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u'Bhangra dancers perform during the South Asian Student Association\u2019s Heritage Dinner Jan. 22. Photo by Daniel Berman/The AS Review'

Kelly Sullivan/The AS Review

The South Asian Student Association’s Annual Heritage Dinner, held on Jan. 22, drew approximately 150 Western students and Bellingham community members into the Viking Union Multipurpose Room for an energetic night of traditional South Asian dances and cuisine.

Jayasri Ghosh, keynote speaker at the event, said she was very encouraged by the evening. She explained that it is a struggle to be a part of two cultures, and events such as the SASA dinner help bridge the gap.

Students not dressed in cultural attire wore suits or formal dresses. Everyone sat and ate dinner together at finely set tables lining the large room. During the first half of the event, guests were entertained by poetry about cross-cultural experiences, written by SASA members like Saraswati Noel and SASA President Jibran Ahmed.

The evening’s Bhangra performances had the entire audience vibrating with celebratory energy. Four teams from around the Pacific Northwest stomped and twirled to bass-infused traditional Indian folk music. Sodexo catered the dinner. The recipes used to create the dishes were provided  and taste-tested by the students, Dining Services Director of Catering Tim Bartunek said.

“Roots are Borderless” was the theme of the evening. Ahmed, who came up with the theme, said the idea applies to South Asia as a whole, which generally includes Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma. Secondly, it applies to living in a technologically advanced society where anyone may experience and interact with cultures from around the world.

Ahmed explained the club has had its ups and downs in the last five years. When he first joined last year, the focus of SASA’s previous president was on building more student involvement and creating harmony between existing members. This year is aimed at establishing SASA’s presence on Western’s campus and in the greater Bellingham community.

“We wanted to put on an event that showcased us as a group,” Ahmed said. SASA usually has smaller events, such as hosting potlucks at members’ homes or attending an event on campus together, he said. His goal is to have another smaller event on campus spring quarter.

SASA meets weekly on Wednesdays in the VU room 464. Lovee K. Johal, the association’s event coordinator, said she was very shocked and pleased with the number of people at the dinner.

“I was hoping for a lot, and I got what I wanted,” Johal said.

Since SASA isn’t the most well-known club on campus she didn’t know how big the turnout would be, she said. The club has been planning and fundraising for the event since the beginning of fall quarter.

“Our greatest strength is that we are so close,” Johal said. She said the strong membership SASA has established in the past year has allowed the group to focus on spreading awareness around campus and act as a safe place for students.