A festival of lights – Celebrating Diwali The NANYANG MBA Style

By Joseph M. Kainady, Indian, The NANYANG MBA Participant, Intake 2011

Being a part of an international cohort of MBA students, one will always have an opportunity to learn a new culture or share your own to your classmates and this is exactly what happened during the last quarter of last year – my  fellow Indian classmates and I had the opportunity to share a part of our culture – The Diwali or known as Festival of Lights.

As the festival fell on a very busy period for us (exams week and trimester 1 break), we celebrated Diwali in November. Diwali is one of the most important festival in India – it is important for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains but it is celebrated by everyone.

Gathering at the MBA lounge, my classmates were welcomed with Indian folk art pattern or Rangoli and diyas (oil lamps), which set the festive mood. The celebration started off with a Pooja ceremony, a religious ritual performed by the Hindus as an offering to various deities, distinguished persons or special guests. It lasted around 15 minutes and was conducted by an NTU PhD student. Our classmates were amazed by the ritual, as Cheng Zeng, from China, puts it, “I was amazed to see the versatility in the PhD student conducting the Pooja in such a professional manner.”

Rangoli or Indian folk art pattern welcoming my classmates upon entering the MBA lounge


Nanyang MBA students and their friends joining us in the Pooja ceremony

At the end of the prayers and ritual, each attendee was given prasad (offering to the deity) and a moli (holy thread) was tied on everyone’s hand, which is considered as goodwill to a person who offers it to another.

Moli or holy thread is tied to one’s hand, and is considered as goodwill to a person who offers it to another.

The celebration will not be complete without food – an Indian Dinner soon followed, with delicacies like Pulao (Rice with vegetables), Battura, Cholay, Paneer(Cottage Cheese) and Raita (Salad), which many may have tasted in various parts of Singapore (Singapore has a very notable Indian population, and Indian food is available almost everywhere, even in our very cafeterias!), but it was different at that time as we all joined together to eat as a group to celebrate one of the most important festivals of our culture.

Of course, apart food, we enjoyed swaying our hips to Bollywood music (Bollywood is an informal term popularly used for Hindi-language film industry and sometimes synonymous to music as well). There was a group dance performance which was gladly joined by our German, Chinese, Vietnamese, American and definitely, Indian classmates. Those who did not even felt dancing at first, soon joined, without hesitation, the dancers upon seeing the enjoyment and fun.

Getting ready to sway our hips to Bollywood music, led by the men of Nanyang MBA!

Some of our Indian classmates showing their Bollywood dance moves to our Vietnamese and German classmates.

Personally, which most of my fellow Indians felt, I was quite sad to miss the Diwali celebrations at home, but I was happy with the way our friends turned out and supported us in various ways throughout the event. It was interesting to see various cultures react to the various parts of the festivities. It was a lot of fun.

Lisa Berk from Germany says, “I really enjoyed the Diwali Night. It was a great opportunity to get an insight of the Indian culture. My favorite part of the evening was the dancing. We had already a lot of fun when we studied the dance and I think most of the people had also fun watching it at the event.” Similary, Simon from Germany shared the same fun, and felt the uniqueness of the experience, “To attend the Diwali night was a great and unique experience for me. The traditional Indian dresses gave us the right spirit to participate in the joyful Bollywood dances and to get into touch with a culture we are no longer unfamiliar with.”

Our classmates from Germany who participated in the festivities (from left) Lisa, Simon and Amalia (from intake 2010)

Not only our classmates from Europe who had this unique and enjoyable experience of learning firsthand the festival, but also classmates from Asia – Cheng Zeng (China) Thanks to my lovely Indian peers, I had a chance to experience this biggest festival in India, which is quite like the Spring festival in China in terms of importance. For me, the event is pretty much like a combination of religion worship and feast, through each part I felt different aspects of our friends’ life. The most impressive part is group dancing – everyone enjoyed the beautiful music and mimicked our versatile classmates’ motion.  Even for me, awkward and shy most of time, it was hard to deny their invitation. Eventually, I found that 90% of Indian classmates are fantastic dancers, especially Kabeer, I think he can definitely go to Bollywood and make a hit! This event is really a good cultural demonstration; I am looking forward to the next one!”

William Nguyen Vinh Bui (Vietnam), experienced it for the first time, “Learning different culture was one of my purpose for joining Nanyang MBA. I was excited to join Diwali night with my classmates. It was the first time in my life to celebrate Diwali,. During d people light the small clay lamps, filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. My Indian friends taught me and our classmates from Germany, China, America Bollywood dancing, to prepare for the night. During the night of celebration, I wore a Kurta, a traditional clothing of Indians. We joined the worship, an important part of the festival, and I learnt that Hindus venerate many Gods. We  enjoyed Indian cuisines, chatting about Indian culture and finally performed Bollywood dancing in traditional Indian clothes. It was really enjoyable moment of cultural harmony.”

Diwali has been a regular cultural event celebrated at The NANYANG MBA-just like Christmas, and Lunar New Year. Next year, of course, Diwali wil be celebrated again.

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