It was April 5, 2013. A beautiful spring day in Arlington, Virginia. The location? Café Asia. Naturally. Because we both love sushi. So much so that we may or may not have ordered enough for 3.7 people. The two of us, that is. And, I add the seven-tenths only because that’s how I measure meals these days. Or, rather, that’s how much my now 15-month-old son, Arjun, eats. Anyway, we were past the point of being hungry. Famished, in fact. And, not just for some delicious food. For something else. Something undefined. Something innovative, meaningful, and impactful. Something, dare I say at the risk of sounding hackneyed, social entrepreneurial. We’re both working moms with backgrounds in international development and cause-related work and have spent years actively seeking out and following our passions, including writing and anything and everything global. And, yet, something has always been lacking – that simultaneous and successful pursuit of the professional alongside the personal.
So, we dove in, head first, the Hamachi rolls cushioning our fall much like the foam pit I used to jump into somewhat recklessly as a young girl at the gym would. As we chomped away on our blissful meal, Malini, my dear friend and also a Wellesley alum and tennis player, put her chopsticks down and said, “you know, I’ve been thinking about this idea and I was wondering if you might be interested”. As she started to explain her idea about children’s books, multiculturalism, and social good, I immediately interrupted her…quite abruptly, in fact. Before she was able to start her 4th sentence, I looked up and uttered, “wait, this is so bizarre. I was thinking of doing the exact same thing last year and even put it all in a Word document.” Because we all know the moment you become a mom, your memory becomes just that, a memory you long for, but know, deep down, may never make its grand re-entrance due to total parental exhaustion. Lesson learned: document everything or it will be forgotten, ha!
After a few laughs at the fact that our thought processes were clearly working in parallel, Malini continued, “it’s just kind of crazy to think that my son learned the words India and Namaste from a book.” I looked up and replied, “I know, and yet that just shows how much young kids, even one- and two-year-olds, can learn about the world from a book.” And, we returned to our sushi, which, fortunately, hadn’t gotten cold by the time our realization was out in the open. Ready for our own slightly self-deprecatory ways to take over, as they so often do.
And, thus began our journey. A parellel idea formerly known in generic terms as CB Project in our designated Google Drive folder quickly morphed into a formal LLC and social enterprise – 2Lokas. 2 worlds to some. 2 crazy ladies to others. It’s been both an exciting adventure and an insane learning curve that has thrown us into the world of authoring, illustrating, publishing, marketing, distributing, and financing our very own variety of children’s books. A world often referred to as “challenging” and even “impossible”. A world we knew little about at the outset, but that had a clear cultural gap that we had identified in the youngest of the young, the 0-4 age group. So, why not aim high, tap into that potential, and fill the gap? Or at least begin to.
Now that the official white-boarding has taken place, our initial drafts are on paper, the illustrations are starting to take form (gah, so exciting, partly because our illustrator also just so happens to be a Wellesley alum!), and we’ve begun to flesh out the social and philanthropic component, we’re thinking of returning to Café Asia. Not only to re-enact the slow-motion water spill that I initiated in a moment of pure chopstick-to-maki-to-mouth gusto. But, to continue this journey that we hope will result in the first of many culturally-focused series that our children, our friends’ children, our friends’ friends’ children, and everyone else’s children from around this very cool globe of ours will cherish and learn from. And, share with others!
Our first book is well on its way, with an anticipated launch date of early fall. It will transport one of the two main characters to India, a wonderfully diverse country that is near and dear to our heart. We can’t promise bells and whistles. Or a plane ticket to Rajasthan for that matter. What we can promise, however, is a unique and innovative end product, a creative and cultural experience (in both print and digital format), if you will, that’s interactive, engaging, and fun for children and adults alike. We’re unbelievably excited about this literary endeavor, despite all the challenges we know we’ll encounter along the way. And, we’d like to invite you to join us virtually as we document each and every step of this crazy-loka, worldly journey of ours.
Stay tuned for news, updates, photos, + more!