Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan was born in Madras (now Chennai), India, into a middle-class brahmin family. Her mother, Vijaya, is a retired oncologist. Her father is a retired executive with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Her parents divorced when she was two. Both of her parents later remarried, and she has a younger half-brother and half-sister from her father's side. She grew up first in New York and then in Los Angeles with her mother and stepfather. She returned to India for several months each year to visit her grandparents and family.