Sanchi is a 3rd year Psychology undergraduate at the University of Exeter. She is currently the Bollywood Coach at Legion Dance Exeter and has choreographed for Hindu and Asian Society in previous years for the Diwali celebrations. She has also choreographed and danced in Bangalore, India for many years before that. In this post, read about the beautiful celebration that is Diwali, what it means to her, and her experiences as a BIPOC student at the University.
'Every year in India, October/November time is the time where everyone is a bit happier, brighter and excited. Diwali is here. It is one of the biggest festivals we celebrate and we like to do it big. Diwali is the festival of lights and every single persons house is lit up with diyas, fairy lights, obnoxiously large colour changing lights and more. This is the time where we shower our friends and relatives with sweets and more sweets along with gifts. Parties are thrown for the entire community where we play cards all night with an endless supply of food and drinks. When it gets to the last day of Diwali, we gather around, we pray for happiness, well-being and wealth. The evening ends with hours and hours of firecrackers and every imaginable colour in the sky. This is the time of year that brings everyone closer. When I left India for my university experience, I realised I wasn’t going to be able to come back for Diwali. I wasn’t going to get dressed up or see my family and eat those sweets. But then I saw that the university actually does do something for Diwali every year. The societies put on a show for almost 400 people every year with stalls, dance performances and a firecracker show. I knew i had to be a part of it. In my second year at university, @legiondanceexeter (previously known as URBN) allowed me to join their choreography team and we put on a 30 person show for Diwali alongside @exeterhsoc and @exeterasoc . This was one of my proudest creative moments at Exeter. Being able to watch back something I created and a part of my own life and sharing it with so many people was amazing.'
'As a BIPOC, it can sometimes be really hard for people around me to understand my passion, whether it's dance or my passion for other people. There has always been a clear cultural distinction but rather than let it pull me down or let it become negative, I have always tried to manifest this difference as something positive, something to be celebrated. Having different points of view and looking through another perspective only makes us more educated and more diverse as human beings. I became a Bollywood coach at @legiondanceexeter to give people like me a place to express themselves and celebrate us rather than suppress what makes us, us. I never want anyone to feel like we don’t belong, we do belong and always have.'
'At university, the few society events that I went for felt alien to me. It wasn’t that I was doing something out of my comfort zone- there were activities I’d done a million times before but the only thing different was that I was the only person of colour in the entire room. Societies that I would normally have joined, with no representation at all felt really daunting to me. It made me feel inferior, which I definitely am not. I want more moral change within the university and the societies, more diversity training not for the sake of diversity training, but to make society members more comfortable in being themselves. I am grateful for @legiondanceexeter for giving me a platform so people like me can feel included and never alone, and want to contribute to making other people feel as good and included as I do.'
- Diwali Performance Team for Legion Dance Exeter 2019
-Sanchi's Bollywood Section for the Diwali Performance 2019, (Photos by P Banu Photography.)
Photography by Hanife H Photos. @hanifehphotos