By Rachel Royster | News Editor
This Saturday, the Indian Subcontinent Student Association (ISSA) will present its 25th annual Gateway to India, showcasing styles of dance and art within Indian culture at 5:30 p.m. at Waco Hall.
Last year, ISSA won the Baylor Activities Council Program of the Year Award for its Gateway to India event even through the pandemic.
San Ramon, Calif., junior and co-chair of Gateway to India Ritz Battula said the challenges that ISSA faced through COVID-19 led them to grow as an organization.
“While the 25th Gateway to India is a milestone occasion for ISSA, it is especially exciting after coming out of a pandemic,” Battula said. “The challenges we faced over the last two years have led us to be more appreciative of our opportunities, big or small, and this year, we have the opportunity to share our culture and love for dance with the first full-scale Gateway to India following the pandemic.”
Plano senior and head liaison of Gateway to India Ritu Bhatt said the 25th year of the event has been long-awaited in ISSA.
“It shows the history that has taken place here at Baylor, with ISSA showcasing this culture for so long,” Bhatt said. “I was on the board to host the 25th annual GTI my sophomore year, but due to the pandemic, it got canceled. But here we are on the cusp of an event bigger and better than my team and I could have ever imagined. We are so ecstatic to see all the teams perform and make the night incredibly special.”
To make the night especially momentous, ISSA will be donating $3,000 to its philanthropy: Developments in Literacy. Developments in Literacy is an international group that works to provide low-cost, high-quality education to children in Pakistan. Its website said it is in the process of educating 28,000 children in over 130 schools.
“Today our students work in fields as diverse as medicine, engineering and public service, charting the future of their country,” the website reads. “We believe that no child in Pakistan, no matter how poor or underprivileged, should be denied access to quality education. All children should have equal opportunity to realize their full potential and contribute toward the socioeconomic betterment of their communities.”
Bhatt said ISSA giving this significant financial support to Developments in Literacy makes the event ever more special.
“It is emotional to think about the years of work and memories that took place in Baylor ISSA history for us to be able to put on this event in 2022,” Bhatt said. “It is a very magnificent show filled with dances, music, food and more, and getting to showcase Indian culture at 25 of these events is such an honor. It is so beautiful to see all this time and care go into a wonderful cause.”
Battula said audience members attending the free event can expect to see a fashion show highlighting Indian clothing, competitive dance teams from across the state, exhibition performances and a few surprise performances.
Battula also said Gateway to India is important because as a minority at Baylor, many members of ISSA feel underrepresented on campus.
“Although ISSA has always been dedicated to showcasing our culture, Gateway to India is the perfect event and environment for people of different backgrounds and cultures to learn about ours in a fun and intriguing way,” Battula said. “Dance is a language that everyone understands, and allowing different teams to share their stories with strangers in the audience showcases exactly how our culture is meant to be shared and learned from.”
“For those who have not attended Gateway to India before, it will be a rollercoaster of a night,” Bhatt said. “I remember my heart beating so fast watching teams do their performances with all their might. Teams work all year long to perfectly curate a set with a storyline, lighting, music and dances meant to steal your heart. We are so thankful and grateful to have some incredible performers this year, and you can bet every audience member is going to be blown away by the various styles of dance and art within Indian culture.”