Lately there have been threats to diversity and multiculturalism on a local and national levels. This year’s India Night proved contrary to this intolerance as students, faculty, and attendants from around Minnesota came together to celebrate Indian culture.
“Aathidyam” was the name of last night’s India Night, organized by the India Heritage Club. One of the event’s emcees spoke of this event as “St. Cloud State’s way of bringing the world to you”. SCSU students and volunteers performed various classical, Bollywood, and modern dances. There was also lots of singing and the club presented several educational videos about India’s history and achievements.
There were several notable people at the event. Mayor Dave Kleis gave a few words welcoming everyone. Indian Association of Minnesota President Babu Chimata also gave welcoming remarks. Vice President for Student Life and Development Wanda Overland spoke at the beginning of the night. She said the India Heritage Club worked very hard and take pride in themselves. She also thanked the club’s advisor Dr. Sneh Kalia for 22 years of work at SCSU. Associate Vice President for International Studies Shahzad Ahmad said he was proud of the students, faculty, and staff, and spoke about how SCSU has a much larger Indian community than a few decades ago.
“We are lucky to live in a culture that’s so rich and diverse,” said Kalia. She said Indian culture was molded throughout different areas of history. There are 29 states in India, over 22 languages, and people might not realize how Indian languages, clothing, festivals, and other aspects of the culture can be different.
Community members Sue and Paul West attended the event, and they said they have likely been to as many India Nights that SCSU has organized. Sue said they like attending the event because they have never travelled to India, so these events feel like actually being in India. Mahesh Ega from Minneapolis attended the event for the first time and said he enjoyed the event, especially the food. Deb Holstad, a teacher at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, said she knew very little about Indian culture before attending the event, and she said she was very impressed with the entertainment and fun atmosphere.
The night was filled with music and dancing. One dancer stood out from the night as she was the only child who performed. Ashina Jayan danced for the second year in a row at the event. Ashina performed the classical dance “Bharatanatyam”, which Ashina said is about an expression to the gods. This dance is characterized by a linear form of the body without any pronounced movement of the upper body. Ashina has been dancing for seven years, and several people approached her afterwards to compliment her on her dance. One man said talent runs in her family, since her father Jay prepared the meal for the event. Jay owned the restaurant Dosa King in Minneapolis, which is currently closed, but he said they are looking to open a new location in south Minneapolis.