Mythological tales are timeless. They are passed down generation after generation. These stories were the companions of our growing years. Perhaps that is why mythological tales still hold a special place in our hearts. Like many of us, author Indrani Deb grew up with these tales. Her journey with mythology began as a child; and slowly, the stories became a part of her. It is her intense love for mythology that made her pen down her book Myth and the Mind.

The book introduces the readers to the great qualities of the mythological characters whose tales remain unsung. Indrani Deb has meticulously discovered the psychological depth of each character and highlighted the lessons hidden in their stories.

I had a wonderful opportunity of conversing with the author about her journey with mythology and her thoughts on the genre.

Sanchari: Tell us about your journey with mythology.

Indrani Deb: My love for mythology began as a child. My parents used to buy the Amar Chitra Katha comics for me, and I used to devour them. My father knew the Ramayana and Mahabharata by heart, and he used to relate stories from them most evenings. Later, I began reading the books themselves, and my own imagination flowed into the stories, till they became a part of my psyche. I grew up with a love for mythology.

Sanchari: Do you think mythological tales have a contemporary relevance?

Indrani Deb: Yes, they certainly do. That is precisely because they can be interpreted and re-interpreted in hundreds of ways, including from the modernist point of view. The characters are always contemporary, for human nature is always the same, whether it is to be perceived in you and me, or in great heroes of old.

Sanchari: Do you believe that mythological tales have certain realistic stories hidden in them?

Indrani Deb: Myths, by their very nature, have elements of what we call unreal – from the extreme realistic point of view. There are elements of the supernatural, of magic, of unworldly creatures, of larger-than-life characters, and so forth. But on the level of the psyche, all these are quite real.

Our minds work differently from the physical world, and it takes in much more than the realistic world can support. From the psychological angle, therefore, myths are real. The people may be doing things differently from us, but they think and feel like we do. That is where we connect with them.

Sanchari: What is your favourite mythological tale and who is your favourite mythological character? Why are they your favourite?

Indrani Deb: I, indeed, have many favourites. Draupadi herself is a study in feminism and greatness. I love the character of Sahadev, and I have tried to bring out the various nuances in his depiction. I am intrigued by the character of Surpanakha in the Ramayana, and I have plans to relate her story in the next volume of mythological tales.

I am very much drawn to character of Karna, just as much as everybody else is, as he is deep psychological study in himself. I also have plans to tell the story of Shikhandi, a very modern character, to my mind – one who goes beyond his bisexual condition, and becomes an instrument of revenge. There are so many characters, and I am interested in every one.

Sanchari: What, according to you, still draws readers to mythological tales?

Indrani Deb: Myths reflect the essence of history and philosophy. Myths show man at his best and man at his worst. Myths project man as God, and man as the devil. Myths reflect the real world and the magical world, the world outside, and the world inside. Taken together, they make an irresistible combination.

Sanchari: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of writing good mythological stories?

Indrani Deb: The first thing that is needed is a love for mythology – in all its forms, and in all the countries of the world. I am aware that in this present age Indian mythological stories have a limited readership, particularly in the global market, where people are not even aware of the richness of Indian mythology.

But to write good mythological stories, one must express the characters and their stories as one perceives them from the contemporary point of view, hoping that they will instil the same love as they have in the author.

Sanchari: The preface to your book “Myth and the Mind” talks about how the depth of the mythological tales far exceeds their outward attractions. How do you think one should attempt to understand their psychological depths?

Indrani Deb: Myths are attractive in themselves, insofar as the stories are popular as wonderful tales about great people. Most people read them for their historical and religious value. However, if they are read with analytical depth, they will fill the reader with pleasures far beyond the outward story-telling.

They will express human nature and psychological depth; they will bring out historical and sociological truths; they will show human beings as larger than life, with both virtues and vices expressed in their immensity. The depth of ancient philosophical truths will be revealed from each story, each character, each action.

All these will go to create an unforgettable and enriching experience.

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