Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series by Bollywood Groove founders Ajanta and Vivek
By Renu Chandarana
The Holi Festival is India’s festival of colours and is a spectacular event to be a part of. I had the pleasure of celebrating it in India when I was seven years old and the memory is forever emblazoned in my mind! The extreme joy of seeing colours thrown about and all of our family and friends participating in a huge messy colourful water fight was so exciting for me as a child! I remember the feeling of my cheeks hurting from smiling so much but also from everyone pinching them and rubbing coloured powder on them!
Holi takes place in March and symbolizes new beginnings and all the flowers and beautiful colours that spring has to offer. Holi is just days away and as much as I try to celebrate major Indian holidays in my home with my two girls, I always find it hard to bring Holi into full swing in our home. The biggest challenge being the weather in Canada! We can’t really play Holi outside where I live because it’s likely to be minus temperatures. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not going to throw coloured powder around inside my house.
How can I teach my kids about our cultural traditions if I can’t practice them?
I am always looking for tools that I can use to help us imbibe the culture, traditions, important rituals and values of the major Indian festivals and holidays.
My offerings to my family are tentative, watered down, and sometimes fall short when our daily routine takes priority. I’m definitely thankful for masalamommas and of course last minute phone calls to my mom to ask her, “Should I be doing this?” and, “How do you make that special recipe?” I need an instruction manual that my kids can share with me.
When Bollywood Groove founders Ajanta Chakraborty and her husband Vivek Kumar created, Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, I knew I had found what I was looking for. So far, they have published three books: Let’s Celebrate 5 days of Diwali!, Let’s Visit Mumbai, and Let’s Celebrate Holi!
Bollywood Groove is a Bollywood dance studio for kids and adults in Chicago. When Ajanta and Vivek started their kids programming they aspired to create an environment that was educational as well. They created a program called CultureZOOM that aimed to immerse kids into the rich and diverse culture of India by using stories and learning dance choreography. This program has been a great success for their dance school and they decided to increase their audience by publishing books.
All three books follow the brother and sister team Maya and Neel as well as their cute sidekick, Chintu the squirrel. They fly to India and visit with family members who act as navigators for the big city of Mumbai or the festivals that are being celebrated like Diwali and Holi.
The Diwali and Holi books each have a story that depicts the mythology behind the festival and the Mumbai book describes the incredible “Dabbawallas” – the men that deliver homemade lunches in special containers (tiffins) to the workplace.
Maya and Neel really soak in all the activities and they enthusiastically dive into their Indian adventures. They show kindness, cooperation and gratitude for what they are learning. They also love eating all the signature dishes that show up during their adventures.
Reading these stories to my two kids I found the following 3 things so helpful:
- The colourful illustrations kept my girls engaged and wanting to look at all the intricacies the pages had to offer.
- The simple language with a few Hindi words scattered through helped me introduce new concepts and vocabulary to my girls without overwhelming them and possibly disengaging them had there been too many words they didn’t know.
- Lastly, the “info recap” found on the last 2 pages of the books help us recall the story and get into the comprehension of what happened in each adventure. These books are educational, fun, colourful and meaningful – I even learned a few new things!
I look forward to heading into Indian holidays and festivals with more gusto and knowledge! With Holi just around the corner, I could use these books as a handbook to keep my celebrations simple yet authentic. My kids would feel connected to the celebrations because they would get a chance to practice everything that Maya and Neel taught them about!
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