I’ve always been daddy’s girl, but also have the most precious relationship with my mum. She is my best friend, guide and the most amazingly strong woman. Growing up I spent a lot of time with my mum’s parents. My father’s dad had passed away before I was born, and his mum lived in Vadoli, Gujarat, India. During the occasional trips to India even though the distance was there (bearing in mind there was no face time then), the bond was so strong. I loved sitting and listening to her stories about my dad and how he grew up. It was fun listening to what a studious, but mischievous child he was! There was sense of comfort and warmth just being around her. That precious bond of a grandparent and their grandchild.
I have been so blessed throughout my life to have been brought up by my bapa and ma, my mum’s parents. We always spent all our holidays with my amazing cousins, and memories of the best childhood filled with love, fun, food, adventures, and lots of craziness! Looking back now, being a mum of two boys it was amazing how they looked after the four of us unconditionally. The love they showed, the time they gave I will treasure for the rest of my life. They have taught us so much throughout the years, the language, the cooking, the culture, values and also about my Hindu religion. Every morning without fail the diva and incense was lit, and they would both sit and do pooja, playing in the back ground we would subconsciously learn the prayers and aarti, “Om Jai Jagdish”, we learnt many more from them, and always did our Jai Jai too.
Moments around the table, making samosas, peeling garlic, and shelling peas we would had so much fun, and so many stories were told. My ma was great at telling us ghosts stories from her village. My granddad would and make us learnt the Gujarati Alphabet, and teach us stories about the Hindu gods and goddess. This is where my inquisitiveness and spark was created to know more about our culture and religion. I was one of those “But why kids?”. Looks like my boys have mirrored this as my eldest Syon was the same, “Why has he got a trident like King Triton? Why does Ganesh have an elephant head? Why can Hanuman fly?”. This was my total inspiration behind creating these books. To make sure the culture and religion lived on, through stories and beautiful imagery that are not just for our kids but also our generation.
It was lovely receiving so many messages from adults about the blogs. I have written many blogs on Hinduism, The forms of Durga during Navratri , vrat (fasting stories), reasons behind holy days and festivals, to make people understand and answer the fundamental question of “But why?”. I have been praying to the cooker for 40 years during Shitala Satama and last year I discovered why. To find the answer to this head to our blog on the subject! We are blessed to also have Sagarbhai Shukla a Hindu Priest who can relate to this generation and share his wisdom and information for us to understand. We are excited this Diwali to launch The Jai Jais “Hanuman Chalisa”, the forty years versus translated for children to understand. James has created a master piece of images and the content has been created by a wonderful team each bringing an element of magic to the book, Sagabhai being a key part of this.
My grandmother died in January 2014, leaving a huge hole in the family… her Ghughra (an Indian sweet) and the most amazing Chakri, (an Indian savoury snack) will live on through the loving heart and hands of my auntie (mami). This year we lost my grandfather at the legendary age of 101 years and 10 months. He was always invincible to me and saying goodbye was hard. I know each day they shower their smiles and blessings down on everything I do. Their legacy will live on through what they taught their children, grandchildren and their seven great grandchildren.
One things that has been absolutely magical and so precious to me has been testimonials of parents that have said how their children have always taken the books to share with their grandparents. What a perfect way to bridge a generation gap and let those stories live on through generations. One parent told me she had to buy extra sets to keep at each of the grandparents houses! One of my most cherished moments is when my eldest son sat and did Jai Jai with his great grandfather and they spent time laughing, talking and reading my books. It was amazing to see a 100 year great grandfather and his 3 year old great grandchild have something in common, sharing the most treasured times and beloved memories.
It is lovely seeing my mum and dad sit with my books and share and expand on the stories from the Jai Jais. My boys (Syon aged 8, and Dhiyan aged 4) sit listening eagerly to the stories and these moments melt my heart. “Nana read mummy’s Jai Jais book and tell us more about Kali Ma... is she a witch?”.
The Jai Jais my dream has become a reality, and I cannot thank the amazing children and families who have engaged with us, and supported our journey. I was recently given some pictures of a little girl Siya, from when she was a baby to now. She has grown up with our books, each series of the books growing up alongside her. We hope to continue to educate a generation and make our precious stories and culture live on, and create bonds between generations.
By Sunita Shah