Tell us about yourself
I am a children’s book author, based in Mumbai, India. I’ve currently published ten books for children with a few leading publishers in India. My first book Icky, Yucky, Mucky!, was published in 2011 and since then, luckily enough, my brain has continued to buzz with stories.
I’m an MBA by qualification and have previously worked at Titan Watches, Barista Coffee and last at Yum! as brand manager for Pizza Hut, India. From formulating marketing strategies to writing books for children, the varied experiences have been wonderful and I can happily say that I’ve found what I love doing.
I took a break from corporate life close to eleven years ago and soon after I knew that I wanted to do something else. It took three years of soul searching which included bringing my two kids into the world, travel, moving cities, going back into the world of children’s literature with my children, strange characters entering my head like a Maharaja with terrible table manners and a Maharani who nibbles her nails, another year of writing, a year of rejection letters (it definitely felt much longer) and finally my first book found a home!
Tell us about any current projects or initiatives
My tenth book that has released recently, Squiggle Takes a Walk (Featured in Flipkart’s Best of 2014 Children’s books), is very dear to me for it began with a doodle and was very long in the making. It’s a fictional story about a doodle having an existential crisis on a page and walking through a notebook in search of her identity. It’s a wild adventure amidst punctuation marks that yell at, trip, hook and encourage Squiggle till she finally discovers her place in the world.
The book comes with a number of fun activities around punctuation and will help introduce and reinforce the correct use of punctuation in a deliciously comic format. Take a look into the book by clicking here.
I’ve also spent most of the last year and a half researching and writing my books for the History Mystery Series published by Duckbill books. These are books for children age 8-12 years, set in different periods of Indian history. They are fictional mysteries that have unusual and interesting facts about the period – food, monuments, clothing, entertainment and the habits and routines of the emperor from the period amongst other things, all woven into the story. The first three books in the series are: Akbar and the Tricky Traitor, Ashoka and the Muddled Messages and Raja Raja and the Swapped Sacks (Featured in Flipkart’s Best of 2014 Children’s books).
I like using humour in my writing and the stories are often referred to as hysterical historicals! I grew up detesting history as a subject in school, only to discover later in life how utterly fascinating it is. My hope is that while children enjoy the books as a fun read, it’ll also peak their interest and give them a glimpse of bits of Indian history that they aren’t likely to find in their textbooks.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
Finding a publisher, understanding the industry and getting a foothold was incredibly challenging, probably the toughest bit. There were many moments full of self-doubt and my family’s encouragement helped get past all the moments that I faltered.
I write picture books and chapter books – every new format and every new book is a challenge. I have to let go of everything else and start afresh each time, hoping my thoughts and words will come together!
I used to worry about running out of ideas. I’ve found that the world throws enough one’s way and that my mind is a strange place with strange thoughts. If stuck, walking around in circles around my dining table or taking a shower, helps with idea generation. I highly recommend this practise to anyone who will believe me.
From a ‘success’ standpoint, it’s really about getting noticed in a crowded space. There are very few names that people can recall amongst Indian children’s book writers. Yet, there is a huge amount of really good quality, contemporary writing available today. Coming from a marketing background, it’s a harsh reality and one that I am constantly struggling to overcome. I’ve conducted over 70 book readings and author interactions in schools, bookstores and literature fests. I try to connect with enthusiastic parents on social media to help people discover my books.
Book reviews and inclusion of my books in recommended lists has helped. I recently received the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2014 for Middle East and Asia for my book, Bonkers! Hugely exciting, it has helped to connect with the larger writing community. The gears in my head continue to spin. At the end of it though, I hope that when a child enjoys a book, word-of-mouth will take it a long way.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
Taking the plunge from my comfort zone in the corporate world and grasping through till I found what I truly love doing. Change is never easy. It’s exhilarating but not easy. I’m glad I didn’t give up on my dream, armed only with my story of a disgusting royal family and a stubborn streak.
Above all, I feel that every book I complete is a great achievement! It’s one word after the other and somehow, someday, a new world appears on the page.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
These are some of the things I considered as likely professions, growing up:
- Tending to lion cubs in Kenya (I’ve always been fascinated. Born Free had me hooked, early on!)
- Veterinarian (Though I didn’t want to take Biology after grade 10 so I’m not quite sure how this would have come about.)
- Architect (This was seriously under consideration.)
- News anchor (They seemed to know everything! I was still to hear of teleprompters.)
However, I would have been writing something alongside everything, as I’ve done through life.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My children, Sidhant and Antara. It’s a joy to rediscover the world through their eyes, to understand the things that tickle them, to catch bits of the world that they still find wondrous when adults don’t allow themselves the time to pick up on those precious moments.
Many established children’s book authors both internationally and within India whose writing I enjoy. They’ve honed their writing to perfection and are adept at picking up the core emotion, so crucial in children’s writing. There are too many to name here!
What does the future hold for you?
More History Mysteries, the next book for Squiggle and another book that I’ve been working on for the past few months.
Hopefully, lots and lots of stories that find their way into the hearts of little children.
Do you have any upcoming readings for children?
Yes I frequently do readings for my books around Mumbai. I’ve a few coming up over the coming months – check out the WeAreTheCity events section regularly for details!
Where can we find you online?
All my books are available for purchase in bookstores and online stores including Flipkart and Amazon.
To know more about my books, readings and activities for children around my books, you can find me here: