AIR puts spotlight on Indian culture
Eighteen acts from all over the University, ranging from comedy to dance, performed for charity last night at the State Theatre during “Pehchaan: Dare to Define,” hosted by the Association of Indians at Rutgers.
The organization chose Pratham, a non-governmental charity founded by UNICEF, which provides education to children in the slums of Mumbai, India as their focus charity of the evening, said Dhara Shah, president of AIR.
“Our purpose was to bring the entire Rutgers community together,” said Shah, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “Our goal tonight is that people are not only aware of this charity, but are also aware of this problem that we have in the world.”
The show included University groups such as the Delta Sigma Iota fraternity dance team and special guest Penn Masala, an a cappella group from the University of Pennsylvania.
Shah said this year all 18 performances were tied together to tell the story of a group of friends attending the University and finding themselves in the process of finding their niches in different groups on campus.
“It is about a group of friends who come to Rutgers who find … where they fit in, kind of like college life,” Shah said. “That is what is sort of unique this year — it’s all part of a story line.”
Rohit Gijare, the co-secretary of AIR and one of the performers, said the event allowed him to showcase a part of culture not present in the United States.
“Living in America, it isn’t always possible to showcase our culture,” said Gijare, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “It kind of … lets us bring back a piece of home to America and showcase what our culture has to offer.”
Planning for this year’s event started in July, when they voted on Pratham as the beneficiary, she said.
“After we pick an area of focus, we pick the charity based on how close they are to New Jersey, if they are a nonprofit,” Shah said.
AIR held auditions for the show in September and spent the next weeks deciding performance orders and themes, she said.
“Everyone comes out and auditions, so we have auditions for a week,” Shah said. “Groups only have to perform one minute of their piece.”
Cultural integration and quality of performance were factors in choosing this year’s acts, she said.
Akash Patel, the cultural chair of AIR, said he would come back to the organization next year.
“It’s just a great experience,” said Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “Organizing it and being part of the group which puts all this together is an honor.”
AIR placed donation boxes outside the theater as a way of collecting funds for the charity, Shah said. After paying for fees and expenses, the remaining funds will go toward Pratham.
AIR votes on different charities each year with the intention of varying causes, Shah said. They promoted WaterAid last November, an organization that targets the lack of water in impoverished areas around the world.
Shah said that throughout her four years at AIR, the group has targeted human trafficking, women’s empowerment, child education and building bridges between Pakistan and India, in addition to last year’s concentration on water sanitation.
“AIR has been around for over 40 years,” she said. “It all came down to today — practices and rehearsals and putting together every little aspect of the show.”