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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

South Asian cultural organizations host fifth-annual South Asia Week

Programming for the week included South Asian food in dining halls, Holi celebrations and discussions about culture.
Narenkumar Thirmiya
Students throw colors in the air at Holi, as photographed on April 2, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)

A group of South Asian and religious student organizations co-organized the fifth annual South Asia Week from March 27 to April 1. Programming included cultural festivals, dance workshops, discussion about identity and serving traditional South Asian foods in dining halls. 

The events were led by South Asian Cultural Exchange, Pakistani Students Association, Muslims Students Association, Vanderbilt Karma, Vanderbilt Nepali Students Association, Middle Eastern Student Association and Vanderbilt Association of Bengali Students. 

SACE Outreach Co-Chair Min Kalasikam, a junior, said one of the goals of the week was to give non-South Asian students the opportunity to interact with the various cultures and traditions of South Asia.  

“Our goals are to provide diverse programming that showcases all of our lovely South Asian orgs on campus this week,” Kalasikam said. “We also aim to bring people together through an exploration of South Asia traditions and foods.”  

South Asia week began on March 27 with a poetry night co-hosted by PSA and MESA. The event featured students sharing their works of poetry and others reading poetry written by famous poets.

PSA Secretary Ommay Farah, a sophomore, said she was happy to see the presenters share a variety of writing. She added that the event gave the students an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of culture and language of not only their own but also those of others. 

“What I enjoyed was the attendance and diversity of languages at the event! It would’ve been great to have more Urdu poems because I was the only one,” Ommay said in a message to The Hustler. 

In addition to event programming, Commons, Kissam, Rothschild, Zeppos, and Rand Dining Halls served different South Asian food throughout the week. Kalasikam said SACE’s executive board worked with Professor of Asian studies Elliot McCarte and Brian Cochrane, the chef de cuisine of McGugin Dining Hall, to ensure that dining events were organized after sundown to promote inclusivity of people fasting for Ramadan.

On March 29, Vanderbilt Nepali Students Association collaborated with cosMOOREpolitan to host a Moore College House event serving Nepali food and celebrating Nepali culture. 

“It was really great getting to share my culture with so many people and seeing everyone so excited about the food,” VNSA member Shreya Shrestha, a junior, said about the cosMOOREpolitan event. “I think generally just this week being full of South Asian events is a great reminder of how present and diverse the South Asian community is at Vanderbilt.”  

SACE also hosted a Ugadi celebration — a Hindu festival marking the beginning of a Hindu calendar year — at the Multicultural Community Space on March 29. The event provided free refreshments such as chai and Ugadi Pachadi, a traditional dish. 

The following day, MSA collaborated with Vandy Karma to host a roundtable dialogue with Hindu and Muslim students, Professor Samira Sheikh and Professor Calynn Dowler about the intersection of the Hindu and Muslim experiences. During the session, attendees talked about their South Asian-American identities, their related histories and common struggles of improving the interfaith harmony of South Asian communities. 

“It was a great interfaith discussion that touched on not just religious commonalities and intersection in South Asia, but also sociocultural intersections and their significance in contributing to communities of various faiths in the past and present in South Asia,” Syed Ali, MSA first-year representative, said. 

The week-long celebration concluded on April 1 on Wyatt Lawn with SACE’s Holi celebration — a Hindu festival celebrating the beginning of spring and divine love of gods — where students danced along South Asian music and threw colored dye on each other. 

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” first-year Olivia Fang said. “It was a great opportunity to directly interact with South Asian culture.”

Reflecting on the celebrations, SACE Co-Outreach Chair Gayatri Aluri, a junior, said. “We’re so happy to see how many non-South Asian students and faculty and administrators and campus partners were involved in our events/programming, and it’s just a testament to how loving and willing to learn the Vandy community is.”

McCarter emphasized the importance of celebrating South Asia Week. He said the Vanderbilt community must continue to create opportunities to experience and recognize the diversity that exists within the South Asian communities. 

“One of Vanderbilt’s strengths is its multicultural student body,” McCarter said. “Rather than have students with diverse cultural backgrounds inhabiting a common and generic space, it is important to highlight the various communities that make up the fabric of our campus culture.”


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About the Contributors
Jennifer Son, Social Media Director
Jennifer Son (‘26) is majoring in human and organizational development and violin performance in Peabody College. She also writes for News. Jennifer enjoys watching movies and talking about philosophy. You can reach her at [email protected].
Narenkumar Thirmiya, Staff Photographer
Narenkumar Thirmiya ('24) is from Orlando, Fla., and is majoring in neuroscience and medicine, health, and society in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, he is streaming TV, playing the piano or guitar or exploring nature photography. You can reach him at [email protected].
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