Music and the sounds of jangling, tintinnabulating trinkets tiptoed outside Crawford Hall, inviting students to gather around circular wooden tables and create pieces of gold and silver jewelry.
These included earrings, bangles, necklaces and payal, otherwise known as anklets. Drew University South Asian Student Association’s first event on Sept. 20, from 4:30p.m. to 7p.m. saw dozens of students in line for a refreshing cup of mango lassi, pani puri (also known as gol gappe) and loaded tikka fries. Despite the crowd, everyone was able to enjoy trying new activities, making friends, building community and learning more about the South Asian Student Association.
“It was heartwarming to see people from all across the university come together to experience the joy of Southeast Asian art and food,” explained Stella Contente (‘27). “While I personally attended for the opportunity to be creative, and for the pani puri, it is imperative to Drew’s community to organize and support such events as to promote and celebrate cultural pluralism.”
“I feel it was really engaging and an amazing way for friends to connect with one another,” said another student, Vedant Maheshwari (‘27).
The association focuses on educating the campus about South Asian culture through gatherings, discussions, co-sponsorships and events centered on, but not limited to, practices, achievements and the arts of seven regional countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“For many of us, growing up immersed in Western media and pop culture, we were drawn to costume jewelry that resembled silver accessories, favoring simplicity with single gemstones over intricate gold designs and opting for lightweight drop earrings instead of heavy jhumkas. This culturally ambiguous style felt modern and chic, in contrast to traditional gold jewelry, which we perceived as old-fashioned and reserved for cultural or religious settings,” explained the Association’s president, Christine Joseph.
“We wanted to bring a piece of all of this heritage to Drew’s campus, as it represents the untold stories of so many of us. It is hard to represent all of the diverse cultures of South Asia, but this is something that ties us together,” Joseph said. As Drew students created their jewelry pieces, they were introduced to an activity that connects individuals to South Asian culture.
The South Asian Student Association plans to hold more events during the school year, such as their Dandiya/Garba, a traditional form of dance originating from Gujarat, India that is often performed during the festival of Navaratri. They will also be partnering with the Asian Student Union in the spring to host their Make Chai Not War event and hosting an event for Diwali, the festival of lights. Anyone can attend the organization’s events, so be on the lookout for more to come.
Jodi Velez is a first-year majoring in media and communications and minoring in creative writing.