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Defending the Un-Defendable: A Sad Case of Wendy-Worship

Against Devdutt Article

The hosts of Devdutt Pattanaik [1] in the US reacted in a normal way. They were rightly surprised by his fondness for a person like Doniger who passes her low-level soft-porn dressed as “Alternative History of Hindus”. Fondness for a person needs to grounded in that persons character, values and acts. In Hindu Dharma, love and forgiveness are fundamental ideals. It is generally said in India that one should shun bad actions and not the bad person, but at the same time there is no mandate to love a bad person. There is no way a  person with genuine convictions can be ‘fond’ of such a person; at most, you remain neutral and leave her/him to his own Karmic retribution and keep your guard strong against the adharmic acts. If Doniger is invading the sacred and causing untold suffering to fellow human beings, just to assuage her own feelings of misplaced self-worth, her actions certainly do not elicit fondness or love.

Expressing love for her or being “fond” of her, even when she, without compunctions, is denigrating our freedom fighters, and our Dharma, only reflects a fawning - or even cowering - inferiority complex. It also reflects a lack of maturity. It seems Rajiv Malhotra is not so wrong when he calls such people ‘Wendy’s Children’ - people who suffer from the ‘Wendy’s Child Syndrome’. Agreed, that Hinduism is about love, but that love is for dharmic people and dharmic actions. Dharma is essentially about being considerate, standing upright, acting dharmically, and fighting adharma with all the strength at one’s disposal. Possessing morality and having convictions does not automatically qualify you for the post of being a conservative. Neither does a lack of love signify virulent hatred, any more than the world is monochrome black and white. Meaningless recital of vague unscientific Western psycho-sexual concepts like “getting trapped in a vortex of our own unresolved issues” is no excuse for running away from one’s righteous duty, and only shows a severe weakness of character. Rather than trying to analyse what is dharmic and what is adharmic, Devdutt tries to hide from his sva-dharma by taking a self-centred person’s way out, narcissistically parroting, “I love myself too much to succumb to that vortex.” He even suggests an escapist’s response to a book which is idiotic, highly irresponsible and damaging: “simply shut the book and put it away”. Really, Mr. Pattanaik? Simply shut the world out and put it away!

Devdutt Pattanaik is admittedly a doting fan of Doniger, “I have been referring to Wendy’s books forever” and does not seem to feel any need to research any further. He admits as much “[from her] I get access to stories and ideas I don’t get access to easily otherwise”. In today’s age, ease of access to “stories and ideas” is not an intellectually valid ground to accept the unauthentic. He exerts himself in his snivelling efforts to please “mom” Doniger and the owners of, when he incompetently attempts to tar not only the eminent persons who courageously fought the legal battle against Doniger and Penguin to make them withdraw the sleazy pulp-fiction, but also the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. In a laughably unrelated detour, Devdutt tries to curry favour with “sexual minorities” to kill two birds with his one stony article. However, he slips up when he admits “mom” Doniger’s “naïve obsession with psychosexual analysis of Hindu gods” but tries brush it under the carpet of meaningless jargon.

The pulping of Doniger’s pulp-fiction by Penguin is in itself is not a big deal; but it is becoming more and more interesting, as it is bringing out into the light the unseen denizens who have been hiding in the closet for long. Such people the Indian nation can do without, thank you very much! However Doniger’s children have spawned far and wide across the globe, and can be seen fervently trying to protect their own when exposed to light.

Devdutt’s article is neither scholarly nor intellectually sound, as can be seen from his opinionated, unbalanced ramblings. A sustained, academically grounded and patiently pursued legal struggle by eminent people for four years to rid Indian nation of denigrating, error filled, malicious pulp fiction couched as “Alternative History” is seen by him as rising “rage”, taking  “an irrational vicious turn” against her ‘alternative interpretation’ which is “a truth” as versus “the truth”. Perhaps Mr. Pattanaik does not see that the spiritual subject that he speaks of accommodates his base “a truth” just about as well as a woman accommodates being “somewhat pregnant”. He tries to fit it into the discredited “Right-Left” paradigm he seems to have picked up from Doniger et al. In a criminal case where Penguin chose to enter into an out-of-court settlement to avoid imprisonment for Doniger and the publishers for publishing  grossly damaging pulp-fiction, he portrays the eminent concerned senior citizens as “belligerent” “right wingers” who see “other people’s books” as enemies and are engaged in an drive to “to pulp them, ban then, burn them”. If Devdutt is looking for bigotry and fanaticism, he will have to find it elsewhere.

Devdutt then tries to climb a virtual table, since a pulpit is not available online, and shouts “This not healthy. This is not love. This is not wisdom”. Pressures on Devdutt to defend his benefactors and cult members including “mom” Doniger are understandable. But he cannot indulge in “fighting windmills” at the cost of the Indian nation’s impressionable children or one billion Hindus’ sensibilities. He is well advised to read the international reviews of Wendy’s book on Amazon where the book is dubbed as an expensive “paperweight” and that Wendy “has missed the point” of Hinduism which is its spirituality. Thus this voluntary withdrawal is the natural culmination of a sordid drama.

On a more private note, I don’t think any amount of visits to “the US of A” are going to help Devdutt Pattanaik recover what he seems to have misplaced a long time ago - his dignity and self-respect. And that’s optimistically assuming that he possessed those in the first place.

Published: February 17th, 2014
[1] “Devdutt Pattanaik responds to the decision by Penguin to withdraw and pulp Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History.” Link "". Accessed on 13th Feb. 2014.