By Hafsa Khawaja
For the past two-three years, the student society, Hum-Aahang, at LUMS has celebrated Diwali. LUMS has a small group of Hindu students, most of whom are unable to return to their homes for this religious festival. Hum-Aahang tries to create an atmosphere of festivity and celebration for them on campus, which is their home away from home.
On October 19, 2017, the entire LUMS community was invited to the Festival of Lights in the Central Courtyard. The event began with the creation of the traditional rangoli by students in the middle of the Courtyard, followed by enthralling live performances by the Music Society, a series of dances prepared by various students, the distribution of pamphlets detailing the history, meaning and significance of Diwali and the distribution of mithai to all those who were present there, which included several faculty members, the Dean of MGSHSS and hundreds of students from across the batches and schools. Abbas Moosvi of Hum-Aahang captured the atmosphere of the celebration in the following words:
The lights, the candles, the sweets, the flowers, the colours, and the decorations each played their part in cultivating the spirit of the Hindu festival in all its magnificent glory. It was a night on which the LUMS community truly united to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair – values that Rama-chandra (the 7th incarnation of Vishnu) worked so hard to inculcate; values for which he battled Ravana, the demon-king, and emerged victorious following 14 years of fierce battle. In a time of grave intolerance and dismissiveness for diversity, we collectively proved that it doesn’t have to be that way – that together, we can rise above and celebrate one other’s opinions and outlooks. In the words of the great Sun Tzu, “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.” So let’s play!
The event came to be a resounding success due to the overwhelming response it garnered. We were told by our Hindu friends and peers that not even for a minute did they feel they were away from home on such an important occasion. We were told by many others that the event was a much-needed respite from the mounting stress of academic pressure. And we were told by the rest that they had not enjoyed a university event as much as this Diwali in the longest while. Everyone at LUMS truly did come together as one community in the spirit of interfaith harmony, diversity and festivity on the day.
Along with the festivity and fun, the event provided everyone with a moment to reflect on the message that resides at the heart of our tradition to hold Diwali at LUMS: inclusiveness, interfaith harmony, tolerance and an acceptance and appreciation of the diversity among us. The event intended to act upon these values not only by organizing celebrations for the Hindu community but by also attempting to expose the rest of the student body to the idea of the campus as a pluralistic space. It was an attempt to promote an openness of mind and heart towards those who may not share the beliefs of the majority but who belong to this community; and to whom each of us owes the responsibility and respect of demonstrating this in our acceptance, inclusion, consideration and celebration of them. We earnestly hoped that people would recognize the significance of these ideas and how much they matter even if the ideas are applied in a much less exciting manner because beyond the LUMS bubble, we live in a society where such notions are anything but accepted and the subsequently grim realities are for all to see.
The espousal of these ideas does not necessarily pass through grand efforts and events alone. It is important to learn to possess and demonstrate these noble ideas with conviction and courage in our beliefs, in our conversations and in our actions; in ways that may be small but that certainly are not insignificant.
Hafsa Khawaja is a student in the batch of 2018 and President of Hum-Aahang (2017–18).
This article was first published in the MGSHSS newsletter, 'Guftugu'.