Students celebrate Diwali at Northside Cafe



Washington State University alumna Smirtha Somaskantha Iyer performs a traditional Bharathanatyam dance at a celebration of Diwali hosted by the Indian Students’ Association on Wednesday night at Northside Cafe. “I definitely enjoy dancing and showing the culture” Iyer said of her experience performing.

CARMEN JARAMILLO, Evergreen reporter

The Indian Students’ Association (ISA) and Dining Services hosted students Wednesday evening to celebrate Diwali, a traditional Hindu festival of light, with food, live performances and prayer at Northside Cafe.

Diwali is celebrated by members of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths. Participants around the world traditionally light candles to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

The festival lasts for five days with a candle lighting ceremony falling on the third day.

The event was part of Dining Services’ efforts to feed the “mind, body and soul” of students, Northside General Manager Kenitra Keeney said. The purpose is to benefit students who may be homesick or have nowhere to celebrate one of their traditional holidays while also educating other students on different cultures, she said.

“We’ve been trying to kind of rebrand what dining is,” Keeney said. “We’re not necessarily just a cafeteria, we’re an extension of [students’] homes.”

ISA Treasurer Praveer Tiwari said the group was approached by Northside to collaborate on the event. Dining Services provided the space, food and decorations at no cost to ISA, and ISA provided the entertainment and direction.

He said although they could not light candles at the event because it would be a fire hazard, the other aspects of the event were traditional.

“Everything else is really to the books of how we celebrate it in India and that’s very good to see them to put in so much effort in bringing Diwali to Pullman,” Tiwari said.

The event featured traditional prayer, dance and song performances by students, faculty and community members.

Previously Dining Services has partnered with other student groups like the International Students’ Council to put on a Lunar New Year celebration or with MEChA for a Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Northside Cafe served a menu of traditional Indian cuisine including butter chicken, coconut tandoori chickpeas, jeera rice, onion pakoda, mattar paneer and mustard seed green beans.

Adam Koerner, assistant director of culinary operations, said some of the menu items like the butter chicken and jeera rice were already staple dishes Dining Services offers every couple of weeks.

He said some of the traditional foods they do not normally offer required special ingredients that were sourced from the local halal shop as well as online.

“We wanted to be as authentic as possible,” Koerner said. “There’s that collision between trying to be authentic and respectful while you’re also in an area that doesn’t necessarily have those ingredients.”

He said he hopes in the future Dining Services can offer some of the new dishes like the onion pakoda and mattar paneer regularly in combination with the old.