Cultural show raises $6K for charity


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Students from Delta Phi Omega, a South Asian-interest sorority, perform a dance Friday at the 54th annual Association of Indians at Rutgers show.


A crowd of 300 people cheered on performers in the 54th annual Association of Indians at Rutgers Show, a performance-packed night that featured 200 students staying in touch with their culture through music and dance.

Performances at this year’s show, “Chaahat: Crave the Impossible,” included cultural dances, a drum circle and a staged Bollywood parody Friday night at the State Theatre in downtown New Brunswick.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Child Rights and You America, a charitable organization that provides clothing and public shelter to children in India.

After Friday night, CRY America received $6,000 from AIR.

“There are a lot more people in poverty than there are people that are well-off,” said Ankit Patel, vice president of AIR. “It’s extremely important to give back to our homeland, even if we weren’t born there.” About 69 percent of India’s population survives on less than $2 a day, according to The New York Times.

Devansh Pandey, public relations chair for AIR, said the group aims to provide an outlet for Indian-Americans to re-experience their native culture through the yearly show.

“When I went home, my culture was everywhere,” said Pandey, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “But once you went outside, it’s not the same anymore. What we’re trying to do is give everyone one event that gives them the chance to embrace all their culture.”

Beta Chi Theta, a South Asian-interest social fraternity, acted in a self-produced Bollywood skit. Soham Khetani, a fraternity member, said going back to his roots on stage felt meaningful.

“There’s not too many of these big shows, and the AIR show is the biggest South Asian performance on campus per year,” said Khetani, a School of Engineering senior. “Being in this definitely makes you see a part of who you are.”

But Indian culture is extremely diverse, with 438 spoken languages in the country, according to The Economist.

The event served as an opportunity to unite students from many different areas in India, Pandey said.

“I feel it’s good to get everyone together,” Pandey said. “Not everyone knows everyone else’s language and rituals. Everyone does something different, so you can’t say India is one culture.”

The University-based Raga and Garba Association, a culturally affiliated dance group, performed a traditional dance from Gujrat, India. The folk-style arrangement involved dancers who used sticks to visually enhance their choreographed movements, said Shivani Patel, co-captain of the team.

Raga is the only South Asian dance group in the state, and has been a part of the show since 2002.

“AIR gives us stage experience,” Shivani Patel said. “We are very affiliated with AIR, so every time AIR has a show we always look forward to coming.”

AIR had been planning since mid-July, with rehearsals running consistently for eight weeks prior to the show, Shivani Patel said. The group hosts events every three to four weeks that provide continued exposure to Indian culture.

The AIR show also served as a publicity tool. Beta Chi Theta finally decided to participate after being on campus for two years, Khetani said.

“We wanted to show ourselves,” Khetani said. “It was actually a lot of fun. It worked out pretty well, and we’re happy that we got to represent ourselves a little bit more on campus.”

Miraj Barodia, junior representative for AIR, said though immigrants experienced a culture shock when they first arrived to America, the eastern world has undergone some changes that are helping to close the cultural gap.

“Now as we’re progressing more, it’s becoming more equal,” Barodia said. “India is becoming more western. They’re adapting their culture from us over here.”

AIR plans to coordinate with the Pakistani Student Association next spring in their annual collaborative event, Salaam Namaste, that seeks to ease tensions from the long-standing rivalry between India and Pakistan, Shivani Patel said.

“We want the two organizations to come together to help people understand what happened and overcome the feeling of tension between the two countries,” Shivani Patel said. “That’s why we team up with PSA and have multiple workshops and speakers come in.”


By Lisa Berkman

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