Diwali celebrates light amidst darkness of pandemic


Photo Courtesy of Sathwik Reddy

Sean Norris, Siddharth Salklan, Sathwik Reddy and Shivam Sehgal pose for a photo during Diwali on Saturday. Diwali celebrants had to adapt this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Features Editor

Every autumn, thousands of students across campus celebrate Diwali, commemorating the triumph of light over dark. Around the world, families and friends come together to partake in grand celebrations. Traditionally, people will light oil lamps in their homes, set off firework displays and decorate their homes with flowers. Extended families gather to exchange gifts and share a large meal together.

The campus has its own special way of celebrating the holiday. Foellinger Auditorium lights up with thousands of bulbs strung across its roof. Candles are lit around the quad and decorate Alma Mater. Organizations on campus have dances and dinners.

This year, celebrants had to adapt their Diwali festivities to comply with the precautions put in place to protect against COVID-19. This has dramatically changed the way many celebrate the holiday.

One student who adapted his celebrations is Sathwik Reddy, senior in Engineering. Reddy has decided to keep things casual this year, while still trying to maintain some of the spirit.

“This year I’m actually just getting some Indian food, just take out, and meeting a small group of friends for dinner,” Reddy said.

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    As an international student, Reddy is typically unable to be at home for the festivities as it falls during the school year. He said normally he would FaceTime family members on that day to attend the celebrations virtually while also celebrating with friends on campus.

    “There’s usually a celebration by the Indian Grad Student Association on the quad that we all attend,” he said. “There is some good Indian food, some music, everybody’s dancing, dressing up, you just get to greet everybody.”

    This year, IGSA canceled its traditional Diwali on the quad celebration because of the crowds it attracts. Instead, they asked individuals to film a 10-second video of themselves passing a light from their left to their right. They will compile these clips of the community celebrating together while staying apart, virtually spreading the light.

    Reddy said at home the celebrations will not gather as many people together and most will celebrate within their own home. He said these large celebrations, spending time with so many friends and family, will be missed during this holiday.

    Despite the tumultuous nature of COVID-19 and the troubled times many are struggling through, Reddy said celebrating these holidays remains an important part of life.

    “In these dark times, we always need something to look forward to and something to keep spirits up and keep us hopeful,” Reddy said.

    By continuing to celebrate the holiday, sharing this time with family and friends either virtually or in small groups, many are able to find some positivity to keep them going.

    “I think it’s important that we celebrate the spirit of the holidays,” he said. “Do it safely but celebrate the spirit of the holidays so that we’re all staying healthy mentally and keeping our spirits up and just coming together. Even though we’re separated by distance, still coming together to celebrate the spirit of the holidays is just staying hopeful for the future.”

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