Integration and respect for one another’s cultures seemed to be the underlying message during the WOU staff appreciation and Deepavali celebration this year.
The celebration at the main campus on November 18th kicked off with the breaking of coconuts at the Homestead entrance by Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, Chief Operating Officer Yeong Sik Kheong, and Registrar cum QA & External Relations Director Dr Andy Liew.
This was followed by the lighting of the traditional oil lamps at the hall entrance by Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Madhulika Kaushik and Group Finance Director Chua Saw Nee.
Guests were greeted by a colourful peacock floor drawing (kolam) and door gifts of traditional bangles and pottu. The Homestead Hall was decorated with greeting cards and overhanging coconut leaves, while Indian traditional music added to the festive atmosphere. Every table was also laid with plate servings of murukku, a favourite Indian cookie.
Prof Ho, his forehead adorned with pottu, spoke about the importance of multiethnic integration in a multiethnic, multi-cultural country like Malaysia and on how different festive celebrations and gatherings like the ones practised traditionally in WOU has a special meaning or purpose. There is the need to be wary of the negative impacts of polarisation creeping into society.
He continued, “Looking at us sitting here today, a mixture of all ethnic groups, I somehow feel comforted that we are actually doing our own part in trying to curb or at least reduce this threat of polarisation.” Respecting each other’s culture and participating in joint festive celebrations like this is a step in the right direction, Prof Ho added.
Prof Madhulika shared a legend on Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and invoked blessings for everyone present and especially for the University.
The event then proceeded with a fashion show by a group of full-time students, who modelled the traditional costumes of the major races in Malaysia, reinforcing the message of integration.
The students also performed a number of fast tempo Indian dances, including the kolattam dance, a cultural dance from South India using bamboo sticks. Kolattam comes from the word ‘kol’ for cane and ‘attam’ meaning dance.
Staff and students feasted on rice with dishes of chicken, mutton, and vegetable, complemented with juice, massala tea and bru coffee.
WOU celebrates major cultural festivals with luncheon or high tea for staff to cultivate appreciation and respect for each other’s beliefs and practices.