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South Asian culture exposed this week

By Nilanga S. Jayasinghe Special to the Daily Planet
Thursday October 25, 2001

To increase awareness of South Asian culture, student groups at UC Berkeley will hold their annual South Asian Awareness Week beginning Saturday. 

The events are not all serious, says one organizer, Rina Shah. The goal includes showing people “the fun aspects of South Asian culture,” she said. 

Every fall for the past 10 years, Shah’s INDUS group has organized South Asian Awareness week with the participation of other South Asian groups at UC Berkeley.  

The organizers believe this year’s awareness week has more relevance in light of the events on and following Sept. 11. Recent hate crimes against South Asian Americans have propelled the different participating groups to deal with the issue while promoting awareness of their own group goals, said Shah, president of INDUS. 

The Sikh Students Association will hold a Sikh Awareness Night to educate the public about their religion and culture. They will focus on recent hate crimes and the Sept. 11 tragedy. 

The Center for South Asian Studies, an organizational research unit part of the university-wide international and area studies program, will screen a documentary film by Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan. The film titled “Jang Aur Aman,” deals with the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests carried out in India and Pakistan.  

“I think this is most timely,” said Christopher Plummer, the Program Representative for CSAS. CSAS also supports the various student groups in their activities. 

“There’s more relevance in this year’s week because the military actions going on could affect all South Asian countries and communities directly,” he said. 

The new South Asian women’s group, Saheli, will be screening the Hindi movie “Lajja.” The group will facilitate a discussion on South Asian women’s issues immediately after the film.  

“The movie deals with women’s issues and brings out some of the cultural aspects related to South Asian American women that we want to address in our group,” said Simran Tagore, co-founder of Saheli.  

According to Shah, the portrayal of culture is also significant to the week.  

“Although focusing on current events is important, it is also important to keep the nature of the week more upbeat and less political,” Shah said. 

INDUS is organizing a dance called the Raas Garba, which will be the week’s kickoff event. To be held during the evening of Oct. 27, it is a dance originating from the state of Gujarat, India, and will be held in celebration of the festival of Navratri.  

The dancers will also teach the audience the dance’s movements in an effort to involve more participation.  

In addition, the Hindu Students Council will be having an audience interactive Raas demonstration during lunchtime on Oct. 31. Riddhi Mehta, coordinator of HSC, explained that their dance will differ from that of INDUS’ because it incorporates the use of sticks.  

There will also be a Rajasthani dance, a Kannada dance, a Bhangra performance and dances from Hindi films performed during the daytime on Upper Sproul Plaza. A fashion show depicting the regional attire of South Asia will also take place.  

Overall, about 100 performers are expected to take part in the events.  

According to Shah, many students join INDUS just to be able to participate in the dances.  

Its membership is now at 350, but more people are expected to join the club after the awareness week.  

“This is also a good opportunity for freshmen to become involved and to meet other people in the groups,” she added. 

Besides the cultural items, the groups will also have tables and booths in Upper Sproul Plaza. The booths, popular during previous years, will include information on South Asia, Bollywood, hate crime awareness, mehndi, fashion, domestic violence and food.  

“The biggest attraction for many is the Indian food,” Shah said.  

The events generally draw many spectators from both on-campus and off-campus communities, Shah said.  







• Saturday, Oct. 27:  

Dance, Pauley Ballroom, 9 p.m. - 1 a.m. Tickets are priced at $6 for INDUS members and $8 for non-INDUS members. 

• Monday, Oct. 29:  

Bhangra dance performance and Hindi Film Dance - Upper Sproul Plaza. Noon -1 p.m.  

Anand Patwardhan documentary screening – 2040, Valley Life Sciences Building 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. Free. 

Screening of Hindi film Lajja, Location and time to be announced. Free. 

• Tuesday, Oct. 30:  

Kannada Folk Dance and Rajasthani Dance – Upper Sproul Plaza. Noon - 1 p.m. Free. 

Sikh Awareness night - 2060, Valley Life Sciences Building at 6.30 p.m. Free. 

• Wednesday, Oct. 31: 

Raas Garba and Raas Demonstration – Upper Sproul Plaza. Noon - 1 p.m.  

• Thursday, Nov. 1: 

Hindi Film Dance and Fashion Show – Upper Sproul Plaza from 12 noon - 1 p.m. Free. 

Documentary screening on the fascination with South Asian cultural items in the media and in present day society. Location and time to be announced. Free. 

• Friday, Nov. 2: 

Mini culture show, showcasing of all the performances held on Upper Sproul Plaza during the week – Lower Sproul Plaza 5 - 7 p.m.