“Our kids are growing up here and we just want the kids to have the cultural background. Keep it going,” Mohana Angirekula said, the co-chair of the Diwali program.
For those whose broadest knowledge of the Indian culture is Bollywood (see an American version “Marigold: An Adventure in India”) or fantastically flavorful food (see curry and Tandoori chicken): Diwali is a fun night for all and an entertaining introduction to the Permian Basin’s growing Hindu community.
With the backdrop of the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center for the first time, the expectation is for the largest Diwali gathering in Midland/Odessa, perhaps ever.
The Hindu Association of West Texas welcomes everyone to join in the celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. The local Hindu community of West Texas embraces cultural diversity and celebrates its unique practices and festivals in the spirit of “unity in diversity.”
The local Diwali cultural celebration is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 25. at Wagner Noël, followed by a dinner of Indian cuisine.
Fourteen years ago, Angirekula and her family moved to the area when she got involved planning the Diwali program for the Hindu Association of West Texas. The stories go that in the 1980s the beginnings of an organized Diwali manifested when a few families danced and ate each October in a room at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
“Over the years it’s just grown… Now at Wagner Noel. We’re very excited about the venue,” she said. In past years more than 1,000 people have gathered to celebrate.
The Hindu population is thriving along with the oil boom, Angirekula added. A group of 20 new children to the area are part of the 80 or so children who will dance and perform on Oct. 25. There’s even a dance planned for 3- and 4-year-olds.
A full menu of Indian food catered by a Lubbock area restaurant will keep attendees’ stomachs’ full through the night.
“It’s a great time. To get some exposure to Indian culture. For many co-workers and friends it’s a ritual. They start asking (about Diwali) this time of the year,” Angirekula said.
Mohana looks forward to her own child starring on the biggest stage in Odessa. Her 17-year-old daughter Askhika has been dancing at Diwali celebrations since her sari was just itty-bitty.
Each October, Askhika looks forward to the music, the food and performing with her friends.
“Oh, it has definitely grown,” she said about the festival of lights put on in Odessa. She and her family moved from Pennsylvania when Askhika was small, so her memories of Diwali are geographically in the Permian Basin.
“We’ve kept up,” Askhika continued. “So we have a constant number of new dances and items for everyone.”
As Askhika, an Odessa High School senior, awaits the delivery of her “half sari” (a blouse and skirt in blues and greens) from India – it will be the final performance with her hometown Diwali friends. Once she ventures off to college, her Diwali will also relocate.
“We’ve been doing this for so many years. We’re already reminiscing about everything this year already,” she said.
Tickets to the Oct. 25 Diwali at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center are $25 and $15. For tickets contact: Bharathi Randeria 432-689-3575, Sharada Satyavada 432-528-7563 or Nalini Patel 432-296-2314. Tickets will also be sold at the door.