Priya Kumari was an accountant whose days with numbers were overshadowed by dreams of stories and big ideas. When she turned her back on her career to establish an independent publishing company, however, numbers dogged her in the form of mounting costs and dwindling funds.
"So many people define success by how much a person owns, not by the kind of person one has become," she explains. "When I decided to become a writer, I had no expectations. I was following my passion. Written words are powerful. They record a permanent message, but also allow readers the space to look into their own minds and examine their feelings. A good book gives readers the chance to grow and evolve."
Finding her passion for the written word
As a little girl, she spent hundreds of happy hours in her father's bookstore. She turned page after page, navigating the depths of India's epic tales. She explored the difference between right and wrong in the story of Panchatantra and Jataka. Over and over, she read about Lord Buddha and Lord Rama leaving their palaces to serve people and spread teachings of peace.
"The kings and queens of India inspired me throughout childhood," she recalls. "In those legends, I learned that acts of selfless service are the highest tasks anyone can perform."
The stories she read fit hand in hand with her study of yoga. As she left India and her father's bookstore, she kept the core values of individual, social, and ecological peace close to her heart.
Following the path of words and ideas
Shortly after moving to the United States with her husband, she became a mother. "My children were my priority," she recalls. "I wanted them to eat healthy foods, but just as much, I wanted them to think healthy thoughts. I felt an overwhelming urgency to teach them not just physical hygiene, but emotional hygiene the small daily practices that keep a person psychologically balanced. I wanted them to be inclusive, compassionate towards all beings, and proud of their culture."
Ultimately, the stories she had loved since childhood gave her the courage to leave her work as an accounting professional and begin a completely new life as an author and publisher. "My goal is to share the messages of peace found in Indian culture, art, and literature with the next generation," she explains. "What our children learn today shapes our future tomorrow."
When pondering the core beliefs she hoped to pass on to her children, she again thought back to the stories in her father's bookstore. She drew upon their timeless lessons while writing her first children's book, "The ABCs of Virtue."
Many well-meaning people told Kumari she was foolish to give up a hefty paycheck to chase an uncertain future, but she persevered. "My heart continued to guide me to write about Indian culture and its message of peace and well-being," she remembers. "I believed seeing this message reach more and more people would be an affirmation that I made the right decision."
Leaf Talks Peace
One day, as she was discussing compassion with her children, her oldest son asked about the meaning of friendship. On hearing her son's question, she instantly remembered the story of Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree. Buddha saw the sun, earth, water, time, and space, and even a mind in a leaf. All the elements cooperated happily to give the leaf life.
"That leaf was the inspiration for Buddha's message of interdependent origination," she remarks. "This is how I explained friendship to my son. When we all work together, we will create a happier world where people from all cultures, genders, colors, and ethnicities are respected and everyone lives in harmony with nature."
That night, she knew she wanted to share Buddha's beautiful message and inspire children to connect with nature through deeper compassion and mindfulness. Eventually, she transformed that wish into her latest picture book, "Leaf Talks Peace: Buddha's Message of Harmony."
She simplified the complex message of interdependence by presenting it through the words of Harmony, a leaf of the Bodhi tree. Kumari's short but impactful sentences, combined with Anusha Santosh's powerful illustrations, bring the concept to life for children.
Publishing a children's book requires substantial investment. "It is expensive to produce a high-quality picture book," Kumari says. "Funding this work through personal savings was a challenge. I've learned to cut down on my expenses, but I know this sacrifice will bear fruit as I walk my chosen path."
The moment s truly realized she had made the right career choice was when she received one letter from humanity's voice of peace–His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner admired her work by writing a foreword to her book. The letter from His Holiness the Dalai Lama marked the beginning of the movement Kumari dreamt of movement of peace and human solidarity. The book began to gain more popularity across the world as several Indian celebrities recommended "Leaf Talks Peace," News12 of New Jersey featured the story on TV, and the Duchess of York read the book on her YouTube channel.
In the words of the Dalai Lama, "Leaf Talks Peace" is, "...a beautifully illustrated children's book that teaches children the importance of living in harmony with nature and with all forms of life."
If she had followed the safer course, the world would lack some very needed inspiration. Fortunately, as an author who dreamed of making an impact, she clung to the words of Swami Vivekananda: "In a conflict between your heart and brain, follow your heart."
Her book, "The ABCs of Virtue" won the best book award in the American Book Fest's education category, and Kumari is currently working on a unique Indian festival series of picture books to share the deeper meanings of and science behind these festivals. . She is launching her books on Diwali and Holi in September this year. Both the books - My Diwali: Lights of Virtue and My Holi: Colors of Cheer - have been praised by celebrated personalities and organizations. Kumari will continue to write and publish more wonderful books to share the messages of individual, social, and ecological peace.