Nick Sharma is author of the popular Shalu series of books. His book Shalu, Diwali the Festival of Lights is a wonderful introduction to Diwali and celebrates the spirit and meanings behind the festival.
Sharma grew up in Fiji and has worn many hats as an actor, screenwriter and illustrator. Learn more about what lights up his Diwali.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the Fiji islands. I lived there up until I was eight, from there I moved to the United States and spent the rest of my life growing up in California. I visit Fiji once in a great while and it's absolutely beautiful. From the white sandy beaches to the crystal clear water that you can walk into the ocean and have the water only to your knees, it just takes your breath away. Maybe one day I will stay longer.
What inspired you to write the book on Diwali?
What inspired me is that there is a need for books about traditions and cultures to help people understand other people's backgrounds. We live in a world where we are all curious and everyone's culture seems a mystery even to those who have lost it by growing up without exposure to them. This was a way to fulfill that need and help children and parents get in touch with those roots. Diwali in particular, I found a good way to incorporate a lesson for kids what to do when you get lost and finding your way home since it is one of our main family gatherings we practice. Always nice to teach kids something useful in addition to lessons about culture.
How did you celebrate Diwali as a child?
When I was Fiji would celebrate with fireworks. Definitely, a lot of fireworks. The skies were crystal clear at night and the fireworks just showcased all their vibrant colors. I loved the anticipation as the fuse was burning, the smell of them as they rocketed up, and the sound they made with that pop, right before the brilliant display of colors it showcased. It was magic when I was a kid and still is. I hope other kids get to see and feel that same experience as I did.
What's your favorite Diwali sweet?
Now this is a tricky question. How can you say no to any sweets or just pick one? But if I had to pick one it would have to be gulab jamun. That was our donut back home. We didn't have access to other sweets like we have in the US and it's probably why I love donut holes. It has that sweet doughy bite with that sugar that sweeps into the mouth from edge to edge making a smile spread at the same rate.
What do you like more - Rangoli or Firecrackers?
Well, as mentioned, firecrackers are one of my favorite things about Diwali. Rangoli is beautiful and I am a very artistic person so having the ability to create something from your heart and express it in colors is always special but on the other hand, firecrackers go boom so there's that lol.
What's your favorite Ramayana character?
From the stories, I loved Hanuman. There was an epic series I watched as a kid that showed him growing into a giant and flying off and I thought that was one of the coolest things ever. We didn't have TV back there so it was just those videos that I would watch and it would feed my imagination. As a kid, I would run around pretending to be Hanuman many times crashing into things and standing with my fists tucked into my sides, chest out and by tightening my lips and blowing up making my face monkey like.
Fo you chance to win a copy of Shalu, Diwali, the Festival of Lights, go here.
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