For many people of Indian descent, the coming of spring brings excitement for Holi. The memory of vivid colors throughout the air and quality time with family floods our minds and raises our spirits.
Last week, the Belmont Library hosted a Holi Festival with traditional festivities such as Bharatnatyam (traditional Indian dance), Bollywood music, and the throwing of the colors. The event included classic Indian food, Samosas, and Chai.
The celebration attracted quite a diverse crowd. It was a proud moment to see so many people coming to learn about and appreciate Indian culture.
“I wanted to bring my kids today so they could learn about other cultures, I think that’s really important and I love what they’re doing here,” said attendee Lorna Pippen.
Event coordinator Kathleen Beasley has been hosting events for minorities of Belmont for years now.
“It's really important that all the cultural groups in Belmont are represented and that all celebrations, not just Christmas or Hanukkah are celebrated and acknowledged. We also do a huge lunar new year celebration for the Chinese community and we want to continue opening our doors to as many cultural groups that would like to celebrate with us,” Beasley said.
Speaking with Beasley reminded me how valuable recognition can be. It’s crucial that all members of a society should feel welcome and safe in their community, and I feel lucky to be part of a community so cared for by Belmont.
Holi is a Hindu spring festival celebrated primarily in North India on the full moon before the Vernal Equinox. Participants throw colored water and powder (gulal) to symbolize the new colors that come with spring. The day also symbolizes the arrival of good over evil and the victory of love over hate, due to the end of winter.
The main four colors used each represent an important quality or symbol. Red represents love and fertility, blue for the color of Hindu God Krishna, yellow for turmeric and green to symbolize spring and new beginnings.
The event was a mild version of the Holi celebrations in India, but it was still lively. While I loved seeing people enjoy the festivities, my delight was unfortunately interrupted by a man who found the event disturbing.
The man said, “Stupid third world country, pigs and cows, get out of here.”
I was shocked to hear such racism in Belmont, with such open celebration of various cultures throughout the year alongside general sentiment of inclusivity in the community. It was a testament to how no matter how much positivity is spread there will always be people who find it unjustified.
Although his comments had me shocked, it was impossible to stay distracted and negative. There was just too much else to do.
The event captured the meaning and traditions of Holi. Many of the attendees cheered on dancers from Pagrav Dance Studio and cheerfully chased friends and family with the colored powders, even if not everyone understood the significance of exactly why. They were there to appreciate it and learn.
“It’s all about the culture, in India, all festivals have music and dance components. This is our chance to exhibit such a deep and diverse culture of the bay area as well as Indian culture which roots into thousands of years of heritage so what better platform than this,” said Jejurkar.
While it was simpler than some of the Holi celebrations of my childhood, the event brought recognition and appreciation for Indian culture. People of all ages and races were overall in great spirits. Seeing the people in my city enjoying Holi was the outcome I had hoped this event would bring.
“The culture is so beautiful and I love that all these people are coming together to learn and celebrate something fun and diverse,” Pippen said.