On Friday, November 16th over 700 HBS community members will gather in Burden Auditorium for “Ekta”, a vibrant celebration of South Asian culture sponsored by the South Asian Business Association (SABA). Similar to last year, the evening will begin with a pre-show reception in the Williams Room, giving performers a chance to mingle with sectionmates and friends over South Asian appetizers. The cultural show itself will feature more than 70 students and partners in a variety of live music, classical and folk dance performances.
However, “Ekta” is differentiated from the “Diwali” shows of previous years in its broader scope and message. While Diwali, the festival of lights, is popularly celebrated throughout India and in neighboring countries, it is a religious holiday specific to the Hindu faith and is only one of the major religious holidays celebrated in South Asia. The region is home to people of many religious traditions, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. The name “Ekta”, which translates to “unity”, was chosen to capture the spirit of an event in which individuals from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds come together with a common goal: to showcase a rich and varied cultural heritage.
Historically Diwali celebration at HBS took the form of a formal dinner featuring South Asian attire and food. The events were targeted mainly at SABA members who would not be traveling home for the holiday and featured a few dance acts to provide entertainment for the evening. Over time, the sophistication of the productions and the size of the audience grew, with stages being erected in the Williams Room to accommodate performances. By 2005, the event had grown into a full-fledged cultural show and moved into Burden Auditorium for the first time. “In broadening the theme of this year’s show, SABA embraces the fact that the show has evolved into a powerful forum that should engage all its members to both entertain and educate fellow HBS community members about South Asia” said SABA Co-President Raj Bhatt.
The change in theme for the cultural show is part of a greater effort taken on by SABA leadership to make the organization both more inclusive and more representative of its diverse membership. SABA’s charter is to foster business, cultural and social activities related to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Towards this end, additional events planned for this year include hosting speakers, showing cultural movies and supporting non-profits from different South Asian countries. Speaking on inclusiveness, SABA Co-President Ajay Arora said “South Asia represents many cultures, languages and religions across a set of neighboring regions. As HBS Students, we are privileged to have classmates that represent this diverse range of ethnicities and backgrounds. We look forward to putting on a great show this year that brings together the hard work and talents of our sectionmates, partners and friends.”