Holi, the Indian festival of colors, is often one of the most circulated images of India in the world, along with the Taj Mahal and, sometimes, fancy elephants. While Holi is not nearly complex enough to entirely represent the Indian subcontinent, it conveys a beautiful message that I am proud to call one of my traditions. Holi is both an Indian holiday and a Hindu holiday with many stories discussing its origins; as Top Naach is a cultural club, our Holi event revolved less around religion and ritual and more around the culture. Celebrating the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring and emphasizing love, friendship and family, Holi has always been a wonderful part of my life. Growing up in the diaspora, I got used to celebrating Holi with small groups of family friends and learned to love the curious onlookers. Whether in Michigan, India or even China, my family and our friends could always be found throwing colors on each other to celebrate the joyous occasion.
When I arrived at Muhlenberg, I knew that I would be a part of Top Naach. I’ve danced my whole life and was not about to let college stop me from feeling the dhol in my bones. Top Naach has been one of the greatest joys of my first year on campus, and has helped me find a community full of love, laughs and support. I was genuinely surprised by how many non-Indians were in Top Naach, and how proud and excited they all were to learn about Indian and South Asian culture. Never in my life did I think I would make samosas, dance to Des Rangila or throw colors with so many people of so many different backgrounds.
Celebrating on campus was a new experience for me. In India this year, Holi was celebrated in mid-March, but at Muhlenberg we celebrated last week. The event had a great turn out, and it was so heartwarming to take part in something so special. A friend of mine thanked me for “bringing some culture to campus” and I knew exactly what she meant. It was refreshing to see our predominantly white school in the middle of our predominantly red state painted every color of the rainbow. I was proud to have been a part of all of it and was so happy to see my culture taking center stage.
It’s easy in times like these to get lost in the neverending news cycle of walls, exclusion and hatred. There are days where it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Celebrating Holi at Muhlenberg reminded me not to only focus on the negatives, but to focus on making change. It wasn’t that long ago that Top Naach didn’t exist on campus, and now we host events that garner attention and attendance from students and faculty alike. One day I hope that I won’t be the only person of color in a classroom here at Muhlenberg, and that Diwali and Holi won’t be the only representations of my beautiful and rich heritage. Until then, we’ll keep spreading joy and awareness through our culture, and making our campus as colorful as it can be.