Progress employees recently came together for an outdoor celebration of Diwali, featuring traditional Indian food, Bollywood music and of course, lights.
One of India’s biggest and most important holidays, Diwali is celebrated by Hindu and non-Hindu communities in countries all over the world. This year, ASPIRE, Progress’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) employee resource group (ERG), hosted an outdoor Diwali celebration at our Bedford office.
The event included lights, food, games, music, and family, with ASPIRE, the corporate marketing team, facilities and IT working together to transform a parking lot into a festive venue—and all Progressers were welcome.
Two of ASPIRE’s founders, Koyin Shih and Soofia Shaik, talk more about Diwali and Progress’s celebration of the holiday below:
Soofia: Diwali is an important religious festival originating in India that takes place annually and lasts for five days. The exact dates change each year and are determined by the position of the moon—but it usually falls between October and November.
For many people, Diwali honors the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. It’s also a celebration of good triumphing over evil, and different legends based on this theme are associated with Diwali. In northern India, Hindus celebrate the return of the deities (gods) Rama and Sita to the city of Ayodhya, after defeating the evil king Ravana.
The word Diwali means “row of lights” in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. During Diwali, people decorate their homes with lights and oil lamps, called diyas. The lights and lamps are supposed to help Lakshmi find her way into peoples’ homes, which will bring prosperity in the coming year.
Rangoli is another popular Diwali tradition, which are patterns made using colorful powders and flowers. People draw Rangoli on the floor by the entrance of their homes to welcome the gods and bring good luck.
Fireworks are possibly the most well-known Diwali tradition. Every year, people across the Indian subcontinent celebrate the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness by watching communal firework displays, as well as lighting their own firecrackers.
Soofia: Diwali is a time to have fun with friends and family. People exchange gifts and sweets, enjoy delicious food, watch firework displays and wear new clothes. It’s also a time to clean and decorate your home, in order to bring good fortune. Today, thousands of people in countries all over the world celebrate Diwali. Hindus living outside India will gather at places of worship called mandirs to leave offerings to deities, watch fireworks and eat together.
Soofia: Nearly 80 Progressers and their families came together for this festival of lights, and enjoyed an evening filled with traditional Indian dishes, Bollywood music, Diwali-themed bingo, and Henna design creations.
Several children of Progressers embraced the limelight to share Diwali facts with the audience, which included CEO Yogesh Gupta, and EVP of Core Products and one of ASPIRE’s executive sponsors, John Ainsworth. In lieu of traditional fireworks, the Progress Event team created a light-filled evening ambiance with twinkly stringed lights and light-up balloons as lively Bollywood music videos were projected onto a large screen.
Koyin: We had envisioned celebrating Diwali at multiple office locations since we launched ASPIRE in May 2021. COVID complicated matters with restrictions on in-person gatherings inside office buildings. So as the fall approached, and with Diwali being on November 4, we knew that our event would need to be outdoors, which further limited location options. Bedford’s office location provides an ideal setting for an outdoor event, with its large and secluded parking lot, free from passing traffic.
Our goal was to incorporate as much of the Diwali traditions as possible into this event. This included serving traditional Indian food, lighting up the space (in lieu of fireworks), playing festive music, having a Henna artist make beautiful designs, and most importantly, making this a family event.
Corporate Marketing had recently hosted a fun outdoor drive-in movie event in the late summer. So, we reached out to Corporate Marketing for guidance, and the rest is history! Corporate Marketing came up with amazing ideas to create a welcoming light-filled space in the parking lot. Facilities and IT colleagues joined to help set up the entire production of EZUps with beautiful lighting, around 25 tables for guests and food set-up and a 20-foot movie screen and speaker to project Bollywood videos. ASPIRE team members greeted colleagues and their families. The beautiful setting, delicious food, great company, fun music and nice weather all led to a wonderful first Diwali celebration at the Bedford office.
Koyin: Having a group like ASPIRE provides a formal platform as well as a safe space at work to globally connect APIs and allies who might otherwise not have a chance to meet. We’ve also had tremendous support from our executive sponsors, John Ainsworth and Sundar Subramanian, which speaks volumes to the ASPIRE team members.
Koyin: ASPIRE creates an opportunity to celebrate the diverse API cultures and voices, champion diversity and inclusivity, and contribute to the API community.
The Bedford Diwali event brought many families together to learn and celebrate an important part of the Indian culture. Food is a big part of API culture, so we’ve had two virtual cooking events led by ASPIRE team members showcasing special family recipes. We’ve partnered with Blacks@Progress and Progress for Her to sponsor an external speaker, Dr. Josephine Kim, to help us understand more about cross-cultural differences and unconscious or implicit bias.
Launching ASPIRE has been very fulfilling and it makes us ProgressPROUD to be a part of this growing ERG community and support Progress’s I&D initiatives.
Jessica Kent is a writer and editor based in Boston. As a content specialist, she has the opportunity to write about the exciting things happening at Progress, as well as the amazing people behind it all. When she’s not working, you can find her reading, going for a run or attempting to learn the guitar.
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