October 2011 brought along with it a pleasant surprise in the form of Diwali Hungama that I wished never ended. It was such a happy time, that resulted from a persistent effort by a few dedicated friends, to bring people together. From an outsider’s perspective, it felt like they were professionals at organizing such large scale events on the college campus with limited resources. Diwali is a high maintenance project as it entails various authentic and ethical aspects which are absolutely unaffordable on a foreign soil….and yet they made it happen! I knew I wanted to do this too, but did not know if I would be able to carry it off right till the end!
August 2012 seemed to have read my mind and brought along the title of Event-Coordinator of the Indian Student Association (ISA) my way. Diwali 2011 was groundbreaking and the students expected something new this year. With the gun on my shoulder I treaded forward with immense trepidation and apprehension to embrace Diwali Hungama 2012. There was no choice but to deliver the best in order to keep ISA’s reputation. It felt as if I had assumed a dual personality, wherein my personal self seemed less important than the ISA self!
With a committee of seven others and my own pillar of strength right beside me to lift me up everytime I lost hope or felt low, Project Diwali 2012 was underway in no time. A rigorous and in-depth planning from the budget, venue options, performers, DJ, food caterers, rental equipment, decorations, to the date of the event were meticulously chalked out to attract the most number of students, faculty and staff members. We had embroidered sarees being shipped from India for decoration purposes, caterers having agreed to sponsor a part of the dinner on the pretext of festive spirits, meetings fixed with all the authorities concerned, fundraiser sales in place, media arranged, professors approached for additional funding, and finally, perhaps the most challenging, 4500 feet of satin ribbon to be worked on with 17,000 sequins…all within the next 15 days of October!!
The midterm examinations came as unwelcomed guests and stayed around to disrupt all the timely planning! This was one of ISA’s most challenging obstacles! The invitations had been sent out in thousands and so the publicity of the event did its own dance of victory. Unaware of such enthusiasm for the event, it made me wonder why everyone, whom I met on the street, greeted me with a smile, and upon asking one of the amiable strangers, he remarked, “Free Indian food and the Balle Balle dance–what can get better than that on a saturday night?!” It was at this time when the cells in my body knocked me awake to the 10 days that remained for THE day. Thank you for acting like a catalyst, kind stranger.
People swamped into my house in multiples of tens and not surprisingly, there was work for everyone, every time! We sprawled not only into the two bedrooms but also the kitchen, patio and the corridor outside the house to meet the deadlines of a particular hundredth of the sequins curtains. I can’t thank my friends enough for standing by me during this time and showing up each and every night from 9pm to 1am or later. While a few of us worked, some others cooked to feed us, and yet a few others entertained us to keep us from falling asleep on the Diwali craft! It was a demanding job undoubtedly. The duration of my sleeping hours considerably reduced from 9 hours to 5, and I was somehow enjoying the experience, as it felt good to be engrossed into this event. It was almost as if I was addicted to the stress, a distasteful amalgamation of school work, class presentations, research assistantship, lab assistantship and the Diwali round the corner, of course!
October 27 came skipping into my life! Before I could make peace with my conscience, I realized I was on my way to the venue. A team of 15 volunteers helped me gain control over the overwhelming task that stood like an indomitable giant before us. In no time, the sarees were strung onto the 100 feet of wire with alternate panels of sequins curtains on both sides to create walls;backdrops rolled out against a 150 ft wall with colorful sarees dropped straight down from the ceiling; lanterns put up; banners installed; balloons blown to make bouquets; lights assembled; Diwali posters mounted; bleachers arranged; DJ, photographer and videographer in position; registration and dinner tables in place; and the, Puja corner decorated like a newly-wed Indian bride! The clock struck 6 and it felt as if I could finally steal a moment to breathe and see my paper patterns played out before my eyes in real time….it felt wonderful to be standing right in the middle of this huge familiar space that looked so pretty and mesmerizing!
I was curious to see the reactions of the guests, and much appreciated as the efforts were, some of the invitees literally stopped at the entrance – amazed! I couldn’t help but blush to myself. It felt as if all the sleepless nights, skipped meals, missed classes, messed-up hair days (this is of utmost importance to girls!) and aching body had suddenly received its due share of respect and reward! I was loving this taste of success and in retrospection, I am glad that I had the opportunity to undertake this project with my ISA team. We were able to achieve our objective of providing the best, that we could, to our guests and that is what meant most to us. Everyone ate, smiled, danced, enjoyed and “felt” the Diwali spirit 16 days before the real day! Mission accomplished!
By the end of it all, I discovered how seducing the final outcome of an event can be. I realized how much I loved the brainstorming, planning, managing and executing processes…I have the experience of having organized other small events such as the Housewarming Party, Bachelorette Party for my roommates and the Ganesh Chaturthi puja at home, but all of those have been with friends and there was room for mistakes and shortcomings there. They were all MY people who appreciated any tiny effort taken to give everyone a reason to gather under one roof…but Diwali was an entire new ball game altogether. Even if I had these 50 odd friends to buttress me, there were 250 other strangers whom I had to appeal to , through my ways and other non-verbal, yet visible communication.
This Diwali brought along with it, a new awakening in me, a new discovery of my potential, a new hope, a new interest, and perhaps, the inception of a new career!
For more details please visit http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwhin/diwali_2012.html