Getting kids curious about India

NRI moms in California, Shuchi Mehta and Shweta Chopra, have a start-up that creates stories and apps for kids to teach them about Indian culture in a fun way, minus elaborate mythology

October 19, 2014 04:53 pm | Updated May 23, 2016 07:34 pm IST

NO MONKEY BUSINESS Shuchi and Shweta want children to observe, listen, speak up and ask questions

NO MONKEY BUSINESS Shuchi and Shweta want children to observe, listen, speak up and ask questions

Inspired by Gandhiji’s three monkeys who hear, speak, and see no evil, two Indian mommy-preneurs in California have a new start-up that creates interactive digital apps and books for kids on Indian culture. Called 3 Curious Monkeys, Shuchi Mehta and Shweta Chopra, both originally from Delhi, started it so that they can provide very young children with content that was contemporary and fun.

The Diwali Gift, their first print and ebook was released at the beginning of this month, on Amazon, both in America and in India. They have also launched an app called “Dress Up Party” that engages young children in a “dress-up” activity to show them the diversity and richness of Indian attire.

“Both of us are moms with young kids, and we love reading books to our kids. But when we set out to find books on India, we found that the content for very young children was not what we wanted or were fond of,” says Shweta, in a telephonic interview. “Most of the available content concentrates on mythology and the past. The kids kept asking us why people were killing each other when we teach them all the time that it is wrong to kill someone. So we wanted content that was safe and clean, and that would let our kids find out about India in a fun manner.” Shuchi, 36, has twin buys aged five, and Shweta, 35, has a four-year-old daughter. Shweta is a molecular biologist and a marketing professional. And Shuchi is a marketing professional with an MBA.

The two friends spoke to other Indian mothers settled in the U.S.A and the U.K. and found that they had similar thoughts. “We wanted our kids to experience India like we did, growing up, in the simple things of everyday life. We wanted it to be more relatable for kids growing up in large metropolises, be it New Delhi, New York, London … where parents going of to work and video-chatting with grandparents back home is a way of life. We wanted them to play and have fun, and learn something in the process too,” adds Shuchi. Both believe this is not just an NRI need, but a global need in India too.

The two have found that children would always have “Why, What, Where, How” questions about culture, festivities, and food. “Why do we light crackers only during Diwali?”, “How is Diwali different from Ganesh Chaturthi?”, “Why do we prepare this particular food only during this festival?”, “How many festivals do we celebrate?” are common questions NRI parents have to battle. Giving a convincing answer to children becomes difficult, they felt. Indian parents who have lived out of India with children born and bought up out of India, specially, face quite a challenge while they explain about India and its culture to children and the challenge is amplified if they have to narrate a story about India and its culture in a fun, modern, interactive way without emphasizing much on mythology and its nuances, the duo believe.

The mums devised ‘3 Curious Monkeys’ named Suno, Dekho, and Jaano for the two to eight year old age group. “Suno is a girl who loves to dance, sing and talk, and she’s characterised with big ears. Dekho is an outdoorsy guy who loves adventure, is very observant and has big eyes. Jano is the kid who knows everything, the walking-talking encyclopaedia…you will find such kids easily in your everyday life,” says Shuchi. “Though we were inspired by Gandhiji’s three monkeys, our take on them was that we wanted kids to observe more, hear more about our culture, speak up and ask questions about why we do what we do,” adds Shweta.

The next book and related app they are working on is themed around food. “Indians and food just go together,” laughs Shweta.

The dress-up app celebrates India’s diversity with clothes from eight regions featuring Paithanis, Jamdanis and Kanchivarams, and the different types of headgear and accessories men wear. “No matter where you are from, you’ll find such unity, such similarity. The app also teaches children to say ‘You are looking good’ in eight languages including Gujarati and Malayalam,” says Shuchi.

Presented as a limited edition, the print book will be available in India, US, Singapore, London, Sydney and Hong Kong. As an ebook it is available on Kindle, iBook and Nook. The book is priced Rs. 837 in India and a little over $11 internationally.

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