Shakti’s Sangamam serves up Middle Eastern cultural experience

On Saturday April 7 in the College Union Ballroom, Shakti, the South Asian cultural organization, immersed students in South Asian culture, cuisine and dance with Sangamam: Dare to be Desi.

The event began with an elaborate menu of Thai red chicken curry, vegetable biryani, aloo gobi, raita and naan with kheer rice pudding for dessert. Members of Shakti and Impressions Catering worked together to prepare the food.

While attendees finished the last of their food, Shakti’s Sangamam production commenced. With a combination of both acting and dancing, the students put on a comical and meaningful cultural show.

Sophomore Samrat Ashok had the lead role of the show as an American who did not embrace or display values of his Indian culture. In response to his rebellious actions, his parents sought to teach him a lesson by sending him to school in India to learn more about his heritage and to become a more disciplined individual.

Along the way, Ashok’s character faced conflicts, but emerged as a strong adult with a better grasp on what he felt it meant to be South Asian without erasing his American qualities.

“I thought that it was an impressive blend of amazing dancing and acting and a cultural context that made it easy to follow,” said sophomore Lena Freed.

Shakti members entertained the guests while also educating them about South Asian culture.

“We started the script writing last semester and all the preparations the first week of school. It was insane,” said senior Aaron Licari, Shakti’s Alliance for Community Enrichment representative. “As someone who’s in a fraternity, I relate it to pledging: the best and worst six weeks of your life.”

Shakti attracts people of many different cultures who are interested in taking part in either a new or familiar cultural experience. Although not everyone in the club is of South Asian descent, members say there is a sense of close, intimate bonding within the group.

“I enjoy the family bond – we’re like a tiny family unit,” said senior Ayushma Thapa, who has performed in every Sangamam show since 2009. “I am mostly in the kitchen, but I also perform.” Thapa said that when the group meets, it intertwines different aspects of South Asian culture such as food, dancing and meditation.

“The food and the people make it the best,” Licari said. “It’s the flavor and spiciness of the people.”