Stuyvesant Hosts Its Second Annual Diwali/Garba Festival

On Wednesday, November 22, Stuyvesant hosted its second annual Diwali/Garba Festival, celebrating the festival of lights, the victory of good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

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By Ryan Radwan

Stuyvesant hosted its second annual Diwali/Garba Festival, celebrating the festival of lights, the victory of good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance, on November 22. The event, hosted in the fifth-floor cafeteria, was organized by the South Asian Youth Association (SAYA), the Hindu Students Council (HSC), and the Indian Culture Club (ICC), with help from school counselor Angel Colon. Though the event was meant to start at 4:15 p.m., students were seen changing into cultural attire and forming lines outside the cafeteria as early as 3:35 p.m., highlighting both the importance of and the eagerness to celebrate this event.

Though the planning process was long, leaders from SAYA, HSC, and ICC all pointed to the Diwali/Garba festival held last year, from which they took inspiration. “It’s been in the works for many months now, since we had a similar event last year that laid the grounds and let us build on the [previous event],” senior and HSC president Aharnish Dev said. Dev added how successful last year’s event was, approximating an attendance of 200 people.

The event last year made sure that the current leaders in planning this celebration had a strong base. “Since we had the event last year, we knew how much time we needed to plan, so we wanted to start planning earlier this year,” senior and HSC leader Joyti Nath said. They also received a budget of $1,000, which was not the case last year. 

Using the event plan from last year also allowed the leaders to find areas of improvement. “We now [knew] what to fix, like [...] RSVPing for food so that we don’t run out and [making sure that] people don’t take [food] twice,” sophomore and ICC president Trisha Kumar said. The RSVP system was changed for this year’s celebration, and the allocation of food was based on the use of tickets. During the event, those who RSVPed were prioritized in the food line. Eventually, however, enough food was left over so that people could get second servings. 

Despite the prior precedence of this event, the planners still had their fair deal of challenges, such as settling the event date to be November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. “[The date] definitely slightly hurt[s], because there [were] definitely a few people who [were] doing their own Friendsgiving, and so that [took] away a couple [of people from attendance],” Nath said. Despite this challenge, Kumar, Nath, and Dev estimate that around 150 people showed up to the celebration, a success due to the festival’s widespread importance among the South Asian diaspora.

Another challenge the organizers encountered was their promotion of the festival. “[There were challenges] promotion-wise, because when we e-mailed teachers we did not always get responses back,” Nath said. The event’s promotion depended on advertisement by teachers but was limited owing to many teachers’ busy schedules.

The planners also expected many people to show up to the event without officially signing up, which would create a bit of a logistical headache. “I’m assuming that there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t sign up but come,” Nath said. This would affect things like food distribution and seating plans, but Nath and her peers said they were ready to deal with this challenge, especially if it meant more attendees.

Despite these challenges, many people were in the cafeteria on November 22, dancing, eating, learning, and celebrating the spirit of Diwali and Garba. Attendees could be seen wearing cultural attire, as encouraged on the posters promoting the event. Many boys wore flowing, elaborate kurtas, while many girls wore colorful dresses. The celebration began with a presentation on the history of Diwali, followed by a demonstration of traditional dances often performed on Diwali. Later on, there was traditional music, and everyone was encouraged to freestyle. In the latter half of the event, attendees were given traditional Diwali food, henna, and time to socialize.

This Diwali celebration also helped to show the themes of representation and inclusion. Not only did the planners of this event want to bring South Asian culture to the forefront, but they also wanted to use this event to recognize other cultures that make up Stuyvesant. Dev likened this event to the Black Students’ League and ASPIRA’s yearly potluck, as well as Spectrum’s Chosen Dinner event. The HSC, ICC, and SAYA are hoping to expand the celebration of Stuyvesant’s South Asian culture to even more events like Holi in the spring. 

Overall, the Diwali event was a success, gathering many students from diverse backgrounds to appreciate the traditions behind Diwali. “We all have the shared interest of South Asian culture and [of] being a part of the diverse community of Stuy,” Dev said.