Diwali: Then and Now

Diwali: Then and Now

⌘ Picture a little girl, shaken awake in the pre-dawn darkness by her mother, shivering before a “head bath” with a pail of steaming hot water from the big copper water heater in the kitchen. Squeaky clean, her hair dried and braided into long mogra flower-laden plaits, she puts on some pretty gold bangles (from an ever-expanding stash of jewelry destined for her future bridal finery) and dresses in a brand new, long skirt of Kanchipuram silk, the traditional and sacred fabric of southern India. After excitedly holding a little sparkler on the balcony, she joins her family for a Diwali feast, full of sweets and special treats that last all day long, while explosions of crackers and the acrid smell of smoke fill the city air.  

⌘ Fast-forward many decades later, and the little girl has given up the silks and bracelets for a disciplined life of an academic scientist, transplanted into a distant western land.  It may be Diwali, but she must fly from one coast to another, evangelical in her passion, poring over 200-page reports on the plane and happily rolling polysyllabic words into hour-long lectures. But wait: just before leaving, there is time to whip together a simple family breakfast of beaten rice (“poha”) with crunchy, tangy, comforting and colorful notes. Today, the sweetness comes from dimly-recalled memories of childhood and the sparklers are in the bright eyes of the family who will welcome “madamescientist” back home 🙂  To all those who celebrate, Happy Diwali!

For Azlin Bloor, nomad dimitri and #foodiesdiwali  , with apologies that this is not quite the spread you requested.  

Recipe:  https://madamescientist.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/diwali-then-and-now/ #diwali  

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91 Responses to Diwali: Then and Now

  1. Sonja Samuda says:


    I loove Indian food! Happy Diwali!


  2. Happy Diwali from Mexico!


  3. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥


    ♥ Lovely story ! ♥


    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥


    Festival of lights

  4. Bill Carter says:


    Happy Diwali Rajini Rao

  5. Jodi Kaplan says:


    Looks delicious! Much better than standard US breakfast.

  6. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you for your Diwali wishes- love my G+ family 🙂

  7. Azlin Bloor says:


    Rajini, when we didn’t hear from you yesterday, I figured you were snowed under with work! You have more than made up for it not just with these photos (one of my favourite indulgent “home food”) but especially with that very first paragraph. I am there with you, following your description, fabulous!


    Wishing you & your family a wonderfully illuminating Diwali!


  8. Happy Diwali and a great year ahead 🙂

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    Azlin Bloor , thank you for those nice words because I have been wracked with guilt and wondering how to deliver on a promise 🙂 Sorry for the double tag/post, but I also posted to Azlin on Asian in the foodies+ community (https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/114884141077604568395). For those who don’t know, this is wonderful, eclectic collection of foodies from around the world.

  10. Rama Drama says:


    Rajini Rao You just took me back to that special time and place back home..childhood would have been too boring without Diwali, the 1000-wala’s crackers and misfiring rocket that never goes where it’s intended 🙂 Have a wonderful, family-smiles-filled, Diwali 🙂

  11. Rajini Rao says:


    Rama Drama , re. the errant rocket, exactly! Perhaps you were like my older brother who always pushed the boundaries of safety and terrorized me with surprise explosions and smelly “snake pellets” 🙂


  12. Happy Diwali!  I must try cooking some poha soon; that looks delicious!  🙂  :9

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Sallie Alys Montuori it is readily available in Indian grocery stores. Add water and drain- it does not need to cook. 

  14. Chad Haney says:


    Happy Diwali Rajini Rao I hope you get a kick out of my Real Kitchen post.


  15. Ah, so that’s just onions and spices in the frying pan, to be added to the poha later? or to be added to something else?  Maybe I should have actually clicked the album to see if there were captions…  ;>


    And yes, I’ve seen poha in my local store before; I just haven’t yet picked up any to try yet.  I’ve been teaching myself Indian cooking slooooooooowly.  ;>

  16. Sunil Bajpai says:


    Wish you a Happy Diwali, dear Rajini Rao. You’re special.

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you, Sunil Bajpai , for your wishes and for stopping by! 

  18. Kawthar A says:


    Happy Diwali Rajini! ❤

  19. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you, Chad Haney . Google refuses to show your posts in my stream- I’m going to have to start viewing circles instead of the general stream so as not to miss your posts. Checking it out now!

  20. Rajini Rao says:


    Kawthar A , thank you ❤

  21. Chad Haney says:


    Google is just trying to keep our connection private 😉 Kawthar A made me wink. 

  22. Kawthar A says:


    huh!? yes yes 😉 Chad Haney sheeesh..it’s not private anymore LOL

  23. Rajini Rao says:


    Whatever , right Kawthar A ? 😉


  24. wow, yum yum yum…..

  25. Kawthar A says:


    Oh yeah a big whatever actually :p Rajini Rao

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    Sonali Jangle , we call it poha (made from beaten rice). 

  27. Chad Haney says:


    Rajini Rao how similar is it to pongal?

  28. Marta Rauch says:


    Happy Diwali, Rajini Rao!

  29. Rajini Rao says:


    Thank you, Marta Rauch . The best of the season to you too 🙂

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Andrew Planet !

  31. Panah Rad says:


    Happy Diwali! Superb stuff

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Panah!


    Panah Rad 


  33. Ahhh, posted my comment on another post on poha.


    Happy Diwali!


