Brandeis University’s South Asian Student Association (SASA) hosted a phenomenal cultural show that highlighted the diversity of South Asian culture through dance, song, presentations and food. Set against a colorfully painted set, the show was presented for the first time in two years. The hilarious MCs played well off each other, amusing the crowd throughout the night. As a guest said about Siddhant Moily, one of the emcees, “Sid is enigmatic and hilarious, his charisma and chemistry with the other emcees is off the charts.”

The night opened with a poignant video about different interpretations of the theme Saktiya, a Sinhalese "locution which stands for strength and self-growth," per a SASA Oct. 5 Instagram post. Strength across the South Asian diaspora can be reflected in the struggles of first generation immigrants and their children’s struggles to find acceptance in lands that do not always welcome them. Harleen Singh (WGS), professor and founder of the South Asian studies department at Brandeis, gave a thought-provoking speech on the history of the department as well as the fluid meanings of the Hindi words Saktiya and MELA. She explained that a MELA is a fair, a showcase of sorts, and this year, SASA was showing off Saktiya, or the strength of South Asian identity.

Additionally, during MELA, there was a presentation on the charity the show was fundraising for, Women for Women Afghanistan, a non-profit with a mission to empower female survivors of war. The Afghanistan branch provides women with emergency aid, and is currently working on securing visas, phones, cash and other resources for the refugees. Additionally, the charity is very reputable, with a 96% fund transparency rating. Readers can find more information and donate at: gclid=CjwKCAiAp8iMBhAqEiwAJb94z0niIDX8XKqTq9D81rBtdMb28bm6d1J83HAUyc11z3r4pMBG8mFDZxoCaXYQAvD_BwE

 There were many musical performances throughout the night, highlighting the diversity of cultures in South Asia. Three singers performed a mashup of songs in Bangla (the main language of Bangladesh), Urdu (the main language of Pakistan) and Hindi (the national language of India) in a call for unity among the politically divided subcontinent resulting from when partition, the division of British India into the states of India and Pakistan was imposed.  

Additionally, there was a beautiful song performed by graduate students of the Heller School of Social Policy and Management from Myanmar. The performers were clothed in mesmerizing cultural garments and sang of hopes of a better future for Myanmar. Additionally, a guitarist and a vocalist performed two songs that featured warm, whole vocals with pleasant guitar melodies. The last vocal performance was from Boston University’s premier South Asian a capella group, Suno, which first featured a slow jam with building vocals and then a strong song with beautiful singing and creative sound effects.

Then came the fashion show, which was incredibly entertaining and insightful. It showcased garments on numerous individuals from a wide variety of South Asian cultures. There was a combination of traditional and modern garments, as well as a variety of silhouettes. It was truly a magnificent experience, and everyone participating seemed to have as much fun as the audience. In addition, there was then an act that was a combination of magic and stand-up, a creative combination that left the audience quite amused. 

Throughout the night there were also numerous dance performances: one from each class year as well as a few from Brandeis’ different South Asian dance teams. The first-year class dance was exciting, using popular Bollywood songs and fun choreography to make an exciting dance routine. The sophomore dance was equally entertaining, and highlighted the diversity of South Asian culture by performing intricate choreography to songs in multiple languages. Additionally, Chak De presented a beautiful piece featuring solos from their dance captains on navigating mental health and social anxiety during the pandemic. 

After a brief intermission, a wildly delightful junior class dance was performed to a variety of entertaining music. The senior class dance was an epic closeout and finale for those graduating, performed to fusions of Western and South Asian songs. The presidents of SASA gave a speech paying homage to previous classes that did not get to celebrate MELA, and another speech about this year’s theme. The night concluded with a buffet dinner where attendees could try a variety of delicious South Asian foods.

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Chak De performed a theatrical dance performance about friendships during COVID-19.

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A soloist danced on top of a brass plate as part of the Classical Dance that opened up the show.

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Neh Me, Neh Meh, Sung Chin Par, Phyu Phyu and Rose Min sang a traditional Burmese song.

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Three "MELA" performers address the audience. 

 —Editor's Note: Inaccuracies in this article were corrected in collaboration with members of SASA on April 6, 2022.