I was born and raised in the Midwest, but I learned Hindi as a child, by watching three Bollywood films a week. In elementary school, when I visited India, I would come home with armloads of posters, ensuring no inch of wall was visible in my room. No, seriously. All of these posters were on my bedroom walls, as were several more posters that aren’t pictured here:



And many more tapes than these were scattered all over my room:

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By middle school, I was so thoroughly obsessed with Hindi cinema, I dreamed of one day getting to work as a Bollywood screenwriter.

It was a little crazy but not too far-fetched, it turned out, as I found out in 7th grade, when my dad told me of his stint working as a Hindi film screenwriter. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known about this earlier. But my dad’s experience in Bollywood was not a positive one. He had seen writers treated poorly. He had even witnessed a lyricist being hit when the director was unhappy with what he had written. And he, himself, was cheated out of his writing credit. The Hindi film industry did not always treat writers well, he warned me.

But I was undeterred, positive I would one day work in Bollywood. It wasn’t until I wrote a really bad screenplay in high school that I realized writing a movie wasn’t as easy as enjoying one. So I put the dream aside for a few years until my sophomore year of college, when I decided to double major in Psychology…and Film. I ended up taking several screenwriting classes, and after graduating, started working as a writer for Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the writer/director/producer of some of my favorite films.

It was a dream come true. Vinod Chopra knew the value of a writer and a good script, and treated me like family. Over the past fifteen years, I have had incredible opportunities while working for him, but some of my fondest memories are from working on two of his most critically acclaimed films, Eklavya: The Royal Guard, and Lage Raho Munna Bhai.

Eklavya is a Shakespearean film that examines fundamentalist thinking. At around 90 minutes long, it is incredibly short for a mainstream Hindi film and has just half a song in it, another rarity in song-and-dance heavy, escapist Bollywood.

Lage Raho Munna Bhai is a sequel to Rajkumar Hirani’s debut film, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. In Lage Raho, the gangster with a heart of gold, Munna Bhai, is back. But this time he’s not alone. If you check out the clouds in the poster above, you’ll see that Gandhi somehow makes an appearance in the present-day film. Lage Raho went on to become one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. But perhaps more importantly, it enacted social change in India, when people started using the nonviolent methods portrayed in the film to fight corruption.

As an associate writer on these films, I learned so much from Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani, and am so grateful for the opportunity to play a tiny role in the making of these movies.

If you get a chance, you can see these movies streaming, or at the library, or on Amazon. And if you want to see my credits, they’re at the end. I have an Associate Writer credit on Eklavya and a Writing Contributions credit on Lage Raho Munna Bhai.

Hot, Hot Roti for You!


Do you know what that is on the right? No, that’s not a giant cookie. It’s a roti!

I am so thrilled to be published by Tu Books this fall and have AHIMSA be a part of the Lee & Low family of books. One of my family’s favorite Lee & Low books is Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji. And one of my favorite hobbies is making stuff out of felt. So I thought my Indian play food would be a perfect craft for a book club reading Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji.

These rotis are really easy to make. I cut large circles out of a wheat colored piece of felt and then cut little misshapen blobs out of a brown piece of felt to make the burnt spots found on the Indian flatbread. Using brown cotton thread, I sewed the spots onto the rotis and they were done!

Still feeling pretend hungry? Well, I have a few more fabric delicacies to tell you about.

My kids and I are crazy about mattar paneer, an Indian dish of peas, (mattar), and cheese, (paneer), in a creamy tomato sauce, seen in the upper left of the plate above. I cut some green circles out of felt for the peas, and yellow rectangles for the paneer. I cut two identical shapes out of brown cotton, and sewed the paneer and peas onto one of the pieces. I then used a red thread to sew specks of chili powder onto the paneer, a brown thread to make longer stitches to resemble cumin seeds, and black thread to make the little mustard seed balls that pepper this dish. I then sewed the two pieces of brown cotton together, stuffing it with some cotton scraps as I went around the shape, and, finally, sewed my mattar paneer shut.

Now that you know the Hindi word for peas, we interrupt this play food tutorial for a joke.
Q. What did the happy pea say to the sad pea?
A. What’s the mattar?

Are you done laughing? Great! Let’s continue. Since no trip to a North Indian restaurant is complete without a samosa, I made samosas out of cotton and felt. There is no such thing as too many samosas.


Both were made the same way. I cut two identical triangles out of a wheat colored fabric. I then used scraps of yellow and bright green felt to resemble the potato and pea stuffing, and scraps of brown felt and pale green felt to be the sweet tamarind chutney and savory cilantro chutney samosas are dipped in. I sewed the triangles together with a blanket stitch, stuffing it with scraps of cotton as I went around the sides, and added a bit of the yellow, brown and green felt in the seam to look like the potatoes and peas were coming out of the samosa on one side, and that the samosa had been dipped in brown chutney.

Finally, I felt like we needed some South Indian treats too, so I made idli, sambar and a dosa.


The idli was just two white pieces of felt sewn together with a blanket stitch and stuffed with cotton scraps. For the sambar, I just cut a blog out of a rust-colored piece of felt and sewed spices on like I did with the mattar paneer earlier.

To make the dosa, I cut a circle out of my wheat colored felt. At one end, I sewed yellow rectangles for potatoes and one green sliver for a slice of spicy chili pepper. I sewed some cumin and mustard seeds and chili powder onto the potato as well. Then I rolled the wheat circle and sewed it in place with a blanket stitch and my dosa was done!

And with that, dear reader, it’s time to end this play food tutorial. Do you need one more Hinglish joke to end this post? It doesn’t work unless you know that “nacho” is how you would tell someone to dance in Hindi.

Q. What did the chip say to the cheese at the club?
A. Nacho!

See you next time!