Students flock into buildings on campus at Montclair State University to take part in group activities, hoping to find some new things to do in their spare time.
However, the meetings and activities of the Indian Culture Club are about more than just getting involved and trying new things. This club is a focal point for all the good qualities of Indian culture on campus.
“It allows me to share my culture with the Montclair State community by hosting events,” Krupa Vekaria, the club’s event coordinator, said. “I also enjoy interacting with other organizations and meeting new people, which the club has allowed me to do so. It amazes me how students from all cultural backgrounds come out to our general meetings and events like the Diwali Show in support of the club or just come by to see what we are all about.”
The Indian Culture Club attempts to spread awareness of their culture through fundraisers, organized events and, most importantly, dance.
The dance team captain, Maithili Patel, who is also trained in Indian classical dance outside of school, says the team has gone off campus to perform. This also makes others aware of the Indian culture.
“It’s a lot of fun because it’s not just me, the captain, choreographing and teaching. I also get interest from the team members,” Maithili Patel said. “So, where they give me ideas to switch up moves, it’s a lot of teamwork. I get exposed to a lot of dance styles.”
A variety of Indian dances are practiced by the team during their rehearsals every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 10 p.m.
“There are people from different regions of India and each region has different dance forms and different dance moves as well,” she added. “So basically, it’s not sticking to one, it’s like mixing them together.”
Some of the many different Indian classical dancing moves and routines include Punjab in the northern part of India called Bhangra, Gujarat in the western part of India, which is called Garba, and belly dancing, a Middle Eastern influence in the dance culture.
Dance events are the major component of how the club spreads awareness of their culture. They also go to other schools such as Seton Hall University, Rutgers University and William Paterson University to perform their styles of Indian classical dancing and performances.
President Puja Patel says the club gives members a chance to experience things about Indian culture that you don’t come across in everyday life.
“The thing about the Indian Culture Club is that you get to experience something new, something different, especially in a very diverse school, such as food, dances and culture,” Patel said.
Meeting with other organizations is another part of the club that stands out as a favorite feature to Puja Patel and the others, adding that people of other organizations come to their meetings to learn about them and vice versa.
The group does different things every Wednesday at their 2:30 p.m. general meetings, such as learning about freedom fighters and inspirational figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Kunwar Singh one week and the following week, naming the wonders of India and talking about the different architectural designs in India.
Overall, they try to incorporate their culture into activities every time they meet. This allows everybody to learn something new from other people they encounter, which Puja Patel describes as a “big culture mix.”
Other members of the board include Vice President Karla Vazquez, Treasurer Megha Patel, Secretary Rupa Mitra, public relations Kaide Udit and historian Anjali Agarwal.
Some of the activities the Indian Culture Club takes part in aren’t just cultural events, but events where people can join in, and Puja Patel adds that the many things they do are what people can relate to. They also teach differences that exist in the culture.
There are no restrictions within the culture nor the club; the officers of the Indian Culture Club want to be able to share their culture with everyone in the campus community.
“[Our goal] is to show our culture and show what we do here at Montclair [State},” Puja Patel said. “We do the same thing every single day. It’s just that people don’t know what it is—we try to educate as well.”
For example, in a meeting on Wednesday, March 15, club officers and members made mint-dollars with sheets of paper, glue and glitter.
Puja Patel emphasized the importance of “the interactive activities we do.” She continued, “They learn about it and want to do what we do. This is something in here right now that we are doing, but we get to enjoy doing these things. It’s kind of a stress-relief.”
Spreading awareness of their culture doesn’t just happen. The club has also traveled to other colleges in past months, sharing some of the good things in Indian culture.
The club also takes part in bake sales on campus, but instead of ordinary bake sales, they sell Indian food.
“Since this is a big commuter school, not many students know the Indian Culture Club exists,” Puja Patel said. “So, we try to do things during common hours, where there are so many people who want to stand there and be like, ‘Wait, there is an Indian Culture Club here serving food,’ so they can come out to our next event.”