The Indian and Nepali international students helped bring India to Missouri Western on Nov. 8 with their annual celebration of Diwali.
The celebration of the Hindu holiday took place in Blum 218/219 from 5:30 p.m. -8:30 p.m. The event offered students the opportunities to get to try authentic Indian food, watch dance performances to Bollywood and Hindi music as well as play festive games with the opportunity to win prizes.
Missouri Western’s former International Director, Amy Kotwani, was at the event to help partake in the festivities.
“The festival of lights is the celebration of good over evil,” Kotwani said. “Different parts of India celebrate it differently, but usually there is dancing, prayer and Diwali is what it’s like for us. It’s like as big as Christmas is to Christians.”
Kotwani explained how in the United States they can’t just take days off to celebrate Diwali, but they try and just fit the culture in where we can.
“Around the country they have community Diwali celebrations in different cities so it’s pretty common,” Kotwani said. “When you live in a smaller town, you don’t have as much diversity, so I think it’s good to have these kind of events to educate people who are local to the community to learn about different cultures. We bring the culture here since not everybody can just pick up and go to India.”
Missouri Western President Dr. Vartabedian participated in the nights events and received a present from the international students.
“It is so nice to be here and share in this interesting cultural activity,” Vartabedian said. “As this is my last year at Missouri Western, I just wanted to say that the most gratifying aspect of being here was to see the international program grow.”
“When we arrived here 11 years ago, we had just a small handful of international students – aybe a total of five – and we have gone as high as 150 international students depending on the year. So, this certainly is one of the most gratifying things that I have experienced in my 11 years here.”
The event was originally supposed to have a firework show and opportunities to release a lantern. However, due to the snow, they were not able to include that this year. International student, Srinitha Mandadi, who helped to organize and work the event explained the differences between the weather last year versus this year.
“We have been doing this event for four years now, and for me it is my second year because this is my second year,” Mandadi said. “Last year we had like 100-120 people, and this year I expected even more, but the weather was too bad. Many students and professors still came. I think there might have been around 80.”
Even with the weather working against them, the event was still a success. Many students came out, including freshman Mackinsey Scroggins and student Nicholas Kempf.
“I was walking by one of the flyers that was right outside the library, and I try to go to these events because they’re a lot of fun,” Kempf said. “It’s important to stimulate awareness that there are international students here and to just kind of let other students know about different cultures.”
The night ended with students and faculty joining the international students on stage for a dance as they ended the nights celebration.