Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in California. I grew up in Concord, California and went to elementary, middle and high school in Walnut Creek, California.
What inspired you to write the book on Diwali?
I wanted to write an engaging story that realistically captured how Indian-American children celebrate Diwali with their families. I also wanted to weave in the story of why Diwali is celebrated so that children had more meaningful understanding of the Festival of Lights.
As a former teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District, I knew there was a critical need for more books about the Indian culture in our schools. From growing up in primarily Caucasian schools, I also knew that Indian children needed stories that they could see themselves in.
How did you celebrate Diwali as a child?
My mom would do a small puja and light diyas all around our house, upstairs and downstairs. She would make sure to put them on the windowsills so that Laksmhi would be able to find our house. It was also to drive away darkness. We would typically go to a family friends house for dinner and we ate lots of different types of sweets!
What's your favorite Diwali sweet?
My mother-in-law makes the best home-made chocolate barfis. I love chocolate, so I feel like this is the perfect Indian sweet for me! I also feel like the chocolate-barfi also symbolizes my bicultural, Indian-American identity. I would always feel like I had to eat an Indian sweet but preferred to eat a more American sweet like chocolate if I had the option. Today, I feel like I have found the perfect sweet to celebrate this special occasion.
What do you like more - Rangoli or Firecrackers?
I love firecrackers because it is an experience that is so memorable for families. When my son was around three years of age, he wasn’t so sure about the firecrackers because they were so loud! However, once he got to hold a sparkler, he realized how much fun it was!
After that, he kept asking for more! He also got comfortable with the firecrackers and today, stands right up in the front where all the action is. Diwali is something that both my son (8) and daughter (3) look forward to today. I love getting to see the “sparkle” in their eyes as they celebrate with sparklers and firecrackers--- and I love how these types of shared experiences bring families closer together.
What's your favorite Ramayana character?
My favorite character is Hanuman. I was always fascinated by the stories of Hanuman that I heard as a child. In “Lights, Camera, Diwali!” there is an image of Hanuman carrying a mountain. When I think of Hanuman today, that image comes to my mind along with the characteristics that I admire Hanuman for, his strength, devotion, loyalty, and courage.
Win copies of Lights, Camera, Diwali, here.