On Saturday 6 November, Mandela Hall saw host to a night of Indian culture as 250 people attended in celebration of Diwali; the festival of light. The night commenced with a prayer, called Aarti, with Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing and wife Alison partaking in the traditional Hindu blessing.
Hosts Swadheen and Ankit then introduced the “multi-multi-multi talented” Manas Dalal, whose powerful voice complimented a well-executed guitar accompaniment.
Next on was a Rutvija performing an impressive dance from Western India and then the stage was offered to Michael Farthing to “enlighten us” with his words. The VC explained the importance of India to him and wished the room a “happy Diwali”.
Next was a heart-warming rendition of “Give Me Some Sunshine” from the 2009 Bollywood hit “3 Idiots” followed by more impressive dancing; this time a little more contemporary.
Later, another of Dalal’s talents became apparent as his award winning short film, “Rupee Worth a Million”, was screened. The film is about a bullied young boy who finds a rupee and uses it to buy a biscuit which he then uses to make friends with a dog.
Dalal, who wrote, directed and produced the film then came back on stage and explained that the only actor who was paid was the dog and that it was made for the grand sum of 351 rupees (£4.86); 350 rupees to hire the dog and 1 rupee for the biscuit.
The atmosphere of the night was very much one of inclusiveness and highlighting this was a song from a Pakistani student who was celebrating his first Diwali and who delivered greetings from his family in Pakistan.
After, a song dedicated to students’ far away mothers was a poignant reminder of the importance of such events.
Amid claims that international students are being commoditised, this was clearly an important night for the management team, with several members turning up.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Chris Marlin delivered a speech which aimed to emphasise the importance of Sussex’s internationalism; a possible attempt to clear the air after it recently emerged that the management are paying out up to 15 percent of each international student’s first year tuition fees in commission to overseas recruiting agencies, whilst offering bonus schemes to those who recruit the most.
The night itself however, was clearly a huge success. Aditya Deshpande, the South Asian Support Officer who has been involved in organising the last five events commented that it was the “best yet”; a view shared by the International Liason Officer John Sanders.
After a few more energetic performances there were awards for the best dressed male and female. Then the food was served and the dance floor opened up for some very lively and enthusiastic dancing..
The night finished with a conga line to “Jai Ho” (recently featured in the film “Slumdog Millionaire”) and a mass acapella rendition of the Indian national anthem.
Susannah Hodge, former Sussex student and Best Dressed Female said of the night: “It was the best Diwali party I have been to at Sussex, having to been to three previously and this one now as an alumni!”
Welfare Officer Jo Goodman said: “Organising Diwali this year has been a huge pleasure and it was great to see so many people come out to celebrate together… I’d like to thank everyone who made the night such a success”.