South Asian Students Association Celebrates Holi

After a week of dour gray skies hanging over our eternally beige Ohio town, the South Asian Students Association gathered in the Science Center Bowl last Saturday to stir up a storm of color and Bollywood beats in celebration of Holi. While the traditional Indian holiday actually took place March 18, our small band of South Asians chose instead to abide by Indian “Standard Time” and celebrate a month late. In reality, we wanted to avoid the snow and unbearable cold, but when one lives in a diasporic identity, it is far more fun to mock our overwhelming inclination toward being late. 

Once we got the party started, though, those in absentia or simply tardy were sure to have regrets. In fact, celebrations began precisely at 12:22 p.m., with College second-years Nevaan Bawa and Shivani Subramaniam’s Bollywood/Bhangra ExCo crew taking the stage. Strutting out with some particularly groovy steps to iconic Bollywood tunes, not only did this crew put on a great show, but they brought out the inner dancer in a number of audience members. As the needle dropped on “Badtameez Dil,” tapping toes and waving shoulders set the tone for the thunderous dancing that was soon to ensue. Applause shook the quad as the bhangra crew wrapped up, and College first-year Sangeetha Ramanuj delivered a brilliantly soulful violin performance.

Next, the gathering crowd donned white T-shirts and dashed into the grass, throwing both caution and color to the wind. As faces, clothes, hair, and the atmosphere filled with vibrant reds, yellows, purples, and joy, passersby looked on in both jealousy and confusion at the ongoing chaos. Holi celebrations in India are the loudest, messiest, and most chaotic affairs, and entire cities grind to a halt over the intensity of energy pouring through the streets. To capture even a sliver of that energy is a glimpse of magic, and on that day, the quad was nothing short of charmed. 

Despite having spent three years here, this was my first proper Holi at Oberlin. It felt wonderful to enjoy this piece of home abroad. I have an immense amount of gratitude to the SASA board for bringing this together, because their efforts made this moment possible. Surrounded by fellow South Asians, domestic students, and international students from all over, it felt as though, regardless of our identities, we were coming together to share joy. To me then, not only was my diaspora validated by this communal experience, but bringing outsiders into that moment by explaining traditions and telling stories made it all the more special.