By Maleesa Johnson
Waco Hall is being transformed at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with a burst of colors, flavors, and music as the Indian Subcontinent Student Association hosts its 18th annual Gateway to India, featuring a culture show and the fifth annual Taste of India.
The Indian subcontinent is home to a unique culture. ISSA acknowledges this and presents this way of life to anyone who might attend Gateway to India. This event is their largest production of the year and will feature dances, fashion, dramatic performances, a flag ceremony, food and more. Spring junior Sharmin Maredia, serving as chair for the event, said she compares the workload in planning the event to the effort put toward All-University Sing.
“We have been preparing for this event since October,” Maredia said. “We went from having two to three meetings a week to now two to three meetings a day.”
Like Sing, the Gateway to India culture show is a competition. Multiple groups will compete against each other. Judges watch performances and award marks based on the presentation of culture and overall technicality.
For ISSA, a main goal of the event is not to win the competition, rather, the group is primarily focused on raising money for its main philanthropy Developments in Literacy, Tulsa, Okla., sophomore Parth Bhakta said. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1997, seeks to eradicate illiteracy in Pakistan. During intermission at Gateway to India, there will be an opportunity to support the cause through donations. The money donated will be used to buy school supplies, train teachers and build or repair schools in Pakistan.
“All the money we raise goes to DIL,” Bhakta said. “Our goal for this event is to raise around $1,500.”
The Indian Subcontinent represents eight countries: India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Of these eight countries, the ISSA has members with heritage from four. These members will carry the flag of their ancestor’s country in the flag ceremony during Gateway to India. Senior members will carry the other four flags.
“It’s really cool because most of the people who will participate were born in America,” Bhakta said. “Gateway to India gives them a chance to go back to their roots and share it with others.”
Following the cultural show, there will be an opportunity to sample foreign foods at Taste of India. Previously ISSA had to purchase Indian food from Austin or Dallas, but for the first time food will be from a local restaurant, Al Miraj located on Franklin Avenue.
Originally, the event was smaller and took place in the Barfield Drawing Room. Now the event is held in Waco Hall and has almost 1,500 people in attendance.
Sugar Land senior Florence Francis, vice president of ISSA, also serving as chair for Gateway to India, said it is exciting the event is in Waco Hall.
“We had very humble beginnings,” Francis said. “The fact that we are in Waco Hall now shows that Baylor is open to diversity.”
People of all ages and background are invited to attend Gateway to India. The cultural show will end at 8:30 p.m. and is followed by Taste of India.
“It’s free, which is always great for college students, and family-friendly,” Francis said. “Waco Hall is transformed with decorations and music. You get to see the fashion and humor of this culture.”