Nainital to "NoNo Nana", Diksha Pal Narayan launched her fourth book on Amazon, in Milton, Canada

I feel I still am a small-town girl to this date. I traded the hills for our beautiful town of Milton. The community and vibe of Milton remind me of my community in Nainital, says Diksha.

Nainital to "NoNo Nana", Diksha Pal Narayan launched her fourth book on Amazon, in Milton, Canada

Fairy tales, superheroes, and Chacha Chaudhry are amongst the few children's books that our generation grew up reading. No matter how much we indulge in gadgets and the digital world, children's books are still popular among familiesa time to bond with one another. But how many of you have actually had a chance to meet the author of your favourite book? The icing on the cake is when that author lives so close to home and belongs to the same roots as yours; let us introduce you to Diksha Pal Narayan from Milton, Ontario. An author, storyteller, community builder, culturally rooted, and an active part of the society who didn't only present her son with her first book cover printed with his own name, "Ved and friends," but believes to have her inner child active at all times. In addition to children's books, Diksha is coming up with books for adults, so stay tuned.

Diksha Pal Narayan launched her fourth book, 'NoNo Nana,' her first chapter book. It features four short stories packed with humor, mystery, and a lot of fun. Diksha's mantra 'Making Culture Cool' takes another form with this new chapter book series. It is the first of four planned books.

The book was launched by Mayor of Milton, Gordon Krantz, and Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism of Ontario, MPP Parm Gill. The book launch took place in the courtyard of Town Hall in Milton. The event had Canadian Indian Association President Mr. Jag Mohan Mainra, Councillor Rick De Lorenzo, Arts Milton's Kaitlyn Patience, and other prominent members of the Milton Community like Mrs. Hassu Bihari, Mrs. Margaret Saliba, and Mrs. Jyoti Mehta in attendance.

Diksha Pal Narayan is an Author of four children's books and is the recipient of the Martyrs Award in 2013. She is the founder of South Asian Mommies of Milton, a group that helps over 600 mothers of South Asian descent with anything under the sun they may be going through. Her strong community values are visible as she serves as a board member of Arts Milton and the Canadian Indian Association.

How did the idea of Nono-Nana strike?

I was always naughty of the three siblings, so; ideas weren't a problem. I just needed to go back memory lane to pick some mischief from my childhood. I do regular storytime with children, and they also let me into their lives and tap into their experiences. Like the title, the story is about a real boy whose nickname is Nana, but his mother always calls him No No Nana. He, too, would get into all sorts of trouble! Inspiration, to be honest, is all around us.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a children's book author?

I was completely unaware of the lack of representation of South Asian children's content until I had my child. When I was looking for books to read to my child, as my parents did with us when we were kids, I saw that there weren't many books available. The ones we had from India were catered more to the Indian readers. So I took it on myself to make content for our Canadian children of South Asian heritage. My dream is to see many more children's books with South Asian faces on them.

Tell us something about your passion when it comes to telling children stories.

'If you don't shape up your children, they will be shaped by outside forces that don't care what shape your children are in.' -Dr. Louise Heart.

When you tell children stories, you enable children to learn new things and experiences in a fun way. It is the most effective way to get all kinds of messages across to them. I try to find books or makeup stories about the issues that affect them most while also making them well-rounded Canadian- South Asian children with my story sessions. Sometimes parents reach out to me about issues they face at school. I try to help the children deal with situations through the medium of storytelling. It is the art of listening to my listeners and identifying what their tiny minds are going through to make it effective.

Nono-Nana is your 4th book to be launched on Amazon; tell us about your motivation and challenges in publishing the book from scratch.

Besides the beautiful illustrations done by my illustrator Abira Das, everything else from formating to the actual writing is done by myself. Abira and I have worked on all four books together and now understand what makes us work seamlessly. I have a team of wonderful people who support me by being my beta readers and editors. My husband Karthik and friend Kaitlyn have been instrumental in my journey this far. I can't imagine doing this without their support.

What's your biggest dream to achieve after this?

