November 12, 2001

Indian Culture, Festival Showcased at Diwali

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The Diwali Indian cultural variety show entertained an excited crowd in an overflowing Statler Auditorium last Friday.

Diwali — known as a “Festival of Lights,” one of the major religious festivals in India — is celebrated over a five-day period beginning in the Hindu month of Asvina and ending in Karttika, which falls in late October.

Organized by the Society for India (SI), the show featured over 200 students in 15 groups that utilized humor, music and dance.

“This is the 18th year of the Diwali [show] at Cornell, a time when family, friends and the community unite,” said SI president Karan Suri ’03.

At the beginning of the performance, one of the five hosts jokingly told the crowd: “Why are there so many M.C.’s? Well, in India there are one billion people, and we want to represent India, so the more people here on stage the better.”

One of the skits called “Arrangement Island” — a parody of the television show “Temptation Island” — joked about arranged marriages.

“I’ve come to the Diwali show every year for nine years, and this year’s show has a good mix of the old and the new,” said Usha Raman, a local resident. “In these skits, they’re trying to show what really happens to some students, and it’s funny.”

A mix of old and new styles of music also reverberated through the hall.

The a cappella group Tarana sang two songs, called “Dil Chahta Hai” and “Dhoom Pichuk Dhoom.” Tarana is “Cornell’s first-ever and only Hindi a cappella,” according to the program handed out to the audience.

Even members of the stage crew showcased their musical talent when three of them sang an impromptu rendition of “Show Me the Meaning of Being Busy” to the tune of the Backstreet Boys’ song “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely.”

“This shows how strong and creative the people involved in the show are,” said Umair Khan ’03 of the stage crew.

A plethora of dance troupes provided glimpses of traditional and modern styles of dance. Cloud 9 fused trance raving and hip-hop styles of dance, while Dheem Ta Dare combined the traditional Indian dance styles of Bharatha Natyam, Kuchupudi and Kathak. The nationally competing dance team, Cornell Bhangra, closed the show with acrobatic dance moves.

“The choreography was amazing,” Lulua Khambaty grad said. “The performers picked up little things typical of India, and they brought it out on stage, including the dance, culture and the way people think.”

The show did encounter difficulties with lighting and microphones, though many members of the audience felt it did not greatly affect the program.

“There was a problem with some light switches that was out of our control,” Khan said.

But Khambaty noted, “The minor technical difficulties did not matter at all.”

Organizers, who began planning the show in August, praised its success.

“This show got 200 people involved, everyone who wanted to get on stage got on stage, and we united the community,” Suri said. “That’s the goal we wanted to achieve.”

The performers enjoyed themselves as well.

“This was a lot of fun because everything came together and went pretty well,” said Smruti Govan ’04, one of the dancers.

“SI is an organization that is for everybody, so that whoever wants to get involved does get involved,” Suri said.

Archived article by Peter Lin