People of all ages and backgrounds filled the University Center (UC) with their chatter as Indian music played in the background. The aroma of foreign spices filled the room as people roamed around and discovered different activities like sand art, lantern painting, Kodak pictures and henna – smiling and enjoying the Indian traditions. They saw two traditional Indian dances from different regions, a Bollywood dance performance and an Indian fashion show.
This was Webster’s celebration of the Indian Diwali Light Festival, which took place on the evening of Nov. 13. Webster’s Indian culture club, Sangam, hosted the event and tried to bring as many of their traditions as possible to celebrate the event on campus.
This event was more than a club activity for members like Divya Joshi, a Webster student from India working toward her masters in finance. Joshi followed her husband to the states when he received a job here in St. Louis.
Joshi participated in the fashion show. She helped with training domestic students and other international students in how to wear the Sari and other traditional Indian clothing. Joshi said this holiday is very important to Indians, almost like Christmas in India.
“It’s been something we have been doing since we were kids, and so we love to share it with others,” Joshi said. “We really miss home at this point of time. But, it’s good that a lot of people are joining us, and we are enjoying the moment.”
Joshi was not the only one who enjoyed sharing her culture with Webster. Manali Ghag, the president of Sangam Club, planned the event. Sangam Club becoming an official Webster club and their desire to bring a bit of home from India to students inspired Ghag to hold this event.
“We got an award for being a new club on campus, and we feel appreciated,” Ghag said. “So, that boosted us, and so we wanted to do such a big event.”
Ghag said the event took about a month to prepare for. Through social media and word of mouth, Ghag said she anticipated about 150 people at the event. Ghag said she felt pressure to make it turn out well and that it came with a lot of responsibility, stress and sleepless nights.
“Oh, it was a hell of a ride, but it is a part of my life,” Ghag said.
With the UC full of people, Ghag said what mattered most to her was that people enjoyed the event and the snippet of Indian culture.
“I understand. We are Indians,” Ghag said. “We love every part of it, but for someone who is not a part of the culture and comes from a different culture. For them, how much they understand and how much they like the event, that’s what is important to me.”
Joe Roberts, Sangam Club’s faculty advisor, explained the importance of celebrating Diwali for Indians. Diwali has Hindu origins and is celebrated throughout India. It represents light overcoming darkness and good conquering evil. Roberts said he appreciates Sangam for hosting such a significant celebration, for it brought a diverse group of people in the Webster community together.
“We have Muslims, Hindus, Christians and even have Jewish people,” Roberts said. “Everyone celebrates Diwali. It is a way to celebrate who we are as a country and a culture. It’s a way not only to celebrate who we are as a university, but also to welcome diversity.”
Freshman art major Joe Souvannarath also appreciated the dances. Souvannarath said some of his friends danced in the performances. He said it was his favorite part, although he enjoyed the rest of the event.
“It brought so much joy to me that my eyes were welling up with tears,” Souvannarath said. “It was so beautiful.”