Shakti promotes South Asian culture through engaging performance, cuisine

Intercultural dinners hosted by Geneseo’s Alliance for Community Enrichment organizations occur annually. Shakti—the South Asian club—held its 13th banquet on Saturday April 2 in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom. Tickets were sold out and the event seemed to be a tremendous success.

“For this year especially, our goal with the dinner was to bring attention to all of the different countries that are a part of Shakti,” Shakti co-president junior Ooha Kambhampati said. “We’re a diverse group in that we represent all of South Asia.”

Formed in 2001, the club meets weekly to discuss current events and to celebrate the cultures of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Maldives.

Served at the event was a myriad of Indian foods including samosas, tikka masal and paneer tikka masala, which were cooked and prepared specially by the organization’s own members in the Mary Jemison Dining Hall kitchen. The cuisine was extraordinarily popular, as the dishes ran out within the dinner’s first 15 minutes.

While participants feasted, hosting members of Shakti put on a dance and show. Each year at the dinner, Shakti creates a different skit not only to be entertaining, but also to demonstrate the organization’s cause and encompass something culturally relevant to teach the audience about.

At this year’s dinner, the club’s skit portrayed an American girl—adopted from Bangladesh—who decided to seek out her birth parents. During her journey, she gets lost and makes her way through various South Asian countries, allowing an inclusion of fun facts and descriptions about each country she passed through.

“We were trying to kind of document all of those countries and share information about them,” Kambhampati said.

The color theme of the night was maroon, gold and pink. Tables with white tablecloths were scattered throughout the ballroom, each featuring gold and red napkins folded into rose shapes and a glass centerpiece vase with rose garlands submerged in water.

With a full house, ticket profits came to about $1400. The money will be used by Shakti for an upcoming picnic event it’s taking part in along with Black Student Union, Latino Student Union and Korean American Student Union.

Shakti hosts events and fundraises frequently. Last year, they held a fundraiser in which they sold harem pants to benefit an eye foundation in India that helps cure blindness in malnourished children. “Our goal going forward is to begin incorporating even more philanthropy in our events,” Kambhampati said.

Kambhampati was pleased with the dinner’s turnout, noting that several alumni were in attendance as well. “Shakti translates to ‘gathering,’” she said. This name is not only fitting to the club, but also to the annual dinner, which welcomes all.

“I think the dinner was one of the best during my years at Geneseo,” Kambhampti added. “It was amazing to see what our members could do, especially seeing what all of our rehearsals that entire week turned into. I’m beyond proud of all of our participants and cast members. I could not thank them enough for their dedication.”