November 12, 2015

MOHAPATRA | Tea-Lights and Good Faith

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By TANISHA MOHAPATRA

Back in India, the air is freshly recuperating from the Diwali crackers. Half the globe across, I filled up my dorm room with tea-lights and sipped my pathetic rendition of masala chai to cope with being far from home at this time of the year. Scrolling through my social media feed, I noticed it was full of either photos of my friends and family from home beaming as bright as the Diwali lights or hashtags about the events at Yale and University of Missouri. This past Halloween weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Fall Utsav, an event hosted by the Cornell India Association to celebrate the festive season around Diwali in India. An odd thing to do, I know, but the promise of Indian food, music and Diwali celebrations seemed alluring in the middle of two painfully long prelim rounds. When I got to Willard Straight that evening though, I did not regret my decision.

The yellow fairy lights, the rangoli, the glittery draperies and the paper lamps almost took me back to the streets in my hometown that are decorated similarly at this time of the year; the energetic crowd mimicked that which went pandal hopping for Durga Puja, but what captured my attention more was that the most beautifully dressed, most enthusiastic and most curious people in that room were Americans who came in their versions of Indian garb. That is not to say that others were not fancy or did not seem as excited, but to see this event bring culturally different people come together in spirit made my heart swell.

This, especially in the wake of recent heightened tensions about race and culture, truly brought out the essence of Diwali for me: the celebration of the victory of light over darkness, of knowledge over ignorance, of hope over despair. I felt an odd sense of comfort despite being in a swarm of grad students and unfamiliar faces, and that’s probably because at that point, everyone in that room was there to commemorate a spirit we all had developed a love for. By the end of the performances that the Cornell India Association had lined up for us, which included Cornell Bhangra and Cornell Tarana, there were no strangers at my table just friends who hadn’t met each other before. More than the fireworks and sweets, Diwali has come to bear tinges of camaraderie, good faith and brotherhood. Today, especially in light of recent events at Yale, IC and University of Missouri, I only hope the spirit of the Diwali lights are kindled here as well.

Tanisha is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Government, Economics and Creative Writing. White mochas, Bajri and The Knox Writers’ House feature on her current list of favorite things. She blogs on alternate Thursdays this semester and can be reached at tm525@cornell.edu.

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