Milestones mean such different things when you are three vs when you turn thirty. When you turn three, everyone around you wonders if you can talk, walk, skip, hop, eat by yourself, and read letters or numbers. It's a whole other story when you turn thirty. That was my age when we found out we were having our first child.
I now have two daughters. I live life like a child because of them. I have let go of so many fears, frustrations and even likes, just for them. Or as my daughter reminds me "let it go!" (thank you Disney for the wonderful song that kids now sing to us parents all the time). They have made me a stronger, carefree and a creative person. I don’t think I would have ever explored my creative side if it were not for my older daughter.
I spent my childhood in the Middle East, where my mom made sure we all spoke in Hindi at home. Till I was 6 I was convinced that my mom didn’t really know how to speak English. It was only when she started helping me with my homework that I realised she had played us all that while!
Motherhood has been quite a journey for me so far. I went from being a full time scientific officer at a university in Sydney to being a full time mom in Bangalore. One of my expectations from the move from Australia to India was the exposure my child would have to our culture and more importantly to our language, Hindi.
You see, I have a fear that if my children can’t speak to me in Hindi, when I grow old I will never find comfort at home with them. After a hard day’s work, there is something about speaking your language that makes you feel at home.
My expectation from the move was partly met, since my daughter spoke to so many people in Hindi. But I wasn’t living up to my end of the bargain! I always thought that, like my mom, I would speak with my children exclusively in Hindi. But when the time came, I struggled and very quickly succumbed to speaking to them in a horrid cocktail of Hindi and English (well, it was mostly English, with Hindi thrown in when I was upset). And as you know very well, ‘monkey see - monkey do’. My daughter starting using English as her primary language too! I somehow felt handicapped in teaching my daughter Hindi without a book.
It was then that I realised that I was mostly reading English books to my daughter. When I visited bookstores with her, she always picked the visually appealing books, which ended up being English ones. After months of futile searching for books with the basic old nursery rhymes that I had learnt from my grandparents, I realised that they weren’t many Hindi books that could match up to the international quality of English books for the 0-4 year olds.
As the days passed, my fear grew that my daughter may never converse with me in Hindi. That was when I asked myself - is this the end of Hindi in our family? Will we have to rely on Bollywood movies for some exposure to Hindi?
And that is when T4tales came alive.
Through T4tales I wanted to create international quality picture board books for infants and toddlers in Hindi. That led to my first book - ‘Bolo Kya?’. To help parents who are not comfortable reading the Devanagari script, and to help children who might be struggling with the phonic sounds of the Hindi letters, I decided to also provide English transliteration in the books. To make the books more sturdy and more interesting for the children, I made board books with lift-the-flaps and pull-tabs. These help children stay involved and learn through touching, exploring and observing.
As I continued my research, I felt sad to see that Hindi rhymes and stories that had passed through generations were getting lost with ours. I was keen to revive these age old stories and rhymes with fresh illustrations - to make them more interesting and memorable for kids and parents - and that was the inspiration for my second book “Gol Mol Bol”.
I have now launched my third book ‘Das Din’ which is just a fun story that helps children learn counting (from 1 to 10) in Hindi and have fun in the process! I expect to write and publish many many more books and continue down this journey that gives me happiness and meaning.
Today my biggest critic continues to be my daughter. When I get samples of my book I am always eagerly watching her face to see if the book excites her. And then I am delighted beyond belief, which she opens it up and starts reading in Hindi.