Almora, a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas, is where I was born and spent most of my childhood. My maiden name was Deepa Rawat. My paternal grandfather belonged to a nomadic tribe known as the Shaukas, who travelled between different villages on the Indo-Tibetan border and onwards to Tibet. He settled down in Almora a couple of years after my father was born. Papa was a doctor and my mother taught English at the local government school. Our family was large by today’s standards—there were six of us. I had two older sisters and three brothers—one older and two younger.
We were quite familiar with the midnight knock. My father was one of the few doctors in town and sometimes patients rushed to him from the villages nearby. He would set off on foot through the pine forests, carrying his flashlight. At one time he used to make his calls on horseback.
Since my grandfather had many children, twelve of them, we were part of a large extended family. Two of my uncles lived on the same hill. In summer, all the cousins would get together for picnics and treks to nearby places. But while most of my family was into games and sports, I was a regular bookworm. Sometimes I did play cricket or badminton with my brothers or accompanied them and my cousins on long hikes. I still love walking in the hills.
My love for stories began in my early childhood. Both my parents always read to me and bought me lots of books. At the age of seven I was sent to St. Mary’s Convent, a boarding school in Naini Tal, a hill resort close by. I cried a lot on my first day there, till a friendly girl named Veena took my hand and made me join a game. I well remember my first class teacher, Mother Ositha, a kindly German nun. She was the one who nurtured my talent for “Composition”, as the subject was called.
We learnt to be independent at boarding school but night was a scary time. I sometimes made up stories to put myself to sleep. We were terrified of ghosts, and once I thought I saw one! I reconnected with my family during the much awaited three month long winter vacation. Later I went to school at La Martiniere Girls College in Lucknow. My two younger brothers studied in the boys' college there.
Some of my stories have grown out of my childhood experiences, like “Fire” in the collection Friendship Stories which is based on the incident when my friends and I accidentally caused a forest fire. I’ve also used my home as a setting in books like The Hilltop Mystery and Hunt for the Miracle Herb. Here’s a picture of me with my two younger brothers!
After finishing school, I did my Bachelor’s and my Master’s in English Literature at the University of Allahabad. All the girls in my family were encouraged to have careers, so after completing my M.A. I found a teaching job in a Delhi University college.
I had met my future husband Dilip as a student in Allahabad and we got married after he set up a packaging business in Delhi. Dilip has always been very supportive about my writing. In the course of time we had three lovely daughters, Garima, Sonali and Geetika.
I used to read lots of stories to them when they were little and one day it struck me that I could write some too. That’s how my writing career began. When they were younger they read my stories and were my most helpful critics. I also got ideas from them. Here are some pictures of all of us!
My daughters are grown up and married now, Garima to Pranav Swarup, Sonali to James Wahlin and Geetika to Ashutosh Sharma. I have five grandchildren to whom I read and tell stories--Adya, Kartik, Aanya, Anika and Ahan!