Once a year, in the first weekend of November, the entire “brown” (ie. South Asian and associated identities) community comes together to put on a cultural showcase called Diwali. Diwali is the festival of lights in the Hindu faith, and has become a staple of brown culture throughout South Asia and WashU. Diwali time is easily my favorite time of the year. One glimpse into the backstage area where we prepare for the show will explain this. The second you step in, your eyes don’t know where to focus. Lights everywhere, every color you could imagine swirling around as Bhangra, Garba, Chahaat, Raas, and Classical dancers prepare for their sets, music banging throughout the speakers and from Sur Taal Laya, the Bollywood fusion a cappella group, and skit actors frantically attempting to remember their lines before the show starts. Although it seems like a frantic mess of a combination, the showcase is really about coming together as a community to create something beautiful for the WashU and St Louis community at large.
I have been blessed to be a part of this incredible time in a community that I care so deeply about for the past two years. It has also given me the platform to do things that I love and bring aspects of my culture and upbringing to others. My a cappella group, Sur Taal Laya, had been a temporary group for the past 7 years in Diwali, and would immediately dissolve after Diwali ended. However, last year, I met people who I consider some of my closest friends and family through STL, and we decided to formalize our group for the rest of the year, not just for Diwali. STL has been a huge part of my life that I have been so proud to develop and grow, and it started for me from Diwali. This isn’t the only family that Diwali has given me, though. Diwali skit is a group of pseudo-“actors” that put on the skit that runs throughout the show, tying the show together between the different acts. I auditioned for skit this year for the first time after one of my best friends had been on it last year and loved it. Skit ended up becoming another family of sorts for me; coming up with ways to make people laugh, growing into our characters, and truly embodying the spirit of love and lightheartedness that is Diwali turned the people who I barely knew into close friends and people who I deeply admire and care for.
My experience is not unique, though. Diwali brings everyone together, throughout the dance teams, other acts and teams, classes, even the committee that puts the show together. Diwali has been one of the most formative parts of my college career and has turned into a way for me to give as much as I can to a community and identity that I care so deeply for. I highly recommend it. And if it’s not your thing, come watch it. Trust me, you’ll love it.