ISSA at the Baylor College of Medicine Celebrates Diwali

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By Priya Sivaramakrishnan

HOUSTON: Once experienced, the feeling one gets on a Diwali morning cannot be forgotten – waking up at the crack of dawn to the din of firecrackers, the aroma of delicious festival fare, offering prayers to Goddess Lakshmi thanking her for bringing wisdom, prosperity and peace, and enjoying the beauty of the decorations and lights, surrounded by friends and family…

The Indian Students and Scholars Association (ISSA) at the Baylor College of Medicine recreated the essence of the festival of lights, so far away from home in Houston on Saturday, November 7, bringing cheer and happiness to everyone who attended. ISSA has been organizing Diwali celebrations for 7 years now, and each year Surender Talwar has graced us as the Guest of Honor. Talwar who has done so much for our community by leading several charitable organizations and creating Indo-American ties has been a strong supporter of ISSA. The day got off to an auspicious start as he and his wife led the Aarti and invocations.

The excitement in the air was palpable as the cultural events began – an eclectic mixture of performances showcasing a wide array of talent. It started off with the melodious offerings of Dr. Vivekananda Shetty, Assistant Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, who took us back in time with songs from early Bollywood movies. The gift of intoning is definitely genetic as evidenced by the song performed by his daughter Heera Shetty. They were not the only family duo at the event. Dr. Arun Sreekumar, also from the Baylor College of Medicine metabolomics core brought us some classical and divine Carnatic Music pieces on the flute accompanied by his son on the tabla.

The commemoration of Diwali centers on bringing people together to dispel darkness and rejoice in the triumph of good over evil, an ideology behind the creation of ISSA. Some of the more non-traditional stage acts of the day embodied this cause and the genuine spirit of India’s unity-in-diversity. The fusion of American and Bollywood songs by Dhun A Capella – a group from University of Houston was a dramatic blend of cultures executed to perfection. The ensemble of Baylor College of Medicine’s medical and graduate students, Docapella, described their rocking number as a gift to the audience on Diwali, a gesture that was appreciated by every listener. The stage acts were interspersed with witty repartee from the compere Dilip Kumar who became a crowd favorite with his poetry recitations, and was accompanied by the MC of the event Priya Sivaramakrishnan.

No celebration is complete without the demonstration of the rhythm of India in true Bollywood style. Shreya Goyal’s bold solo number and the beautifully coordinated choreography by the gorgeous dancers Mahitha Rajendran, Resel Pereira and Shwetha Murali brought the audience to their feet. Falguni Parikh’s karaoke piece rounded up the more contemporary Bollywood renditions, followed by a game of Pictionary for the audience to participate in, which was hosted by Sunita Singh. The cultural extravaganza ended in songs from the olden days by GlobalDesi, a Houston-based troupe. Their music prompted the kids to boogie and the adults to sing along.

As the artistic festivities concluded, the hungry gathering thronged to the dining tables where they were served lunch catered by Maharaja Bhog. The delectable meal satisfied our Diwali food cravings as Dr. Shetty continued to provide entertainment.

Despite the dreary weather, ISSA’s 7th Annual Diwali Celebration was a shining success due to the relentless efforts of the leaders of ISSA – Papiya Sinha Somasundaram, President of ISSA and her teammates Ninad Oak, Neha Parikh, Anindita Ravindran, Sunita Singh, and many ISSA supporters and volunteers from the Baylor community. Chief Guest, Talwar stated, “This year the entertainment and entire presentation was outstanding. I have never seen such large participation of performers. Food was great and the emcees did a fabulous job. This was the best Diwali entertainment we attended.” Everyone in attendance was grateful for the day and left with warmth in their hearts as they ascended the stairs lit with radiant diyas.

The Indian Students and Scholars Association (ISSA) at Baylor College of Medicine can be contacted at and on Facebook: