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Students celebrate Holi with good, not-so-clean fun

By Anaika Miller

April 29, 2013 3:25 a.m.

Hours after the last participants in UCLA’s fourth annual Holi festival trickled out of Sunset Recreation Center late Sunday afternoon, third-year political student Steven James was still cleaning up the multi-colored powder left behind.

James, who is a building supervisor at Sunset, used a plastic cup to scoop water out of a garbage can to rinse off powder-covered amphitheater seats and tables.

Despite the scant resources, James’ job was made easier by extra measures implemented by student organizers to make the aftermath of this year’s Holi festival – a South Asian celebration of spring and a popular campus event – more manageable. In the past, the colored powder students throw at each other as part of the event has caused problems with staining students’ clothes and clogging drains.

More than 1,000 students participated in the event this year, which was put on by INDUS, the Indian Student Union, the Hindu Student Association, the Sikh Student Association, the Office of Residential Life, UCLA Recreation, Undergraduate Students Association Council president’s office and USAC General Representative 1.

Sunny Singh, a second-year history and economics student who works in the USAC president’s office, and Rafay Haseeb, a first-year political science student and president of INDUS, were the primary programmers of the event this year. The students took over the planning when they heard that student leaders from ORL were not interested in organizing the event, as they have done in the past.

“This is an event that I very much enjoy and I know a lot of other students enjoy,” Singh said.

While ORL did not host the event this year, it still provided advice and financial support, said Jenny Byrd, ORL senior events manager.

Previously, cleanup was complicated because the powder made a mess both inside and outside of the festival, Byrd said.


Brandon Choe / Daily Bruin

This year, programmers encouraged students to bring an extra set of clothes to change into after the event to minimize the amount of powder spread off the field.

Additionally, organizers bought 445 pounds of colored powder this year – which, unlike previous years, is water-soluble and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Singh said.

The water-soluble powder increased the cost from about $3.20 per pound to $7. ORL helped fund the cost of the powder.

During the cleanup, organizers washed down tables for about an hour before leaving. James, who remained to finish up the job at the end of the night, said the water-soluble powder made the cleanup go more quickly.

Both Singh and Byrd said the cost is worth the easier cleanup – a sentiment echoed by some participants who remember permanently dyed clothing from years past.

Dylan Fagrey, a second-year aerospace engineering student, said the powder was much easier to wash off than when he participated in the event last year.

“It seemed like during (this year’s) event the powder was less on people and more in the air,” Fagrey said.

But the reduced mess did not detract from the experience for many students. Sunday was the first time Utkarsh Pandey, a first-year material science and engineering student, had celebrated Holi away from his home in Delhi, India.

“It’s nice to see so many non-Indian people here getting involved in our culture,” Pandey said. “It makes me proud.”

Pandey said he was pleased with the turnout and that the event exceeded his expectations.

“Everything tumbled into one big mess, but everyone had fun,” Pandey said.


Brandon Choe / Daily Bruin

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Anaika Miller
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