falling asleep? What’s the cure to that?

Fall asleep, it is perfectly fine to spend your entire life without reading a single book. I think that is a valid choice. Not everybody needs to discover the magical things located inside books. I genuinely believe that books are meant for a very small group of select people. Not everybody belongs to that exclusive club.

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