"I decided to create my own book from scratch."
Children’s author Rubeena Kaur Mehat combines Punjabi words with the English language to bring readers her wonderful debut book.
The colourful book is titled Happy the Hathi learns Baby’s First Words (2020).
In fact, Rubeena opted to self-publish and has received praise for her venture with many stating that their children love the book.
Her literature journey began after failing to find English language books, which also used Punjabi words. This spurred Rubeena to create her own children’s book.
Alongside being an author, Rubeena is a Real Estate Solicitor and Property Investor. From a young age, she believed, “you always need more than one stream of income!”
Rubeena’s parents instilled this notion in her. Even during university, Rubeena had multiple jobs to gain an income.
While she enjoys being a Real Estate Solicitor, it is a major achievement by Rubeena to sell many copies of Happy the Hathi learns Baby’s First Words (2020).
Since 21 June 2020, she has sold books in Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, UK, Canada and America.
Speaking exclusively to DESIblitz, Rubeena Kaur Mehat gives us an insight into Happy the Hathi learns Baby’s First Words (2020), her future endeavours and ambitions.
How did you come up with the concept?
I love books and I love reading – I believe it is as important as eating! Whenever I need to get a present, no matter what the age of the receiver is, you can guarantee it will be a book of some sort!
I was looking for a first birthday gift and thought a baby Punjabi book using the English language would be perfect! I looked all over the internet, scouring sites such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Google without any success.
I then thought about creating my own on a personalised website but it was far too expensive and the quality was poor.
“Eventually, I decided to create my own book from scratch. This proved to be even more difficult than I anticipated, but the outcome was worth it.”
I’d even found a gap in the market which I have now filled!
How does the book help with pronouncing Punjabi words?
With any language, it can be difficult to learn without hearing how each word is spoken. The book contains simple Punjabi words that are commonly used and easy to pronounce.
Reading the word in the English alphabet will only take the reader so far if they have no knowledge. However, this book provides a basic starting point.
The parent or adult will usually guide the child, just as they would with any other baby board book.
Do you feel we are losing the mother tongue?
There are pockets of society where I feel we are losing the language. For example, in families where there is a blend of different cultures, the parents may choose to use the common language known to both parents.
This book allows to bridge any gaps and makes it easier for any person who can read English to teach the basic words covered in the book.
In addition, my research showed that many young parents do not continue to speak Punjabi on a regular basis. As a result, children do not pick up on the language or struggle to understand Punjabi.
However, there is growing media attention and an increase in production of Punjabi films. This is a positive move forward and the response to this book has been great.
“Consumers are clearly aware of the importance of Punjabi in children’s lives (and adults)!”
What did you learn from writing this book?
I learnt that nothing is ever simple! The idea itself just popped into my head, but the more I got deeper into it, the greater the realisation became that this is a lengthy, expensive and difficult process.
Fortunately, the knowledge I have from my legal profession helped. I was able to review contracts confidently that I had with the printer, illustrator and distributor.
There are a number of routes that you can pursue when publishing a book. But I decided to self publish. This meant that I had to locate my own illustrator and also learn every step of a publisher.
Consequently, that meant I could create my own publishing company; Thind Publishing.
Thind Publishing will be used to publish my books for the time being and then review this in due course.
What would you like to see happen with this book?
I would love to see ‘Happy the Hathi’ (2020) bring joy to many more children. He’s a loveable character and I hope the book and its sequels become a family favourite in every household!
“The intention is to continue to produce baby board books aimed at the Punjabi community.”
Covering aspects that are vital in a babies development and then create hardback books covering stories of the characters to continue to improve the reader’s Punjabi language skills are also important.
Furthermore, I have big plans for this book but I am quite limited to what I can disclose at this stage. What I can say is that this is the beginning of a fantastic roller-coaster of a journey!
How do you juggle between property investment, the legal profession and writing?
Time management and sacrifices! I have to be very organised to meet my commitments at work and this skill helped in setting and meeting my self-imposed deadlines for the book.
I started this book towards the end of April 2020. I managed to have 20 books flown over on 21 June 2020 ahead of the main shipment arriving in just under 2 weeks from today.
This was a new and exciting venture for me, but I did have to sacrifice the home workouts, big spring clean and Netflix binges!
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about writing a Punjabi book for children?
Make sure you plan in advance and factor in delays and any issues that can arise! For example, I instructed an illustrator. But the work produced didn’t meet my requirements as we didn’t have the same vision for the character and book.
This then set me back 3 weeks! Also, factor in shipping times if you are self-publishing.
Most importantly, with a language book, make sure you have it checked by more than one person unless you are using an official translator.
Difficulty with languages like Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi or Mandarin is that the transcript is not English.
Therefore, to produce the word using the English language there will be some discrepancies between books and online sources but you want the same result – the correct word!
Can we expect more similar books in the future?
Exclusively for DESIblitz, I can confirm that I have just completed the order for ‘Happy the Hathi Learns Colours!’
I have designed everything again. I am sure you would agree that the cover is great for children and even those that want to brighten their bookshelf!
I have had a lot of adults contacting me to buy ‘Happy the Hathi Learns Baby’s First Words’ for their friends and even themselves!
I can also confirm that I have created a friend for ‘Happy the Hathi’. You will have to follow @happythehathi on social media for the big reveal!
“‘Happy the Hathi Learns Colours’ goes live on the website for presale on 21 August 2020.”
Rubeena Kaur Mehat’s literature journey is certainly inspiring. Speaking about her future ambitions, she revealed that when government guidelines permit, she would like:
- Book launches at local book stores and larger stores
- Story reading time
- Stalls at melas and book fairs
She believes this “will give me an opportunity to interact with the audience. She further added: “I can also confirm that Punjabi Roots in Smethwick is an official stockist of the book.”
For more information, visit Rubeena’s website here.