India Nite to celebrate subcontinent culture with traditional dishes, dance and music

Vanessa Marcano

Vanessa Marcano

As part of the series of diversity evenings throughout the spring semester leading up to the Festival of Cultures in April, India Nite 2009 will be packed with music, dance, succulent tastes and a historical presentation.

India Nite will take place March 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Volstorff Ballroom and will feature a presentation on the driving force of Indian independence – now considered the Father of the Nation – Mohandas Gandhi.

Over 100 students, faculty and their families, originally from different regions of the Indian subcontinent, are involved in the preparation and presentation of this cultural evening.

Rumela Bhadra, president of the Indian Students’ Association, said that this year’s program will be kicked off by the lighting of the lamp and a ritual prayer in Sanskrit, the classical liturgical language of India and one of the oldest in the world.

Following the prayer, dinner will be available for the expected 440 guests, who will also enjoy a theatrical performance and a presentation of five traditional Indian dances: some classical and at least two Bhangra dances from the region of Punjab in Northern India.

“We are hoping that with the theatrical presentation, we will be able to bring a bit of shock and drama to the event. As for the dances, the last couple of years we have had a group of students from Punjab organize them just because this region’s dances are very vibrant,” Bhadra said.

One of the most distinctive parts of India Nite is its traditional dinner menu, and this year is no exception. Tandoori chicken, vegetable biryani (a popular South Asian rice-based dish with spices and vegetables), rajma (red kidney beans) and paneer (cheese) will be some of the dishes that will stimulate the attendees’ palates that evening. Mango ice cream and raita, a yogurt-based dessert, will top off the night’s feast.

According to an article from The Hindu, one of the main courses, tandoori chicken, dates back to the great Indian feasts of the Moghul period. It is a fiery North Indian recipe, where the chicken is marinated in tandoori masala – a spice mixture of garlic, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric – and yogurt, then slow-roasted in a traditional clay oven – or tandoor – with abundant onions.

“The main purpose of India Nite is to give the Brookings community and students the possibility to enjoy some good Indian food and diverse entertainment, to promote and increase understanding of our culture and traditions,” Bhadra said.

India Nite also offers a chance for the Indian student community to make an impact on campus and show SDSU that they are very happy and proud to be at this institution, Bhadra said.

Aside from the cheerful songs and dances, one of Bhadra’s favorite things about India Nite are the two days before the actual event.

“The food committee gets together to prepare the feast; everybody cooks all through the night. I feel that for those two nights, all of us come together as a community,” she said.

Ali Aijaz, a graduate student from the Punjab region in eastern Pakistan, is in charge of the choreography for one of the Bhangra dances to be included in India Nite 2009. Aijaz said that this traditional dance, shared by both Indian and Pakistani cultures, is usually done during the harvesting season. When the crops are collected, people will get together to celebrate the harvest, dancing to the beat of the dhol – a large ritual drum – in a vivid display of South Asian culture.

Aijaz’s dance troupe has chosen Bollywood and modern Hindi fusion music to accompany their moves on the dance floor on India Nite.

“For the first time, we have some American girls involved in the Bhangra dance … and so far they are doing pretty good,” he said.

Growing involvement from American students is just one affirmation of India Nite’s popularity.

“American students always enjoy seeing new cultures, new performances. Since Brookings is a small town, these events – India Nite, Nepal Nite, among others – are an opportunity for us to offer these performances. India Nite is a really popular event,” Bhadra said.

#1.881808:2177847605.jpg:DSC_0355.1.jpg:Ashan Iqbal, a graduate student in industrial management, practices for part of India Nite’s entertainment.:Pavan Kulkanri