The South Asian Circle of Hopkinton (SACH) is continuing the spirit of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with its DiwHoliday Gala on the evening of Dec. 10, an event highlighting the achievements of 12 women of South Asian diaspora.
The event, SACH’s largest fundraiser of the year, is a family-friendly celebration being cohosted by the Hopkinton Center for the Arts, the event’s venue. Aditya Nadkarni, SACH’s board secretary who helped to organize the event, said the HCA is the perfect venue “because it is the arts and cultural hub for the community.” It was first held in 2019 but was put on pause during the pandemic.
“We love their space,” added Charusmitha Ram, SACH’s communications chair and an event organizer. “They have a nice barn loft upstairs. The main event will take place in the main auditorium and the lobby.”
Even though Diwali’s five-day festival of the triumph of light over darkness occurred in October, the organizers decided to hold the gala at a time when other cultures also are preparing to celebrate holidays with the common theme of light.
“Light seemed to be a universal connector in many of the holidays, beginning with Halloween and the jack-o’lanterns,” Ram said. “Then after Thanksgiving, you have Christmas and Hanukkah celebrated with light. That’s where the name DiwHoliday came from.”
“People are starting to get in the holiday spirit for Christmas, so we decided it was a good time to end our year with a bang,” Nadkarni said. “Diwali also happened when everyone was right in the middle of getting back to school, so it was a bit hectic to have a gala then.”
The event also is an opportunity for SACH to showcase its four organizational pillars — culture, civic engagement, community outreach and creating a circle of support.
“We always focus on cultural awareness and really sharing that with the community,” said Nadkarni.
The idea for recognizing influential women came about as a reflection of the SACH members, according to Nadkarni.
“The SACH team is huge, and it’s mainly many inspirational women,” he said. “For the longest time, I was the only male.
“We had another male member join recently, so we had a 100 percent growth in our male representation,” he added with a laugh.
In 2019, the gala focused on a journey around the South Asian continent to teach people about the different countries and the diversity of their cultural traditions, music and dances. It centered around a son learning about this cultural journey through the eyes of his father, according to Ram.
“This time we decided to focus around the inspirational and extraordinary stories that some of the women of the South Asian continent have contributed,” Nadkarni said. It will be emceed by a mother and daughter team.
The theme, Ram said, was inspired by the book “The Dot That Went for a Walk …,” a collection of short stories by Sarada Akkineni, Reema Gupta and Lakshmi Nambiar.
“It mainly celebrates women from India,” Ram explained. “But we expanded that concept to include the other countries in the South Asian subcontinent.”
The 12 women showcased in the theater presentations at the DiwHoliday Gala are South Asian leaders in the fields of science, technology, politics, the arts and movies, according to Nadkarni.
“We call out some of her cultural contributions and how she defied the societal norms or even overcame some of her own limitations or constraints to do something spectacular that all of us can take a learning from,” Nadkarni said of each woman. “We then use that to showcase her particular talent or her skill set through a cultural stage performance.”
“I was really excited by this theme because we have a large presence of women on our board,” noted Ram, adding that Nadkarni also “gave a lot of substance to that agenda and really put together the whole program.”
“We immediately caught onto this theme and started brainstorming a lot of ideas,” she continued. “We each come from different areas and have different people who have inspired us.”
One example Ram gave is Amrita Sher-Gil, a pioneer in modern Indian art.
“Her art really inspires me, so I wanted to see something about her brought into this performance,” she said.
“This event definitely opens the doors for some deeper discussions,” Nadkarni noted. “There are many more women achievers.”
Local artists, including students and people who are not of South Asian ancestry, will be interpreting the work of these 12 women in their performances.
“I don’t want to reveal too much,” Nadkarni said. “But it’s a yoga-based musical event.”
There will be a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by the performances from 7-8:30. A dinner featuring cultural cuisine will be served, and a dance party will complete the celebration.
For children, there will be arts and craft activities separate from the main event, Ram said.
“What we’ve learned over time is that the parents when they bring their children, they want the kids to do their own thing while they socialize,” she explained. “The kids can come and go when they like. But we’ve organized specific activities to keep them engaged that are centered around the Diwali theme, such as making lamps and games that are usually played at Diwali.”
“One thing we found in 2019 is that when it came time for the performances, the kids were really eager to see what was going on in the main room,” Nadkarni added. “They were learning, and they were also quiet and maintained decorum.”
Although some cultural traditions are experienced at home, Nadkarni said it was powerful for the children to see their friends performing and wearing traditional outfits representing their heritage.
“I was also surprised that some of their friends who are not of South Asian descent also came for the event,” Ram added. “They were excited to learn.”
Ram said that SACH members lent clothing to some kids at the 2019 event so they could experience wearing ethnic clothing.
“To see their friends dressing up the same way as everybody else was very important for them,” she said.
“This is a form of cultural awareness, so it’s not just meant for the community of people of South Asian diaspora,” Nadkarni stressed. “The more, the merrier! We’d like to have non-South Asians experience that awareness and hopefully participate in the coming years.”
Organizers of the event, which is partially funded by a grant from the Hopkinton Cultural Council, also noted that SACH is looking for more local businesses to sponsor the event. To learn more about SACH and the DiwHoliday Gala, visit southasiancircleofhopkinton.org.