For an author embracing populism as a newly-minted TV personality, this is a bold premise indeed. But then I always find Devdutt Pattanaik much more adventurous and open in his books compared to his TV avatar.
“Shikhandi: and other tales they don’t tell you” is a book focussed on alternate sexuality – the queerness, the fluidity of gender, the acceptance of the “not normal”: from eunuchs to same-sex relationships suggestive of homosexuality to gender changing gods, Pattanaik covers a lot of territory. Shikhandi, of course, is the most well known of these stories, coming as it does from the Mahabharat; most others would be quiet unknown to a majority of readers. From sources as diverse as the Puraans to folk-tales, Pattanaik takes a delightful romp across India; picking up tales that seem curiously at ease with gender-fluidity, quasi-homosexuality, and other “irregularities” that have modern religious fundamentalists frothing at the mouth.
True there are some stories where it is quite a stretch to believe the point Devdutt tries to make, but overall it is a charming read and argues for a much more inclusive, open-minded, and accepting culture than the one we live in at present.