SASA hosts 50th annual SASA Dinner

Dora Kreitzer, Staff Writer

In an evening of laughter, singing, dancing and food, the University’s South Asian Student Association (SASA) held its 50th SASA Dinner on Nov. 6. 

Tickets sold out in the days leading up to the event and some were held for RAs using the event as hall programming; Larison Dining Hall was completely packed with students, staff, families and alumni. 

While SASA Dinner is now largely student organized, it originated with Dr. Balwant Singh, the first South Asian professor to teach at the University. He and his family used to cook all of the food themselves, for about 200-250 people. Over time, SASA Dinner has become a way for students to not only share their food with other students but also a chance for the school’s South Asian community to showcase their culture and talents. 

“The fact that we were working together as a team, for this 50th SASA Dinner, that was crazy to me. It was amazing to work with everyone, because it really did feel like we were a community, like a little family,” Sagota Purkaystha ’24 said, a member and choreographer of SASA.

The SASA Executive Board began planning for this year’s dinner at the very beginning of the school year. Not only did they call on members to help with performances and planning, but they also collaborated with numerous other organizations on campus such as the Office of Residential Education, Multicultural Student Services, International Student Services and the CAP Center. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary and SASA dinner coinciding with Diwali, the theme of this year’s dinner was “celebrations.”

“Diwali is one of the largest festivals in the Indian subcontinent and is a source of wonderful memories for both the young and old, and it got us thinking: because it is the 50th anniversary of the SASA Dinner and it was happening at such an opportune time like Diwali, why not make the theme of this year’s dinner about celebrations in South Asia while also giving it a little twist?” said Sherab Dorji ’22, SASA Vice President.

As attendees entered, they were offered tika, a dot of red vermillion powder signifying purity of faith and devotion. Larison was decorated with the flags of various South Asian countries, a flower wall and lots of red and gold decorations. The opening and transitional skit, featuring Amisha Chhetri ’22, Ansh Khurana ’23, Jay KC ’23, Shishir Katta ’23 and Dorji, took place in the future, following their memories and recollections of the 50th SASA Dinner. Throughout the night, they highlighted numerous South Asian holidays, including Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Losar, Shabe Yalda and Navaratri. 

The evening opened with a song by Dorji and Nishant Shrestha ‘23, poetry performed by Amin Danesh ’24, henna and dances, not only by SASA members, but also a dance by the Bisonettes. After performing a dance they choreographed, Purkaystha and Puja Velani ’24 taught eager volunteers, many more than anticipated, a few simple steps of their choreography. 

“I really liked how engaged everyone one was. I had to stand on a chair so that people could see me while teaching the volunteers a dance. It was fun to see how happy everyone was. This was the first SASA dinner we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I was really excited to be involved,” Velani said.

After the dance lesson, dinner was served. This year food was prepared by University Dining, and included mutter paneer, chicken tikka masala and naan. Gulab jamun was served for dessert, and mango lassi to drink.  

Following dinner, SASA members performed separate girls’ and boys’ dances, a couple dance, a song performed by Shrawak Lama ’22 and Shrestha and concluded with a co-ed dance. 

“It was stressful but fun, and so at the end, when everything went basically the way we wanted it to go for the most part, it was really rewarding because not only did people at the dinner have fun watching us perform, but also we had fun as members performing for everyone and with others,” Purkaystha said.

“It was a lot of hard work. It was very cumulative- it did not just happen overnight. The preparation that we had to go through in order to pull it off and the amount of effort that it took proved how important it was to the upperclassmen that had already done SASA Dinner in years past. It allowed me as an underclassmen to recognize the value that it had for people in the club,” Anisha Moran ’25, a SASA member, said.

SASA Dinner is an important cultural event, not only for attendees who get to learn about and participate in South Asian culture, but also for the members who built close bonds in the process and are able to embrace their cultures on campus. 

“While I acknowledge that Bucknell is making an effort to be more inclusive and diverse, like every other PWI, it still lacks safe spaces for many of its minority groups to safely express themselves. This is where SASA and the other cultural affinity groups come in. We provide an enclave for many of our South Asian students where they can connect with people who share similar lived experiences and thus keep in touch with their South Asian heritage. Also, through the events that we host, we strive towards engaging our members and the campus at whole with South Asia’s rich and vibrant cultures as well as the issues that affect South Asian communities, diasporas and the region as a whole so that the social dialogue of our school is diversified,” Dorji said.

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