Gateway to India brings South Asia to Baylor

Performers dance at last year's Gateway to India celebration. This year's showcase takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Waco Hall. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

This year marks the Indian Subcontinent Student Association’s 21st annual Gateway to India celebration, a music, fashion and dance event showcasing all the vibrancy of South Asian culture. The free event will start at 6 p.m. Saturday in Waco Hall, followed directly by the eighth annual Taste of India festival where ISSA will serve free Indian food.

Gateway to India has been ISSA’s biggest event of the year since the organization started hosting it 21 years ago. It has grown from a simple showcase to a full-blown competition and opportunity to truly showcase the talents, customs and culture of Baylor students.

“It started off as a bunch of Baylor students who were still really intact with their roots,” said Frisco sophomore Sabah Janmohammad, who is a culture co-chair for ISSA. “They did classical dances and played classical instruments and stuff. Now it’s turned into a competition with acts from outside of Baylor, and judges give out awards.”

Schools from all over Texas, including The University of Texas San Antonio, Texas A&M University, the University of Texas and the University of Houston, are sending teams to perform in the dance competition.

Members will also get to show off their most beautiful Indian clothes in a fashion show, which follows a special guest performance by popular Indian artist Jai Matt.

“He’s an up-and-coming artist,” said Hurst senior Anokhi Patel, a culture co-chair for ISSA and organizer for the Gateway to India event. “He’s a really great performer. I think he is really going to be able to entertain the crowd and get them excited and pumped up.”

ISSA is trying to showcase the full breadth of cultural diversity within the association at this year’s event and has put together a short documentary that will play between Jai Matt’s performance and the fashion show.

“I’m really excited about this documentary, because I think it’s a different outlook on what we do as an organization, why we’re so close, and why we want people to be a part of our events,” Patel said. “Some people might think that we’re just a bunch of Indians in one student organization, but there’s a lot of diversity in our organization.”

This event is also where ISSA presents the funds that its members have raised for its philanthropy, Developments in Literacy, which helps young girls in Pakistan and India get better educations.

“In countries like those where men are given more importance, women are neglected on the education side,” Janmohammad said. “This place provides books and pencils so they can go to school and learn to read and learn to write.”

Patel said ISSA is hoping to see more Baylor students at the event this year. ISSA has already made its Holi Festival a campus-wide event, and Patel said more non-ISSA members attended than members.

“We had a great turnout, and it was great to share that experience,” Patel said. “We’re trying to take it a step further and get people to come to Gateway to India.”

Patel said the event has been in production since the summer and has only come together with help from the Baylor Activities Council and funding from Baylor’s Department of Multicultural Affairs and student government.

“I’m really excited about it,” Janmohammad said. “I just can’t wait, because we put so much hard work and time and effort into it. I just can’t wait to see how it turns out and how everyone in the audience likes it.”