Written By: Sesha Patel
Photography By: Emma Claire Lisk
The lights. The food. The performances. To someone passing by the Cape Fear Cultural Association of India’s (CFCAI) annual Diwali festival, it may just seem to be these three elements. To me, however, it is so much more.
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is India’s biggest holiday. While its roots are intertwined with the Hindu religion, the main message of Diwali is to use one’s inner light to overcome spiritual darkness. The holiday is now globally recognized, and Wilmington is no exception. Everyone dresses up in breathtaking Indian attire, relishes delicious food, and then either sits back to enjoy the show or takes part in it. This was my 12th year performing in the local Diwali event. While I have acted, sang, and played the piano on CFCAI’s stage, dancing has been my consistent highlight.
Every year I perform traditional and contemporary Indian dances with my friends and family. This year I participated in three dances: classical, Bollywood, and hip-hop. My mom usually choreographs not only the dances that she and I are in, but also those of many children in the CFCAI community. This year, though, I choreographed one of my own dances. For the first time, I had the opportunity to integrate my own vision into a celebration I have been involved in since I was six years old, which was very exciting to me. Since the event is open to everyone, I was able to share my culture with a diverse group of people right where I live.
While the Indian community in Wilmington is small, our impact is remarkable. In addition to performing at the Diwali festival, we also take the Multicultural Stage at the Azalea festival each year and involve the audience in our dances. As president of the CFCAI Cultural Youth Group, I connect our members with charities like the Food Bank, and we fundraise for global disasters.
As I leave for college next year, I will bring all of these memories and values with me, continuing to grow my identity and spread my culture. And, of course, I will always return to CFCAI’s stage to celebrate Diwali.