Cal Poly’s Indian Student Association (ISA) celebrated the official Diwali Holiday by hosting their annual Diwali banquet at Chumash auditorium on Nov. 3.
The Nov. 7 holiday is often referred to as the “Festival of Light,” because it represents a triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.
“Whether you’re a part of ISA or [a] part of Cal Poly, I just want you to think of these things and this night while we watch these performances and see all the stuff that’s happening around the world,” computer engineering senior and ISA Club President Ayusman Saha said to event attendees. “Just remember that in all the darkness, there is light, and when we come together as a family, we can get through it all. That’s what ISA here at Cal Poly is. We’re a family, and we’re proud.”
This year’s Diwali banquet had over 300 attendees, the largest in the event’s history. Taj Palace provided food and both student groups and individual students — including the Cal Poly Kahanee and Cal Poly Bhangra dance teams and several singers — performed.
Computer science freshman Asmita Sharma sang a mash-up of five songs, four in Hindi and one in English. For Sharma, ISA provided an opportunity to celebrate Diwali and her culture within a community. ISA also made her more comfortable attending Cal Poly.
“When I came here to Cal Poly, it was pretty intimidating at first because I didn’t see people of color, to be honest,” Sharma said. “Had ISA not been here, I wouldn’t be celebrating Diwali, and so this really impacts my time at Cal Poly because it feels like home when you have people of your culture and people who celebrate your culture and values.”
She said the event provides an opportunity for students to learn more about Indian culture.
“We need to have an involved society where Americans know the Indian culture and value it, so ISA is a big part of that,” Sharma said.
Before the show, event co-host, business administration senior and ISA former president Anshul Shah stood to the side of the stage and talked excitedly about ISA, its effect on campus, his experience at Cal Poly as an Indian-American and his knack for performing.
“I love entertaining,” Shah said. “I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces.”
Shah served as the president of ISA for two years. He said he was thrilled with the turnout of the event this year.
“It honestly means a lot,” Shah said. “For 20 dollars you get a show, you get a lot of laughs, you get to spend time with your friends and get a great meal, and you get to take part in a culture that you’ve never learned about before, and it means a lot to me, especially being able to educate people about that.”
Shah said he has seen significant growth in the Indian community and presence of Indian culture on campus over the past three years. He said the Diwali event was a perfect example of that growth.
“It really creates a sense of community for all of these Indian-Americans that come onto campus and feel like they don’t belong,” Shah said. “So it’s been amazing to see the club grow, and it’s been amazing to see this event itself grow.”
President Armstrong spoke briefly at the event. He announced Cal Poly’s current plans to add a Cal Poly study abroad program in India.
“I really appreciate all that you’re doing to really move Cal Poly forward,” Armstrong said. “I’m also excited that we have such a vibrant Indian Student Association, and I want you to know that we are working on some details, but we will be starting a study abroad to India in the next couple of years.”
The Cal Poly Diwali celebration gave several students a sense of belonging and community on campus. At the end of the night, everyone got up and danced together. For political science and marketing senior Vaidya Keeran, the event has not only allowed him to celebrate his culture away from home, but it has made Cal Poly his home away from home.
“You know, Indians are a minority at Cal Poly,” Keeran said. “So being a part of something that reminds me of home where there are a lot of Indians, it gives me a sense of community. I’m at home here.”