Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Inaugural Desi Gala Dazzles Campus

Whitman’s South Asian Student Association hosted a Desi Gala for the community this past Friday, Dec. 1, in Reid Ballroom. Organized by SASA presidents Pavita Sidhu and Zakir Hussain, the gala had different stations where attendees could learn about South Asian culture, including a Henna station, a spice challenge, a Rangoli station and a fashion show.

SASA’s inaugural Desi Gala was engaging and well-attended, filling up Reid Ballroom with students and staff that were interested in learning about and celebrating Desi culture. The event was accompanied by a video that shared students’ favorite parts of South Asian culture alongside testimonies of personal experiences. First year Ananya Mehrotra and junior Aniruddh Gupta helped organize the event and delighted the public with their participation in a series of dances and the fashion show.

“One of the highlights for me during the gala was the wonderful opportunity it provided for our Desi community to come together more frequently. Being involved in organizing the event allowed us to become more familiar with one another, transforming us from strangers to acquaintances,” Mehrotra said. “Personally, contributing to the creation of the video was an eye-opening experience as it helped me learn about everyone’s unique identities and also made me think about my unique Desi identity.” 

Organizers emphasized the value that arises from sharing cultural diversity while also pointing to the unique aspects of different countries included under the broad Desi label.

“My decision to join SASA stemmed from a deep appreciation for the sense of home and community that the Desi culture brings, regardless of where you are in the world,” Mehrotra said. “This tight-knit bond among individuals of South Asian descent is unparalleled, offering an instant connection and a feeling of belonging.”

The event created space for students to share their culture, allowing for exploration of students’ unique identities. For first year Farrah Hussain, the event was a welcome addition to the year-round activities that SASA hosts. 

“[The gala] was a great opportunity to invite fellow members of Whitman, staff and facilities, to join us in celebrating our culture and a wonderful way of showing and educating everyone of South Asian history,” Hussain said.

It is not easy to host such a big event, but the SASA, with the help of their community, did an amazing job showing Whitman that being Desi goes beyond stereotypes. The event allowed South Asian students to take the lead, but anyone from the Whitman community was invited to enjoy the gala. This means that students from many backgrounds are allowed to enjoy the work SASA has done while learning from new perspectives.

“In every SASA event I have witnessed in the past couple of years, we have seen plenty of non-South Asians participate joyously, embracing our culture and being a meaningful part of our memories during these celebrations,” Gupta said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see more people who have previously not interacted much with South Asian cultures learn more about our culture in a fun and welcoming environment. It helps knit a community tighter where every individual feels free of judgment and that their cultures are valued.”

The number of students participating in the gala gave the event a more expansive sense of community, fostering an increasingly diverse and accepting environment. Sharing about South Asian history, food, clothing, movies, music, art and more brought SASA members and the broader Whitman community closer together and enhanced cultural understanding and diversity. 

“We strive to make the Whitman community a place where South Asians are welcomed, have a voice and have people to rely on and get a chance to feel like they’re at home. At the same time, educating people about the beautiful, rich and diverse culture that is South Asian is a core aim of SASA,” Gupta said. 

SASA aims to “promote interest and awareness of South Asian cultures within the Whitman community through various events.” Events like the Desi Gala aid in presenting different representations of life around the world. Events like the gala work to prioritize a culturally diverse environment that invites celebration on campus.

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