Students and parents host Holi event

Colorful festival includes cultural performances and a wide variety of tasty foods

From left to right, Sami Tripasuri, Praneeta Agrawal and Pari Saluja perform a Bollywood fusion dance for Cal High staff and parents on Feb 22. as part of an on-campus Holi celebration.

Sami Tripasuri, co-Editor-in-Chief

Cal High’s Indian community of parents and students came together on Feb. 22 to celebrate Holi with teachers and administrators in order to gift the school’s staff with a taste of Indian culture and food. 

“Holi was the perfect timing and event to showcase our Indian culture to Cal High staff,” school registrar Vinita Battu said.

The event was organized by Battu and consisted of Indian students from Cal’s community performing a variety of activities, ranging from songs to cultural dances. 

“I was blown away by the students, totally blown away,” Principal Megan Keefer said. “I felt this was not only their culture, but our culture.”

The cultural program consisted of three dances and two singers, including classical Indian and Bollywood fusion dances. The program lasted about 30 minutes.

Senior Rhea Manjunath organized the events and helped coordinate all the performances. 

“It was really fun to see all my teachers celebrate Holi,” Manjunath said. “It’s really fun to throw colors at my friends, but playing with my teachers was exciting.” 

One of the cultural dances performed was an Indian traditional dance called Bharatnatyam. Senior Sanyukta Rohom has been learning this dance since she was in fifth grade.

“It’s [Bharatnatyam] a way to relax and get rid of my stress,” Rohom said. 

Along with the cultural activities, staff and teachers were welcomed into the commons for lunch with colored powder. Rohom said participants applied the powder on the staff’s foreheads. Women had small dots while the men had long lines called tilak. 

“Color powder is symbolism for the festival Holi,” Rohom said. “It’s so that we can shy away from evilness and make sure the good in the world is prospering more.”

The food provided for the staff was one of the main highlights of the event. There were 14 vegetarian dishes which included appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks. Spanish and yearbook teacher Jamie Brindley said the traditional foods included samosas, paneer tikka masala, garlic naan, and two different flavored drinks. 

“The word [to describe the event] is vibrant, colorful, and joyful,” Brindley said. “The teachers felt spoiled and it was a nice way to show appreciation for teachers.”

Battu’s vision for this celebration was to not only provide fun foods for the teachers, but to inspire them to embrace other cultures. About 20 years ago when Battu first started working at Cal, she noticed she was the only Indian staff member and that there were very few Indian students.

“The staff members on campus did not understand how to treat students coming from different cultures because there were so little of them,” Battu said. “I could see students feeling isolated.”

As more Indian families began to move to San Ramon, Battu organized a celebration for Diwali two years ago, including various finger foods in the staff lounge. Keefer and Battu wanted to make it a yearly tradition and plan to do so. Although COVID-19 disrupted their plans, there is potential for more cultural programs in the future, Keefer said.

Students and staff feel celebrations like these are also important for spreading awareness about different cultures and creating a sense of community within Cal. 

“I feel like if it wasn’t for this, the teachers weren’t really experiencing our culture,” junior Adithya Pappula said. 

Rohom said the event was a great way of showing different aspects of Indian culture because it was not limited to one performance, but included a variety of dances, songs, and food. 

“I just felt like I was included in something,” Keefer said. “I really wish all of our students had that same feeling of being included.”

In the future, several other students also hope their peers would be included in cultural programs in order to spread the festivities and culture to more people. 

“It was only with the teachers so the students did not get to experience everything,” Pappula said. “I wouldn’t say it changed our [Cal’s] culture, but it did change the teachers’ point of view on Indian culture. I am excited for more festivals.”