Learn more about the writer and her family traditions around Diwali.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I was lucky to be raised in a very ethnically diverse city. At a very early age, I was exposed to so many beautiful holidays and traditions from around the world, and I also was eager to share my own Indian culture with my friends from school.
What inspired you to write the book on Diwali?
Growing up, when I wanted to share my family's traditions with friends, there were very few resources or books on Indian culture and holidays available. Then, when I became a teacher and mother, this gap in children's literature became more than just an annoyance. I couldn't imagine a world where children like my son couldn't see themselves, their culture, and their traditions reflected in the books that they saw on shelves and read in class.
After my first book, Ganesh and the Little Mouse, one of the Bharat Babies' co-founders, SriVani, pitched the idea of writing a book about the many stories behind Diwali. I loved the idea because even within Indian culture, we aren't always inclusive of Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist traditions.
While most of us have heard the Hindu Diwali stories, these other stories remain untold. "Let's Celebrate Diwali" takes place in a classroom, a familiar place for all children. The hope is that this story's format and setting empowers readers to share their own Diwali stories at school with their peers, and models what an inclusive, safe classroom looks and feels like.
How did you celebrate Diwali as a child?
As a child, Diwali was a time of togetherness. We did our prayers as a family, met family and friends for fun dinners, there was gift-giving, new clothes, and plenty of fun. Being in Canada, we didn't do much firecrackers as the weather starts to cool quite a bit in the late fall.
My favourite part of Diwali was the last day, bhaiyya dooj. It was a time for me and my brothers to celebrate our special sibling bond.
What's your favorite Diwali sweet?
Gulab Jaman! I can never get enough!!! -
What do you like more - Rangoli or Firecrackers?
As a child, I loved firecrackers -- probably because we didn't do much of it during Diwali. As an adult, I love rangoli. The patterns are so intricate and beautiful. I love watching artists put their own personal creative spin on a traditional rangoli pattern.
What's your favorite Ramayana character?
Hanuman. Despite is incredible strength and physical abilities, Hanuman's strongest character trait is that of inner strength. In Hindu mythology, Hanuman is the epitome of devotion and commitment.
For your chance to win a copy of Let's Celebrate Diwali, go here.