Diwali is one of the biggest holidays celebrated in India and is known as the “festival of lights.” What makes this festive event so unique and significant is that although it is celebrated for various religious reasons—and in different ways—by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, all Diwali observations share a common purpose: to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Members of NEOMED’s student chapter of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) invited students, faculty and staff to celebrate Diwali on Oct. 27 in the NEW Center. 

It can be hard to be away from family during Diwali, but our students, staff and faculty are fortunate enough to have an amazing community that unites and celebrates together. Abhijit Das, a second-year College of Medicine student and AAPI board member, eloquently described Diwali as a holiday that “allows us to come together and showcase a well-represented culture among our student body, while also reminding ourselves to celebrate the many unique identities that enrich our campus community.” NEOMED’s AAPI student chapter is just one of more than 75 student organizations available to students.

This year’s event, part of the University’s Embracing Diversity Series, was not only about celebrating, but also about raising money for a nonprofit organization called Ekal Vidyalaya—a charity that raises money to build schools and classrooms in rural areas of India, with the goal of providing education to every child.

There was a wonderful turnout at Diwali this year, and our organization raised a great deal of money to donate to Ekal Vidyalaya. The night was filled with learning about the significance of Diwali, watching unforgettable dance performances by students, getting henna tattoos and eating delicious food. It was heartwarming to see the numerous faculty and students who came out to celebrate with our AAPI student chapter.

The Diwali celebration would not have been possible without the tireless work of Rajini Poth, Ph.D., associate director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Andre Burton, executive director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Also key to the success of our event: the support of our group advisor, Altaf Darvesh, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and psychiatry, and the dedication of  AAPI members.

--Kanithra Sekaran, third from left, a first-year College of Medicine student, contributed this report.

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