A whole new world: Area author tells a multicultural children’s tale

Priya Mahadevan's book tells the story of a visit to India with her daughter, Shreya. Photo: Jen Fariello Priya Mahadevan’s book tells the story of a visit to India with her daughter, Shreya. Photo: Jen Fariello

By the time Priya Mahadevan’s youngest daughter was 5 years old, Mahadevan had completed drafts for six children’s books. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that she published the first one: Princesses Only Wear Putta-Puttas, the semi-true story of a visit to India with her daughter for a wedding.

“The trip was so profound for Shreya, especially after living in a quiet [Albemarle County] countryside home, that it had to be chronicled in some form or manner,” Mahadevan says. The book accompanies bicultural Fey Fey, a dead-ringer for now-7-year-old Shreya, as she experiences and falls in love with the country’s sights and sounds. But what captures Fey Fey’s fancy most is India’s traditional costumes—and when she returns to the United States, she insists that she is an Indian princess. This comes with several challenges, such as playing in the sandbox or staying warm in winter while dressed in a putta-putta (an Indian silk skirt and blouse), the only thing she will wear.

Mahadevan, whose two older children are both in college, says she began writing about Shreya when her daughter was a toddler, and “the themes for stories seemed to present themselves to me. With digital cameras and computers, I could watch her grow and keep notes on stuff she did, something I never got to do with my older two who are just a couple of years apart.”

Princesses Only Wear Putta-Puttas, the first in a series of four books, is a writing departure for Mahadevan, who worked as a political correspondent for an Indian newspaper and a New Delhi-based magazine before getting married and moving to Canada and then the U.S.

When she’s not writing, Mahadevan can be found in the kitchen, cooking up the South Indian fare she serves at her Desi Dosa stall at City Market, the Stonefield farmers market and a variety of other area events (priyasnowserving.com). “I started writing a food blog in 2010, and the cyber interactions with other food bloggers opened up a whole new world,” she says. “One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was doing cooking classes. Desi Dosa was a result of many of my friends and family pushing for me to be more entrepreneurial.”

And while Mahadevan calls food a new passion, her children, she says, are “my permanent passion,” which is why she hopes her book “will strike a chord with many families who enjoy more than one culture.” 

See for yourself Princesses Only Wear Putta-Puttas is available online at priyamahadevan.com.

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