Student Stories

SASA Shares the Love of South Asian Diversity

Every year, UChicago’s South Asian Students Association (SASA) puts on a massive spring cultural show, allowing dozens of actors, singers, and dancers from a variety of student groups to show off their skills to an eager audience. Known for its bright colors, inexhaustible performers, and blend of traditional and modern inspirations, the show routinely sells out Mandel Hall. After the success of this year’s show—the romantic-comedy themed SASA: A Love Story—members of the group’s executive team reflect on their favorite parts of SASA and their plans for the future of the organization:

What I love about SASA is…

“...the community I can rely on for fun, support, and constant learning since Day 1 of my first year....My identity as a South Asian American is one that I kept mainly to the confines of my household, and coming to college to find a community that lets me celebrate and learn more about this identity every day is one of the best things that has happened to me in my time here. This is an experience I’ve found many of my South Asian peers to have, which is why SASA Show is so important to UChicago. It allows a large swath of the campus community to celebrate publicly their culture and showcase aspects of the dynamic, varied nature of South Asian culture.”

Dancers perform in Mandel Hall.

—Anirudh Pennathur, third-year (Co-President)

“...seeing the hard work of everyone involved in the show—the board members, the show and creative directors, the performers, the stage crew, and so many others—be showcased so successfully in front of such an energetic crowd….I’ve also enjoyed interacting with different members of the community and seeing how SASA has evolved in the past few years, beyond just the show. Seeing us get involved with different political causes, donating show proceeds the past two years to RefugeeOne, and as a whole increasing our engagement with the South Asian community and beyond has been a really fulfilling experience and I’m excited to see how SASA will continue to grow.” 

—Shreya Yepuri, third-year (Treasurer) 

The most rewarding part of the SASA show was...

“...working with an amazing group of student dancers from all over the University.  While many people that participate in the show are seasoned veterans...there are so many people that are new to dancing and performance.  To me, seeing this diverse range of my peers come together in a single act, in a single dance, is the most rewarding part of the show....Being just a small contributor to a project that really enriches the lives of everyone involved is something I’ve loved being a part of in college.”

—Meera Dhodapkar, third-year (Secretary) 

The most challenging part was...

“...embarking on a year-long project and feeling so far away from the finish line. In the summer, my co-director and I planned out the theme and storyline.  In the fall we wrote the script and selected our creative directors. In the winter, we filmed, edited, and rehearsed. And in the spring when show week came along, it was truly surreal to witness. The entire SASA community united.”

—Uditi Karna, second-year (Show Director) 

SASA is important to UChicago because...

“The term ‘Asian’...encompasses too much and means too little, often alienating those it is meant to encapsulate. In our community, SASA serves as mechanism to highlight the unique problems that arise in South Asian culture. Reaching far beyond the scope of our annual cultural show, SASA creates a dialogue regarding diasporic South Asian upbringing, cultural heritage, and ongoing struggle to invent a hybrid identity.

Members of SASA pose for a picture in from of bookcases.

“SASA offers an optimistic message of cultural wholeness that is often necessary during college. Being a part of this community makes me so proud of how my experiences are particular to me and continue to address the preservation of cultural identity.”

—Megha Bhattacharya, third-year (Director of Public Relations)

In the future, SASA wants to...

“...increase the number of events that deal with the complexities of South Asia and give students more of an opportunity to raise questions and concerns within our society on campus and globally. 

“As the only South Asian student in my high school class of nearly 700 people, I never really knew what it meant to freely celebrate my Indian culture. Since coming to college and getting involved with SASA, I have met so many like-minded people who have shown me how to not only be proud of my heritage, but also critical.

“This past Spring quarter, we held a forum during which we discussed the horrible rape cases that [occurred] in India in April. It was a powerful discussion that allowed us to grieve, learn, and grow together. We want to continue to host events like these and increase our community outreach efforts.”

Members of the UChicago Raas team perform in Hutchinson Commons.

—Meghana Rao, fourth-year (Co-president) 

Together, SASA is...

“...a tremendous force that should not go unnoticed. It’s this force, this power, that makes me so proud to be a part of the SASA family. I’m so excited for what’s to come.”

—Uditi Karna, second year (Show Director)