  34. Rajini Rao You are welcome.  I used to be the Gardener at the local Hindu Temple for many years

  35. Rajini Rao says:


    Andrew Planet , I hope they fed you well!  I love gardening too..although my garden has become somewhat unruly in the past few years 🙂

  36. Chad Haney says:


    Need more weeding? Gnotic Pasta and I can help, encourage you to weed.

  37. Rajini Rao says:


    Hehe, no wonder my garden is so weedy. You two have been so well-behaved of late. 


  38. Rajini Rao They liked to feed me a lot. yes.  I don’t garden anymore either.  I’m a science pantheist myself but was adopted as one of the congregation and was always invited to turn up for events.  Everybody nowadays is slightly Hindu in that the mathematics we all use and the numerals stem from the Hindu numeral system that got assimilated by the Moslems and then the rest of the world.  That’s what I used to tell them at the temple and they loved the idea.


  39. Very Joyous Diwali Rajini Rao. Thanks you all your posts. They have always peaked my interest and i look forward to reading more. Btw Pohas look delicious.

  40. Viky Singh says:


    Happy diwali.to.2.u.


  41. Beautiful writing, Rajini. Happy Diwali! 

  42. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Zuleyka Zevallos ! 🙂

  43. Norman M. says:


    Thousands years of human culture.


  44. Sometimes I wonder if you are a research scientist or an author….your communication skill is as awesome as your research content that you post….Happy Diwali 🙂


  45. //and the little girl has given up the silks and bracelets for a disciplined life of an academic scientist, transplanted into a distant western land//


     a pity! :-))


  46. ತಮಗೆ ದೀಪಾವಳಿ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು Rajini Rao   the poha looks yummy, appetizing 


  47. Happy Diwali to you too….my family and me have been living abroad for over 7 years now and even though we go to India every year…we never make it for Diwali…we miss the fun we used to have at Bangalore for Diwali … can understand your nostalgia 🙂


  48. What is “beaten rice”? A special kind of rice, or a special treatment to rice?


    By the way, did you see my post about “escalivada”? You must taste it. https://plus.google.com/u/0/103606606399779300013/posts/UULtizbj99V

  49. Rajini Rao says:


    Drew Sowersby , the Clay Pit looks like it has a really creative menu! I’d love to dine there with you if I ever come to Austin 🙂

  50. Rajini Rao says:


    Víktor Bautista i Roca beaten or flattened rice is raw but flaky, and can be used immediately after it is moistened. So it is great for quick dishes. Handle it gently so that it does not fall apart. 


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flattened_rice

  51. Rajini Rao says:


    That’s a date then, Drew Sowersby . Hmm, any conferences in Austin? 🙂


    Chad Haney , sorry, missed your question. Pongal is more like porridge with cooked rice. If it has mung beans, then it is also called kichdi, a favorite in the north. Somehow, the Brits corrupted it to kedgeree. 

  52. Arnav Kalra says:


    Happy Diwali Mam.


    Diwali is an amalgamation of noisy, beautiful, bright and colorful firecrackers here in Karnal.

  53. vajid Ali says:


    Happy Dewali Rajini Rao g

  54. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, everyone! Happy Diwali to all who celebrate. Arnav Kalra , I was on the phone with my parents in Bangalore just now and our conversation was interrupted by firecrackers 🙂 Enjoy the rest of the evening/night! 

  55. Arnav Kalra says:


    On Diwali, firecrackers are everywhere 😀

  56. Yoon-Mi Kim says:


    Lovely story, happy diwali!

  57. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Yoon-Mi Kim . There are enough expats in the UK to celebrate Diwali where you are, I’m guessing? 

  58. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Aida Hazlan 🙂

  59. vajid Ali says:


    Adaab Arz karta hu Rajini Rao g

  60. Rajini Rao says:


    Shukriya, m Wazid !


  61. Thanks for your family for giving us a scientist, and we need more of them, Happy Diwali !

  62. vajid Ali says:


    Adaab Arz karta hu kesi h aap Rajini Rao g


  63. Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks for the candid look into your past and present. Your posts are never short of inspiring!

  64. Rajini Rao says:


    I like your posts too, John Morrison . I catch them on the science communities 🙂

  65. Tom Lee says:


    Nice piece of writing Rajini Rao. i enjoy reading. There was one missing detail about that girl, which is when she was in her room getting herself ready for the celebration she switched on some classis rock tunes from Frampton or from Queen, singing along… 🙂

  66. Mad B says:


    Nice story !! Rajini Rao I know this type of ‘bathtub’ LOL 

  67. Rajini Rao says:


    Madjid Boukri we still don’t have constant piped hot water in India! There is a “geyser” (or tank) that stores water connected to the taps..it is turned on when needed, and not left on all the time like the water heaters in the US. 

  68. Mad B says:


    Ah Rajini Rao tell me about it! when I see all that wasted water makes me sick… Always a pleasure to read your posts 🙂


  69. Huge fan of Indian food, looks so good!

  70. daniel wyatt says:


    Rajini- Dr. Rao..it’s been awhile, but your page and blog are more exciting than ever!!


    Love to hear from you, although w/ the massive following and the time gone by, I’m almost certain that’s a long shot..


    I sent the link to your food site to another scientist, who did her work on banobos

  71. daniel wyatt says:


    …in Cameroon, I believe

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  73. Ça a l’air délicieux

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