IMC: How did you think about writing a book on Durga Pujo for kids?
Shoumi: Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! Started as a thought while we were vacationing in Australia. We were in Brisbane, visiting an old friend who I grew up with in Mumbai, right around the time of Durga Puja. We were thrilled to find that the local Bengali Association would be celebrating Durga Puja and as we enjoyed the festivities of the "weekend Pujo" (in many Durga Puja celebrations outside India, five days of celebrations are often compressed to the weekend, and instead of multiple pandals throughout the city, the festivities are normally confined to a school auditorium), we reminisced about our childhood when the whole city would come alive with all the fanfare and the festivities! I realized that as long as we lived outside India (we currently live in California), my daughter may never get to experience Indian festivals the way I did growing up. I wanted to recreate the magic of this festival for her in verse and she absolutely loved what I wrote! Encouraged by her enthusiasm in this "toddler diary", I decided to publish it.
IMC: My daughter and I loved the cute lyrical words to the book. How did you think about writing the book in a poetic form?
Shoumi: I have been reading to my daughter from the time she was born and her favorite books are the ones with rhymes and so I wanted something that would appeal to her. As it turns out, she loves the verses (and can actually recite them!) and I'm so glad you and your daughter enjoyed them too!
IMC: Durga Pujo holds a very special place in every Bengali's heart. What are your special memories of Durga Puja?
Shoumi: I remember the excitement in the days leading up to Pujo - shopping for new clothes, rehearsing for cultural programs and the anticipation of meeting friends and family, some of whom you only got to see during this time! And of course, during the 5 days of
IMC: We loved the illustrations of the book. How did you decide on the illustrations? Did you work together with the Abira or did she do the illustrations after reading your book?
Shoumi: Thank you so much! Based on my experiences, I had images in my mind, of what I wanted to see on each page. I would often use photographs to describe to Abira what I wanted her to depict - such as an artist putting the finishing touches on Ma Durga's idol or the frenzied
IMC: Which has been your favorite book as a child and why?
Shoumi: I'm not sure if I can pick just one favorite book...I loved reading and I have memories of driving my mother absolutely crazy with frequent trips to our local library! Like most kids in India during my time, I grew up with Enid Blyton's books such as The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Malory Towers etc. I had friends who enjoyed her books as much as I did and we were often found having our own Enid Blyton style picnics with chutney sandwiches and Frooti instead of potted meat sandwiches and ginger beer! I also read Bengali books and remember being mesmerized by the adventures of Feluda (by Satyajit Ray)