Some of mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik’s recent tweets read like a 13-year-old troll’s.
Mid-life crisis is real and Devdutt Pattanaik’s activity on his social media accounts proves it. Casteist slurs, abusive jibes, sexist rants and an untriggered display of childlike anger are some examples of what his recent posts are all about. Because no person in the right frame of mind would resort to such name-calling, slut-shaming and continuous ranting.
On 12 March, the author posted, “Isn’t social distancing same as untouchability?”. His tweet sounded like the trash talk of men who consider women’s night outs at bars as proof that gender-based discrimination is in women’s favour.
Countering trolls to becoming one himself
His 2015 book My Gita is an interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita that gave my interpretation of the text the power over one of the most inspiring yet disillusioning texts I’ve ever read. His retelling of Mahabharata and Ramayana made the epics more modern, and his 2011 book 7 Secrets of Shiva made me feel closer to god.
How vividly I remember trembling as I stood up with a mic at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai to ask Pattanaik a question. I also recall how fast my heart was beating and the wide smile I had for at least an hour after the author exclaimed, “Excellent question!”.
I have been one of those jobless commentators on Facebook engaging with trolls who rubbish his opinion as propaganda. In the recent CAA debates, I have held his article contrasting Hindutva with Hinduism as the holy Bible to shun anyone who tries to conflate the two.
That was until Devdutt Pattanaik became a troll himself, and his problematic social media rants cast a pall over any of his works I’ve read.
“Shudra ho, Shudra raho”. When I recently read this comment (now deleted) posted by Devdutt Pattanaik in response to a tweet, I immediately convinced myself that his account must have been hacked. But the next day, I saw a full-page rant by a man-child undermining, abusing, gaslighting anyone and everyone who called him out, maintaining that no one should count ‘Shudra’ as a profane word.
I agree, ‘Shudra’ isn’t slang, but Pattanaik’s use of the word was profane. He asked a person to ‘shut up’ by directing him to ‘remain a Shudra’. Was he insinuating that Shudras are below his savarna self and that they don’t have the right to counter him? Should Shudras never speak up or remain silent on the diktat of their ‘upper-caste’ counterparts?
His recent tweet is an abomination. For a mythologist of his stature who regularly comments on Indian culture and opines on the shaping of Hindu dharma over the centuries, he shouldn’t be denying the centuries-long ostracisation of the Dalits.
Untouchability is a form of apartheid faced even today by lakhs of Indians, rendering them exposed to disease, death and destitution. How could Pattanaik equate it with a hand sanitiser-hoarding modern-day bourgeoisie who is looking at a global pandemic as an opportunity to avoid social contact? No, how can you think about it, type it, tweet it and not even delete it? How can this insensitivity not occur to you?
And then there’s the misogyny
“Chudail”, “daayan”, “b***h” are some of the distasteful words he’s used on Twitter of late, which is unsavoury language to put it politely.
One thing I have not understood in his tweets is the constant reference to ‘she must love BDSM’ and ‘You want BDSM?’ What’s the problem here – is having kinks supposed to be insulting? Why must he attack trolls with abusive language targeted at women? Does that make him feel more masculine, give him more power?
It’s honestly baffling that a man with so many books to his credit, a stellar career, a degree that so many people wish for has to resort to insults suited to a 9th-grade puberty-stricken boy.
He also responded to everyone who agreed with the sentiment that “death is better than rape” with this: “You just want to burn women”. Pattanaik, should we remind you, no uterus, no opinion?
I hope that Pattanaik hasn’t gotten his hands on this article. The last thing I want to be called is a ‘BDSM loving b***h’ by someone I once admired. Never meet your heroes, and for god’s sake, never follow them on social media.