The sole palm tree and smog-fueled Los Angeles sunset glowing over Thorne patio were at odds with the scent of unfamiliar spices, brightly-colored saris and Bollywood music last Friday evening.
The occasion was the annual Holi Dinner, hosted by the South Asian Students Association (SASA). In addition to providing free Indian food to the attendees, the event also featured Bollywood dancing, singing and a fashion show.
The SASA’s Holi Dinner celebrates the South Asian holiday of Holi – the festival of colors, love and new beginnings.
“All these festivals – we do two big ones – are huge in South Asia, and it’s the time to come together with friends, family, loved ones,” SASA co-vice president and economics major Siddharth Saravat (junior) said. “And I think that having [Holi Dinner] at Oxy is like doing that because all of our close friends come, faculty members come and administrators come.”
Although the annual dinner has consistently showcased Bollywood dancing, the vocal performances and fashion show were new additions to this year’s entertainment. Performers SASA treasurer and economics major Aditya Rajashekaran (junior) and SASA co-publicist and biochemistry major Siri Guntupalli (sophomore) sang a duet depicting a “mini–Bollywood movie.” Meanwhile, SASA President and Urban and Environmental Policy and theater double major Marisha Thakker (senior) and Saravat acted in pantomime during the performance.
“We really like doing entertainment, and since this was my last year, and I’m usually the one who anchors the choreography section, we decided to do a little bit extra as a final farewell,” Thakker said.
The fashion show featured South Asian traditional clothing, such as saris and kurtas, worn in styles from different regions of India. SASA members graced the audience by modeling both men’s and women’s clothes.
SASA’s five–member executive board planned both the entire event and the entertainment. Employees from campus organizations that sponsored the event – such as the Residential Advisers (RAs) from Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) – assisted with the food and set-up, alongside other volunteers.
According to Thakker, the ability of the SASA executive board to orchestrate a large and well-attended event may inspire other small campus organizations.
“It’s important because when cultural organizations put on big events like this and are successful, I think it encourages other cultural organizations to do the same,” Thakker said. “We want to share our culture and our love of food and entertainment with people.”
As for the famous tradition of throwing colors practiced at Holi festivals in South Asia, there may be hope for its appearance at Occidental in upcoming years. According to Saravat, it would take considerable amounts of work by the SASA executive board, in conjunction with the administration, to make sure that the colors activity would be safe for participants.