“Good always overpowers evil,” Harbinder Singh said. He is the head of the organizing committee for the third annual Diwali Festival of Lights, one of the biggest festival of Hindus, which is celebrated with great enthusiasm in India. Stony Brook’s event included a variety of performances, food and culture. This year’s show was sold out.
“It’s about the kids, giving them a chance to perform,” Singh said. “The idea is that these kids will only dance once or twice a year on stage. Give that to them, let them feel good about their culture.”
The performance, held at the Charles B. Wang Center, mixed tradition with modernity. For those who bought a $16 ticket, pre-show snacks were provided along with customary Indian dishes. The snacking began at 2:45 p.m., and those with colorful bracelets signifying tickets were allowed entry and access to the frosted doughnuts, Capri Sun, tea and water.
At approximately 4:00 p.m., a music video played on the screen of the Wang Center’s theatre until the children entered, each with different colored lights symbolizing candles. As soon as the children entered, a magnified voice spoke through the microphone: “Applaud for the kids—keep that applause coming.”
The children gathered on stage in festive clothes, and a few of the children in the front row sang along with a recorded version of America’s nation anthem. After a round of applause, India’s national anthem began to play, and adults edged to the aisle to record and take pictures.
The organizers of the event, Harbinder Singh, Raveesh Talanki, and Dr. Srinivas Pentayala, spoke between events, encouraging applause and giving a history of the dances that ranged from Rajasthani to Bollywood to a Marathi folk dance.
They also verified not only what Diwali is, but what it means. A microphone was directed to willing audience participants, and children and adults also reinforced Diwali’s importance of freedom and celebration of everything from justice to treats.
The performances lasted a bit longer than the estimated two hours, and among the different types of dance were instrumental performances and a play, which contrasted the differences of eastern and western cultures. The play used humor to highlight the misunderstandings of different cultures in a typical day, including table etiquette and casual wear.
Diwali is celebrated a bit differently in other cultures but, as Professor S.N. Sridhar said when addressing Diwali’s different meanings and stories. Diwali “brings people together from the north, south, east, west [and] different backgrounds.”
Stony Brook graduate student Kadhambari Sridhar said this was her second year attending the festival.
“I like to understand the community outside of Stony Brook because most of us are pretty disconnected,” Sridhar said. “It’s nice to see life outside of Stony Brook [in] a vibrant Indian community. It’s nice to bridge the gap by getting students involved.”
As the show dismissed, there was a table by the doors with Domino’s pizza and two other long tables filled with more Indian dishes. Spectators waited in line for dinner after the show, and many walked away with their plates full.
Just as Sridhar said, at Diwali “there’s something for everyone.”