Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was always my favorite festival growing up. My family would celebrate by lighting diyas (tealights) around the house and along the perimeter of our driveway. Diwali always consisted of dressing up in new clothes, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating the bright start of a new year.
Here in Chicago, I get the opportunity to celebrate in a new way, but still incorporating my favorite parts of the festival. Every year, Booth’s South Asian Business Group hosts the Diwali Cruise. This year, it was a sold-out event: over 350 family and friends boarded the Spirit of Chicago to celebrate Diwali on Lake Michigan against the bright lights of Chicago’s skyline.
The aromas of the full Indian buffet swept through the boat. The DJs spun Bollywood music as both dance floors were packed. Our photographer, and second-year Gustavo Centeno, captured moments remarkably. The cruise was an exceptional success.
However, the cruise symbolizes the last hurrah of Diwali celebrations at Booth. Preparations begin long before students board the ship. Through the choreographed dance practices, the Diwali Cruise creates an opportunity for new friendships. Every year, first- and second-year students choreograph and dance to a mix of Bollywood and Bhangra songs. Mayuri Baheti, a first-year student at Booth, was one of the choreographers of the first-year dance this year.
“I got to celebrate Diwali with over 300 of my fellow Boothies during a night full of boozin’, cruizin’, and lots of Indian dancin’. In preparation for the cruise, I got the chance to build some unique bonds with 60 of my fellow classmates while learning a traditional Indian dance which we later performed on the cruise, and may I say, we killed it!”
“For me, growing up, Diwali was a time to reflect and celebrate the good things in life alongside family and friends. In the midst of all the B-school craziness, the Diwali Cruise was my time to do just that – spend time with my fellow classmates to relax and reflect on of the best aspects of school, getting to know each other.”
While not the traditional fireworks and ras gulla-filled (a traditional Indian dessert) Diwali, our “Booth Diwali” is one of my favorite celebrations of the year. I get the opportunity to share my favorite aspects of my heritage with South-Asians and non-South Asians alike: the dances, the clothes, and food. Adorned in traditional Indian clothes, celebrating with good food and drink amongst classmates that become life-long friends, the Diwali cruise truly embodies why I’m here and nowhere else.
Mayuri Baheti is a 1Y Booth student from Moline, IL.