Students help out Kerala through traditional performances


Jyothsna Ramesh Kumar, graduate in entomology, performs a bharatanatyam dance during the annual Sanskriti event on Sunday, Sept. 16 from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union put on by the Indian Students’ Association. The event was to raise funds for the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund regarding the recent flooding in Kerala.

Mia Wang

Kerala, a southern state in India, is experiencing flooding that has killed more than 400 people. Members from the Indian Students Association (ISA) at Iowa State are doing their part to help out with the situation.

The ISA’s annual fundraiser concert, Sanskriti, was held Sunday at the Great Hall in the Memorial Union and featured a variety of performances. Sanskriti’s goal is to raise funds and awareness for the most urgent issue of the year, with this year’s funding going toward relief work in Kerala.

In July 2018, the state of Kerala encountered “the worst floods in 100 years,” according to Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Twitter.

The flood has caused more than 400 deaths, left 14 missing and has resulted in at least 1 million residents’ to evacuate, according to reports by The Indian Express

Ahilan Tamilselvan, graduate student in aerospace engineering and vice president of ISA, said almost every city in Kerala is affected by the flood.

“They set up relief camps in the flooded area, but a few days later, those camps were flooded,” Tamilselvan said. “The estimated cost for reconstruction is more than $1.4 billion, so we just want to help our community.”

The event featured traditional Indian dancing and singing performed by Iowa State students and professional performers.

Benjamin Suthakar, junior in management information systems and event coordinator of ISA, said the performances were geared toward older generations due to the older nature of the art forms.

“We really want to show our most traditional culture to the audience,” Suthakar said. “But we don’t want to just ask the most professional people to perform. We want to let our students perform too because we want to [show] our culture through the students.”

Smitha Subbarao, junior in computer science, performed a Carnatic music performance. Subbarao has been learning Carnatic music for 18 years and has won numerous awards in Carnatic music and light vocal music competitions.

Following Subbarao’s music, Jyothsna Ramesh Kumar, graduate student in entomology, performed the classical Indian art form of Bharatanatyam. Since the age of five, Ramesh Kumar has always been interested in learning different styles of dance and expressing herself through innovative choreography.

For the rest of the evening, students performed various dance and vocal arts, including Hindustani and Mohiniyattam.

Roshan Kulkarni, graduate student in agronomy, said it’s rare to see the original art form performed in the U.S., and that it represents a sense of authentic culture.

“Those performances have not been practiced by many people, and they are kind of dying,” Kulkarni said. “To me, those performances are the real Indian culture compared to the modern Bollywood music and dance.”

Kulkarni invited two of his friends to attend the concert: a Pakistan student and a Taiwanese-American student.

“Tonight’s event is the true spread of the culture, and it’s for a good cause,” Kulkarni said. “I want to introduce Indian culture to as many people as possible and we can also help out the community.”