India’s diverse culture celebrated with local performers


Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Rangoli is an art form that is often made inside homes for good luck.

Being born into a musician’s family in India, graduate student Madhyami Deshmukh found her passion playing the Sitar at a young age. While plucking the strings of this traditional instrument, she feels transported to a different realm.

“It defines me. It speaks volumes,” Madhyami said. “It pretty much describes who I am and my family background.”

Deshmukh’s talents and India’s diverse culture will be celebrated through the India Cultural Association (ICA). For the first time, they will be hosting a mela — an Indian fair — at The Plex. Any community member can attend this walk-in event anytime from 2 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 28.

“I prefer to be [at the venue] two or three hours prior to the performance [to] get a feel of where I’m performing, feel alive,” Deshmukh said.

Madhyami will be performing a 15-minute Indian classical piece. After, she will display the instrument and explain how it is played.

Eleven booths will be set up throughout The Plex, with each vendor displaying their individual skills. Rangoli, an Indian decorative art made from flour on the floor, will be an interactive booth. Henna, traditional dance and food will also be a part of the event.

“Guests can talk to the people at the booth, and they can know more about that particular thing they are interested in,” said Manu Agnihotri, president of ICA executive committee. “That one-on-one interaction helps greatly.”

Agnihotri joined the ICA after moving from Dallas. In the city, her two daughters and husband were surrounded by their Indian culture. She was worried they would not have this same exposure in a smaller town.

“I am so proud of our rich Indian heritage,” Agnihotri said. “[The ICA] does all these cultural related things, and kids who are growing up here sometimes need that affirmation from their peers. If they see kids their own age from their origin doing the same things, it impacts them more.”

Neha Mehrotra, associate teaching professor in the College of Design, will have a booth displaying India architecture. This will include buildings from today as well as ancient buildings.

Mehrotra will also be leading middle school and high school students with making bookmarks with Indian calligraphy.

“I think it’s very important to learn about culture and art,” Mehrotra said. “There are a lot of resources online, but to be able to experience this in person is important. It’s a way of keeping the culture I grew up with alive.”