For many reasons August is a very busy month for India! Although it is the mid-monsoon season with torrential rains, folks in India are preparing for three to four holidays but the most important one is Independence Day on August 15. This is a day of great pride and patriotism for Indians as India commemorates the nation’s independence from the British empire in 1947. This year India will celebrate 70 years of Independence. I have very fond memories of this day from my childhood even though I didn’t fully understand the significance of that day until I was a bit older. I was mostly excited for the new clothes that I had to wear for the celebratory functions in my schools. I so vividly remember the new white dress, white socks and shoes and even new white ribbon to tie my long braids up. Lastly, I remember my Dad would bring the tricolor paper flags for me and my brother.
To celebrate at the national level, the Indian prime minister hoists the Indian flag at the historical site of Red Fort in Delhi with a salute of 21 Gun- Shots. I would urge that you visit the Red Fort if you ever visit India.
The India Diaspora in America celebrates Independence Day as India Day with parades. We are so happy that several of our customers have reached out to us for menu and recipe ideas for their menu to observe the holiday. I am personally very touched and so proud to be a part of this great melting pot that I call home.
This holiday is followed by Raksha Bandhan that falls on August 18 this year. I grew up calling it “Rakhee.” Although originally a Hindu holiday, these days it is more secular as I know many observe this delightful holiday that celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters. In Sanskrit “Raksha” means protection and “Bandhan” means “tie or a knot.”
On this day, a sister ties a Rakhee (a decorated thread) on her brother’s wrist to symbolize her love and prayer for the brother’s well- being and in return the brother vows to always protect her. My mom always made sweet vermicelli pudding on this day. My daughters call it Nani’s “Sweet Noodles.” As all holidays get commercialized this one also has a financial aspect. The brother gives a gift of money to the sister in return of the Rakhee tying. I remember my parents giving my brother some money to give to me after I tied the Rakhee. As I am getting ready to mail my Rakhee to my brother who lives in a different city in America I fondly remember those days. I only wish I could tie the Rakhee in person like old times.
Right after comes Janmashtami on August 25 this year which is a celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. It is a religious holiday for Hindus and is celebrated by fasting, worshiping Krishna by singing and dancing and staying up until mid-night which is believed to be the time Krishna was born. I remember my mom would make new clothes for the deity of Krishna and make pure vegetarian food to break the fast. A couple of dishes that I vividly remember are a savory Tapioca Pilaf and sweet yogurt with cardamom and fresh mint leaves, so yummy!
As you can see for me, all holidays boil down to food. In fact, I start thinking and planning my menus way ahead of the holidays.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another holiday which is very special to our family. My husband is Parsi or Zoroastrian and they celebrate “Pateti” which this year falls on August 17. It essentially marks their New Year. Pateti comes from the word “Patet” which means repentance. Zoroastrians take this day to reflect their thoughts, deeds and words of the previous year and repent the ones that were not good. They dedicate the new year to good thoughts, words and deeds. On this special day, as you can imagine I am thinking of the delicious Parsi food. The Zoroastrians prepare a spicy fish curry along with plain yellow Daal and rice and a fragrant dessert called “Ravo” which is essentially Cream of Rice Pudding.
Oh dear! Now I can’t wait for all these holidays so I can cook the delicious meals I grew up on. In light of these festivities, we hope you will try this easy recipe of “Ravo” Cream of Rice Pudding and celebrate with all of us at Monsoon Kitchens.