I have a lot of things I want to achieve. I want there to be enough literature available in all book stores representing South Asian children. As for immediate goals- I have three more chapter books for children in the pipeline. I have a collection of short stories for grown-ups in the pipeline, which will release in May. I hope one of the short stories will be made into a short film. You can't blame a girl for dreaming! Lots of things to do and achieve. I feel I'm just getting started.

What would you tell the upcoming aspiring writers?

In a world where technology has taken over our households, from gaming consoles to movies and cartoons in the palm of small hands, children are spoilt for choice. Don't give up on your dreams. There will be parents who still believe in the charm of a book. Some children still love to hold and smell new books. Just keep writing and keep giving a voice to those little minds.

Give us a brief about your career in the Media industry. Would you consider moving back?

Well, I started my career in Television, I was a TV Producer at NDTV

when I worked in India. In Canada, I have worked at Rogers TV and OMNI TV. I have produced 4 TV shows and worked as a reporter in 3 shows and News. I have produced one short documentary showcased at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2013 and was an asst producer on one that airs on OMNI TV from time to time. I am fortunate to get some voiceover and translation gigs from time to time. I don't feel I have left 'the TV industry' per se, as I keep using the skills I learnt there into my present life. I have, infact, dabbled into editing and camera work now! I'm working towards my short film.

How different was this to write vs. the Ved and Friends series?

The Ved and Friends series is a picture book series that makes learning about different aspects of South Asian culture easy for tiny minds. The series gives children the vocabulary to express to their friends what they are celebrating and the magical stories that started the celebrations in the first place.

The latest chapter book series, 'No No Nana', the first book of four, is a collection of fun and humorous stories. I do regular story sessions with children, and some of the stories have my storytime kids included in them.

What made you venture into chapter books? What do you hope children will learn from the No No Nana collection of stories? There seems to be a different theme with each story.

I had a child tell me that all of his friends went to different places like Cuba or Disneyland during summer break while he had to ALWAYS go back to his mother's home in India. I understood the child's frustration and his desire to explore new places, and on the other hand, I understood the mother's longing to go see her family.

From this new series, I wanted to make the immigrant 'normal' a normal for children. I hope that children see there are characters like them doing things like them with my stories. Hopefully, they can have fun adventures like the characters in my books.

How important do you think the use of literature/ stories is to build bridges and raising 'culturally aware' children?

During each month's celebrations, be it Black History Month or South Asian Heritage Month, we (my son, storytime kids, and I) explored many picture books together. With diverse books, we learn in simple language and beautiful pictures about different cultures. The celebrations of the Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, and Christmas helped

us be part of the celebrations. Similarly, by making South Asian stories and literature available to the readers, we will help non-South Asian children understand their friends'

cultures.

Nainital Connection

Amazingly, you, too, have memories of my hometown Nainital, Vandana. I say 'once a Pahadi, always a Pahadi!' My family is native to Askote, but have settled in Nainital for more than half a century. I feel I still am a small-town girl to this date. I traded the hills for our beautiful town of Milton. The community and vibe of Milton remind me of my community in Nainital.

Nainital shaped me. My schooling in MLSBalVM and All Saints College, then Kumaon University help build a strong base and love for writing. Mrs. D. Bisth, Mrs. Anupama Sha, Mrs. Jeremiah,Professor Madhu Joshi, Professor Neerja Tandon, and Prof. Batrohi have guided me to where I am today. I learnt first hand about printing due to the University Newsletter. Nagia Uncle, of the printing press, since has become a father figure.

The slow pace and simple life of Nainital helped my mind dive into books, and the encouragement of my mother, who is a writer herself, motivated me to pick up the pen and voice my feelings and stories. Nayaran Book Depot, Modern, Naina Book Store's books, Mamu's Bal Mithai, Corn cobbs from the flats, and eating cucumber with 'Hara namak' on a sunny day while sunbathing are memories, I shall carry with me no matter where I live in the world. The branches of my tree might rise high, but my roots are deeply attached to my Nainital, and I'm a proud Pahadi as I am a Miltonian!

Diksha's latest book is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/No-Nana-Other-Short-Stories/dp/099593987X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8qid=sr=

For more questions or queries, don't hesitate to get in touch with Diksha at dikshapal@gmail.com

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