Experiencing Diwali: Indian Night

By Reita Hutagalung, Global MBA student 2012-2013, Indonesia

So we’ve said that our class is very rich in cultural diversity. However to live it is another thing; it’s far more exciting! Cultural diversity could be experienced by travelling to the country, knowing the habits, values, seeing the culture, dance, tasting food, etc. However, even though we are not going anywhere now, we in Global MBA class were able to experience cultural diversity right here with cultural night parties at ESSEC.

One event recently celebrated was the Diwali or Deepavali. Deepavali (also spelled Devali in certain regions) or Diwali, popularly known as the "festival of lights," is primarily a five day Hindu festival. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together. The name "Diwali" or "Divali" is a contraction of "Deepavali", which translates into "row of lamps". Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. So for our friends from India, this event was a very important event to be celebrated. The Indian Student Club at ESSEC arranged a gathering night to celebrate Diwali and invited us to experience Diwali together.

The event was arranged nicely – before entering the main performance, they provided a Sari-wearing workshop for the female. Having dreamed of wearing Saris, I was very interested to come early to get the chance to wear the beautiful Saris. There, one of the students helped me to wrap myself in Sari with a specific way. It turned out that wearing Sari takes special skill as well! It’s not just a question of wrapping around and around and around, but there’s a delicate way of wrapping one way and then it went another way and – ok, I’ve actually forgotten how to do it now! Anyhow, because at the time I was helped out by one of the students, the Sari was nicely done – yeaayy!!

Another thing that I wanted to experience is to use the Mehndi. Menhdi is a paint from natural herbs that is usually used to draw on one’s hand. Indian women usually use it on their hands on special occasions. As I had only seen the application from Indian movies, and usually they look very exotic – I was very eager to try it. So I queued to get a Menhdi and then a very nice student drew a pattern on my palm – I liked it very much! Although I had to hold out my hand for an hour and bear the aroma of the Menhdi, it was worth it.

The night went on with the opening explanation of Diwali, how it is celebrated by Indian communities around the world, and a presentation of India to the audience. An interesting part then was the performance of Dance Katthak. This dance, the performer said, was a dance that originated from the temples and was used as a means to tell stories. It was very interesting to see and hear the explanations of each dance that she performed in three stages, telling the stories of her favorite Krishna. The event then closed with a quiz on facts about India. For every question, the person who could answer got a chocolate. I am quite proud that I knew several answers in the quiz. Of those, I got a chocolate because I could answer the picture of 1994 Miss World, Aishwarya Rai. I have been a fan of hers for quite some time because she is very pretty and smart – of course I know her picture ;)

The night was closed by enjoying Indian food. It was rich in taste and interesting to experience new flavors. All in all, it was a very good cultural exchange experience and hopefully we’ll have more cultural nights to add some color toour assignments-filled days!

Happy Diwali!

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