Cultural Series: Indian Student Alliance


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Rohit Vuppuluri heard about the Indian Student Alliance during his freshman year at the UI. Three years later, the UI senior is the president of the group, which brings Indian culture to the university and showcases it.

“When I first joined the organization, it was really cool to meet other people who had the same interest as I do, especially in representing and promoting our culture at the university,” he said. “It’s nice to be a part of something bigger than just myself.”

At present, the alliance has more than 800 members, consisting of students and individuals in the Iowa City community. No requirements or dues are expected of the members, and they do not need to be of Indian ancestry to join.

The group holds five major events during the academic year, starting with the Kickoff Picnic — the first chance in the school year for new members join the organization. Garba, a traditional Indian folk dance festival, is also celebrated during the fall semester. The Kickoff Picnic and Garba are free and open to the public.

In November, the alliance celebrates Diwali, a cultural holiday in India. Diwali — which is held in the IMU — offers a dinner and then features local performers in activities such as classical Indian music and modern Bollywood dance.

Two competitions highlight the spring semester. Nachte Raho, a dance competition that dates from the spring of 2003, will feature eight teams from around the country and three styles of Indian dance: Garba-Raas, Bhangra, and Bollywood Fusion. Nachte Raho, the alliance’s most popular event, will be held on March 6. The teams, recruited by group social head Ankit Patel, compete for prize money of $5,000.

Gathe Raho, the second competition of the spring semester, began in February 2009; it is an a cappella competition similar to Nachte Raho. The contest also features eight teams and prize money of $4,000.

“We try to do different events to show different styles of our culture,” Vuppuluri said. “We try to make it fun and entertaining.”

While the alliance typically has big events, the board is creating informal events such as a bowling night and an upcoming comedy show to get more involvement from the members.

“We’ve been trying to do a lot more smaller events to include members so they feel more a part of the [group],” Vuppuluri said.

The group is also planning to collaborate with other student organizations on campus. A multicultural fashion show with the Black Student Union and the Asian American Coalition is set for April 3 in the IMU Main Lounge. The Indian association is preparing for a fashion show complemented with various foods to show the different cultures that are represented at the UI, Vuppuluri said.

UI senior Patel said the group offers many opportunities for the members, including meeting new people and learning leadership and organizational skills.

“Our main goal is to promote our culture and to provide heritage to our campus,” Patel said. “Every year, we try to incorporate new and different events that draw in people that are not part of our culture so we can share our culture with them, because that’s what our passion is and that is what the group is meant to do through our campus.”

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