For any student interested in South Asian culture, Plattsburgh State’s South Asian Student Association is back and active from its brief hiatus.
Last spring, SASA was inactive as a Student Association club. SA Vice President of Marketing and Communications Smit Pujara is the club’s student adviser. Pujara said SASA didn’t have enough members to fulfill the four e-board positions, and there were fewer students from the South Asian countries the club wanted to represent.
But sophomore biological science major Yashiv Dhir was a member of SASA before the inactivation. Dhir said she and Pujara went back and forth about whether to bring the club back for a long time.
“I really wanted to bring SASA back,” Dhir said. “We came to the point where we were like, ‘Let’s just do it.’”
Halfway through this semester, Dhir and Pujara were able to round-up enough people interested and fill positions on the e-board, where Dhir became SASA’s president.
Freshman international business major Naomi Tegybelu was asked to oversee public relations for SASA. Since then, Tegybelu said she and Dhir became very close friends.
Dhir said during the e-board meeting, everyone was in agreement.
“There was no conflict,” Dhir said. “Everybody already knew what they wanted to do.”
SASA aims to represent all eight countries that form South Asia: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Tegybelu said even though India makes up a large portion of South Asia, SASA tries to accommodate for each country and culture.
“India has a lot of content,” Tegybelu said about how she has created posters for the club. “It dominates my searches.”
Dhir also said SASA does its best to cover a variety of cultures and topics that focus on the positive aspects of the region, like popular travel destinations and dating culture in South Asia.
“Whenever we make posters or quizzes, we [try] to include everything,” Dhir said.
Tegybelu is also a member on the SA’s Clubs and Organizations Affairs Board. Because SASA was inactive for less than three semesters, she said the club didn’t have to be reapproved by the SA Senate.
Both Dhir and Tegybelu said SASA’s first general meeting from its return completely filled its meeting room in the Angell College Center, a gathering of about 20 people.
“I had to like sit on my back on the floor,” Tegybelu said. “There were a lot of people interested, more than I expected.”
During that meeting and the ones that followed, Tegybelu thought the club succeeded in creating a safe space for students not only from South Asian countries but also all over the world.
“In our meetings, we had people from Egypt, Ghana, Ireland, the U.S. [and] a lot of places,” Tegybelu said.
Dhir said she and Tegybelu learned more about the similarities between each other’s cultures through SASA, Dhir being from India and Tegybelu being from Ethiopia.
“Everybody tells their own story,” Dhir said. “We came to the point that even in Ethiopia, some of the things are the same as in South Asia.”
In the past, SASA participated in small performances, like the annual Night of Nations, and co-sponsored events with other culture clubs, like Holi with Tiranga United. As the club begins to get back on its feet, it plans to host a “dance and de-stress” event for anyone interested to eat food, dance and relax before a stressful finals week.
Tegybelu said being a part of SASA was how she met most of her close friends.
“It was kind of a way to connect with them,” Tegybelu said. “There are a lot of relatable things between our cultures.”
Sophomore computer science major Mann Dedhia said SASA is open to everyone.
“[Before SASA], there was no club especially for South Asians,” Dedhia said. “You get to know more people around the campus who have similar cultures. We just have a fun time with each other.”
As the semester winds down, SASA will continue its weekly meetings next semester Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Meeting Room 7 of the ACC.
Dhir thinks SASA and its members will continue to thrive as more students from South Asia come to Plattsburgh.
“They were so excited that we were opening this club,” Dhir said. “South Asia is too big. SASA should be here.”