Salford Gears up for Holi Celebrations

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 “It is all about friendship and sharing happiness together” said Tanmay Barhale who is credited for reviving the Indian society of the University of Salford. Currently, he holds the post of a Sabbatical Officer in the University of Salford, Students Union. He speaks to Subhadrika Sen on reforming the Indian Society, organising Holi and many such behind-the-scene actions. . . . . . .

 Holi is an Indian festival of colours. On the eve of the festival, bonfires are lit and people dance and sing around it. This bonfire represents one of the five basic elements of the planet-Fire; and in this fire burns evil bringing triumph to the good in the world. According to the Hindu mythology, this is called Holika Dahan or burning of the evil Holika, where Holika represents the bad elements cleansed by the burning fire.  On the day of the festival, people get together and smear each other’s faces with coloured powder. Many prefer to play with water colours as well. They spend the time with their friends and family merry making and enjoying. In some places, Bhaang an intoxicated drink is also served.

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Tanmay Barhale

Holi is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur in India. But for those Indians residing away from home, it becomes difficult to take part in this festival. One does not see faces smeared with colours, one does not touch the feet of their elders with Aabir and one cannot drench friends and family in coloured water or throw water filled balloons at them. However, the University of Salford Students Unions and the Indian Society gives its students (international and local) to join in the fun and celebrate Holi. Here is an excerpt from an interview.

 

  1. Tell us something about the Indian Society of Salford University?

Before I joined the University of Salford there was an Indian society page on Facebook which I looked up. But when I came to Salford I came to know that the society wasn’t really active. So I decided to speak to the activities coordinator at that time and asked them whether I can run the society. So, I started the society again in 2014. Few friends of mine who were studying at that time here, we all came together and joined the society to form the committee which I was leading as the chair. One of our first events was Holi. So back in 2014 we started the Holi festival in Salford. This will be its third year.

 

  1. What events does the society organise throughout the year?

So, throughout the year mainly we try to celebrate majority of Indian festivals as much as we can. In the past we have done Independence Day celebrations, then Diwali celebrations and we have organised a couple of movie nights; mostly for the new members or international and European students to participate in.

 

  1. What is the membership of the Society right now?

At the moment I think it’s around thirty members.

 

  1. What made the Indian Society start celebrating Holi?

Like I said when I came to UK in 2014, it was January and after few weeks in the UK I realised that Holi was coming up and I would be missing it. So after forming the society I had a discussion with the other people from the society saying whether we would like to organise it and they all were happy. I asked our coordinator whether we can get some funding because it’s a new group and would like to organise this.

 

  1. What is your average turnout of students each year?

 It is roughly about a hundred students who participate. First year we charged for the colour, because it was our first year and we didn’t know how many students will turn up because it wasn’t really a UK cultural thing. So we charged around 50p to 1 pound per pack and since then we have offered colours for free for the last two years. There was one more event in September, Run with Colour, which is similar to Holi, but it was free for everybody.

 

  1. Has Holi celebrations been able to attract non-Indian students as well?

 Yes a majority of our participants were from all kinds of background. There were European students, International students as well as students from India, Pakistan and other Asian countries. So we have been able to make all kinds of students participate in this kind of event.

 

  1. Holi is celebrated in very few places throughout Manchester. Where do you get your colours from?

 For the first year we tried to approach the local suppliers. We contacted one of the Indian stores in Manchester and we bought the colours from them. But since then we have improvised a little bit. Last year, we bought the colours from a local firm in the UK and this year also we are planning to purchase the colours from them.

 

  1. It is understandable that such an event cannot be single- handedly organised. So, do you have other team members? Would you like to name them and tell us what their roles were in organising this event?

 Yes definitely, events such as Holi or any event to be honest cannot be organised by a single person. So, last year I got help from some of the Students Union members – Becky Billington, Jono Stainsby and Richard. These three people helped me in heaps to be honest.  Becky is our events organiser at the University of Salford Students Union. She helped us in making the arrangements and making sure the event runs smoothly. Richard helped us in terms of getting the colours and setting up the fences and every little thing. Jonathan helped us in playing some Bollywood music because he has a talent of mixing music.

So he is the local DJ. . . . . . .

Yes he is.

 

  1. This year you are organising it in Peel Park. Dont’ you think that would usher in some environmental concerns?

 All the colours that we order are chemical free. They don’t contain any harmful chemicals for the environment or for the users. So, all the colours are easily washable and they don’t cause any irritation unless you have any specific allergy to any sort of colours. We have been organising this for the last three years and we didn’t come across any student who had any problems with the colour.

 

  1. Do you have anything to say to our readers?

 I would ask them to participate in this sort of events whether it is at the University or the local council. I would ask them to celebrate as much as they can because festivals bring together people from different communities and it is all about friendship and sharing happiness together.