With the persistent COVID-19 pandemic and prospects of a long winter ahead, DMU students provided a much-needed shot of hope and optimism by organizing the University’s annual Diwali event. This annual celebration of the festival of lights is part of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths around the world. At DMU, it has become a beloved campus event with music, dancing and delicious Indian food, so leaders of the events committee of the University’s Multicultural Affairs Student Advisory Committee (MASAC) were determined to make it happen this year, even though did so virtually.
“We wanted the event to occur because we all personally have really enjoyed the Diwali celebrations in the past and wanted to share it with everyone,” said Becca Lair, a committee member and second-year osteopathic medical student.
During the event, Richard Salas, Ph.D., DMU’s chief diversity officer, said Diwali represents “the spirit of hope and optimism.”
“As a metaphor, Diwali reminds us that as the days grow shorter and that some uncertainty still exists, spring always returns,” he added. “Knowledge triumphs over ignorance, hope outlasts despair and being good to each other has benefits, just like light over darkness always prevails.”
Students provided information about Diwali and a virtual tour of sites in India, Singapore, Thailand, England and Trinidad and Tobago where it’s celebrated. Its traditions include cleaning one’s home, wearing special clothing and exchanging gifts and sweets.
“When I think of Diwali, the first thing that comes to mind is the colorful lamps that are lit up around the house and my family coming together,” said events committee member Anjali Chandra, a second-year podiatric medical student. “As kids, we were told the stories about the triumphant victories of the good over evil from religious texts and would go to the temple. We would be surrounded by close family and friends, spreading joy and laughter.”
The virtual event included performances by the DMU Choir and Muscle Energy band, personal stories about Diwali shared by students, videos of dance routines from past Diwali celebrations and a trivia contest. Prior to the event, students could pick up samosas and mango lassi prepared by the University’s Summerfield’s Café. The celebration concluded with brief comments by DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., who thanked the students for “finding ways to make Diwali fun and festive.”
Kalkini Durai, a second-year osteopathic medical student and MASAC events committee member, expressed gratitude that DMU celebrates Diwali because “it provides a chance to learn about other students’ experiences.”
“Diwali to me has always been a time of celebration with friends and family,” she said. “We would start our day off by wearing new clothes, going to the temple and having a huge feast.”