Profile Series: Sunita Mistry Shah on connecting generations with her Jai Jais

Sunita Mistry Shah is the Founder of ‘The Jai Jais’, a series of books about Hindu characters, the spark for which was ignited when her eldest son began asking questions about the mandir in their home.

With a mission to offer a unique and exciting educational reading experience, the Jai Jais’ books are split into four series: the baby series (ages 0-4), the main series (ages 5-8), the festival series (ages 9-12) and the legend series (ages 12+).

‘iGlobal’ caught up with the author and mother to hear more about the inspiration behind the books and how she has blended her expertise as a speech and language therapist to produce this unique collection.

Connecting generations

“The Jai Jais is a series of books on Hindu gods, goddesses, and festivals, introducing children to the culture, the symbolisms and why we celebrate certain festivals,” says Shah, who notes her privilege growing up with grandparents who shared these stories with her. “We are now at the brink of losing this in the next generation.”

“For the first time, I witnessed my 100+ year old grandfather sitting with my four year old son, engrossed in a book, because my grandfather was able to teach him something about his worldview with a resource that my son was able to grasp. It was very heart-warming.”

As the UK National Adviser for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy, Shah has skilfully applied her professional experience to her cultural understanding when producing the collections.

She explains, “The baby series set of six board books is the perfect way to introduce and teach your baby and toddler key single word vocabulary about Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Our illustrator James Ballance has carefully transformed the characters so they can engage and relate to the book.”

Learning as they grow

Aimed for children aged 0-12 years, each collection supports the child and their learning as they grow.

“It has been a really fun and exciting journey, just to see how the children have brought this into their day-to-day life. As children grow, we want them to learn more information which is relevant to their age and their levels of language and communication.”

Shah adds: “I have been very honoured to work with Dr Rishi Handa and together we have created ‘The Jai Jais’ Ramayana, which is part of the legend series. We have spent hours looking at the original Sanskrit scriptures of Sage Valmiki.”

She notes that on National Book Day at her son’s school, children had dressed up as Hindu Gods after the books took his year group by storm.

“It’s an opportunity for children outside of the Hindu community to understand and relate to the culture.”

Looking back on her journey

As the Jai Jais gears up to celebrate its fifth anniversary this December, Shah reflects on what it has taken to reach this stage: “I have had the amazing opportunity to meet some of the most amazing mompreneurs and authors. The support network and friends I’ve along the way has been very special.”

With books now selling in Australia, Canada and America, Shah aims to take the collections worldwide to make Hindu culture more accessible to young children everywhere.

*Catch Sunita Mistry Shah’s special session during DiwaliFest2020, here

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