The presentation of a $25,000 check to Cancer Support V.I. was the centerpiece of a Diwali Ball hosted over the weekend by the India Association of St. Thomas that brought together, and was meant to celebrate, community.
In years past, the association’s larger donations were made at the annual India Independence Day Gala, and even though the event was sidelined after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, members have continued to give quietly to organizations ranging from My Brother’s Workshop to Yellow Cedar Residence, a group home in Anna’s Retreat that provides care for adults with developmental disabilities.
India Association President Pash Daswani said Saturday night that Yellow Cedar, in particular, is close to his heart, just like CSVI is for many members of the India Association, who have either battled the disease personally or seen its impact on friends and loved ones, such as the association’s past president Mulo Alwani, who passed away in 2016.
In honor of Alwani, the Association also offered its first Mulo Alwani Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night to Aju “Mike” Daswani, who, in a short acceptance speech, also spoke about the rewards of selfless service to others. Making it a habit to do something meaningful, no matter how small it seems, brings the greatest pleasure, he said.
Channeling the spirit of the evening and meaning of Diwali itself — the triumph of light over darkness — Delegate Stacey Plaskett also offered a larger perspective.
“There is so much darkness going on right now in our world, so much division going on outside our Virgin Islands — in the Middle East, Africa, in our community — that the ideas of Diwali are something we can all take to light,” she said. “Let’s each of us individually reach out to our neighbor and express light to them in this time of darkness. Let’s be the light for them, there is so much hurt in the world right now and it is up to each of us, in the work that we do, to express that light, that love to them.”
Commonly referred to as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a five-day celebration that, on the fourth day, marks the start of the new year on the Hindu calendar. In commemoration, the Mark C. Marin Center at Antilles School, where the ball was held, was swathed in the soft candle-like glow from tea lights on the tables or soft bulbs nestled on the stage or in the corners of the room. The evening also featured an array of cultural dances, including the traditional Lakshmi aarti, a devotional to the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity and good fortune.