Indian American Association hosts Diwali

By Robby McKittrick
Hometown Weekly Reporter
 
On Saturday, November 11, the Westwood Indian American Association hosted its fifth annual Festival of Lights, better known as Diwali.
 
320 members from the community came out to Westwood High School on Saturday night to share a part of the Indian culture, food, fashion, dancing, and music.
 
“I have been trying to get here forever,” said Westwood resident Anne Baker. “[I am looking forward] to the food and the entertainment … and seeing people I know from Westwood. I think it’s wonderful that we are becoming more multicultural.”
 

Kids walk around in a circle with candles, marking the beginning of Diwali at Westwood High School.   Photos by Robby McKittrick

Kids walk around in a circle with candles, marking the beginning of Diwali at Westwood High School. Photos by Robby McKittrick

“I am very interested in intercultural and racial activities,” added another resident in attendance, Ethel Ackley. “I am interested in the culture and the dancing and the whole lighting festival.”
 
One of the organizers of the event was Westwood resident Sharne Sattiraju. Sattiraju explained the purpose of the annual festival.
 
“We need to do this for our children, because they see how well the culture is embraced,” said Sattiraju. “People love it. It becomes like a family because it’s the same group of people who have attended for the last five years.
 
“It’s four hours of non-stop entertainment and enjoyment,” she added. “I feel like events like this bring people together … This gives you such a fantastic community feeling. It feels like back home.”
 
The emcee of the event was Chandana Gopal. Gopal explained a little more about the significance of the festival.
 
“It’s a way to get our community known better [in] Westwood,” said Gopal. “The kids are super excited to have their friends come to show them what Indian culture means to them … Each year more and more people ask to come, because it’s a big party.”
 
Different children’s groups have participated in dances over the last five years. One of the evening’s participating kids was 13-year-old middle school student and Chandana Gopal’s daughter, Sandali Gopal.
 
A student performs a dance at the Westwood Indian American Association’s Diwali celebration at Westwood High School.  Photos by Robby McKittrick

A student performs a dance at the Westwood Indian American Association’s Diwali celebration at Westwood High School. Photos by Robby McKittrick

“I love it,” said Gopal. “You get to see people that you haven’t seen in a while.”
 
The event began with a group of kids walking around in a circle with candles. Then, Chandana Gopal took the mic and officially introduced those in attendance and thanked everyone for coming to the festival.
  
“I hope you keep coming back, year after year,” she said.
 
Gopal then introduced Westwood High School Principal Sean Bevan to speak.
 
Bevan explained that he goes to the high school prom every year, which has 400 people and takes a year to plan, but “this [festival] is a lot more fun.”
 
“The warmth of the people … is what sets [this event] apart,” he told crowd. “I’m very excited to be a part of it.”
 
Overall, the festival was a fun way for the community to come together to embrace the Indian culture.
 
“Diwali is [about] making [positivity] emanate around the world,” Chandana Gopal said. “That’s the message that this [festival] brings out.”

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