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South Asian Students’ Alliance (SASA)

By Tanisha ’21

For the past two years, as the Vice President of the South Asian Students’ Alliance (SASA) at Harvard-Westlake, I have been enjoying the opportunity to organize cultural programs at my school, along with Mohona ’21, President of SASA, and Ms. Margot Riemer, our faculty advisor. Together, we share the culture of South Asia with the school community by celebrating festivals, reviewing Indo-European history, mythology, traditions, food, fashion, and performing and visual arts. We also strive to serve the community at large through education, volunteer activities, and fundraising.

Like other affinity groups at Harvard-Westlake, we have an open space to share the South-Asian culture by engaging the students in activities that promote diversity at our school campuses and beyond. We also participate at the Admission Roundtable for Prospective Families of Color on Multicultural Day. In February 2021, for the Lunar New Year celebrations, we collaborated with Asian Students in Action (ASiA) by contributing our experiences of the Lunar New Year in the Indian subcontinent. In addition, in the Fall of 2020, we invited the Boot Squad Club to join us to prepare a group dance video for our virtual Diwali celebrations.

Every year, our hallmark event is Diwali – the festival of lights. Before the pandemic, we celebrated Diwali on campus by organizing an evening filled with delicious food, Bollywood music and dance. Students had the opportunity to apply henna designs on their hands and arms, decorate clay diyas, and learn the steps of the Odissi dance. In 2020-2021, the Diwali festival and other South Asian festivals are being celebrated on virtual platforms with games such as Kahoot, sharing recipes, and making crafts online. Participants receive prizes for winning games and for regular participation.

Henna Designs and Decorating Clay Diyas

Our virtual weekly book club is held on Zoom every Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. This year we are discussing short stories from books written by world-renowned authors of South Asian heritage. Our books are Interpreter of Maladies by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri and Malgudi Days by the Padma Vibhushan awardee, R.K. Narayan. Lahiri’s collection of short stories share the universal desire to find love and acceptance beyond traditional boundaries. She shares her perspective of the South Asian diasporas in the United States and from her travels in India to visit her extended family. On the other hand, R.K. Narayan’s short stories show the essence of Indian and human experience through the life of people in his imaginary Indian city, Malgudi.

During our club meetings, we analyze South Asia in the media by viewing its presence in television, YouTube, Netflix, and South Asian movie productions. While food has been a major focus of our celebrations on campus, we love sharing recipes during our virtual meetings and offer tips for Indian cooking and resources for shopping. We also enjoy talking about the influence of South Asian clothes and designs on western styles and fashion.

The South Asian Students’ Alliance at Harvard-Westlake welcomes every student to join our monthly celebrations and weekly book clubs.

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Tags: , , Last modified: August 30, 2021