Saris and kurtas

Setting aside school rivalries, the College’s South Asian Students Association (SASA) and Northwestern University’s chapter came together this past Saturday to celebrate a joyful occasion: a wedding. A U of C “bride” married a Northwestern “groom” in a mock ceremony incorporating South Asian cultures and religions including Muslim, Sikh, Hindi, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi.

Like many weddings, it required months of planning. Preparations began last March, said second-year Prerna Kumar, SASA’s events cochair, as students dressed in traditional Indian garb—females in lengha, salwar kameez, and saris; males in kurtas—filed past her into the Shoreland ballroom. “We took [the idea] from Columbia and NYU,” Kumar said. The event was conceived as a way “to get students on campus to come out and have a good time,” she said, as well as “to educate people about South Asian culture—even teach Indians about their own culture.”

A key component was choosing a bride, whom the SASA board picked based on who answered the written application questions “in the cleverest, funniest, most creative way,” Kumar said. The honor went to second-year Aasha Barot. She “had a cute list,” Kumar said. “She wrote her answers as if she were really getting married.” Barot was decked out in red and pink, which “symbolize sunrise,” said third-year Yesha Sutaria, “the start of a new life.”

Organizers scattered rose petals on the round reception tables and on the stage, where a mandap, an Indian bridal canopy, squatted. “We built it from scratch,” Kumar said, in about six hours the previous day. During the ten-minute ceremony, “wedding photographers” snapped pictures of the couple performing rituals. SASA members sprinkled them with rose water, a ritual purification, as they entered (a Tamil Nadu custom). Female students—in a real wedding, saat suhagins, or seven happily married women—ground sugar cubes over their heads to ensure a sweet life together (Muslim). They exchanged garlands (Hindi and Sikh), and their “families” blessed them by placing placed blades of grass and grains of rice on their heads (Bengali). The remainder of the afternoon featured Indian dances by U of C students, a performance by a Northwestern Indian a cappella group, toasts to the bride and groom, and a meal from Viceroy.

Hana Yoo, ’07

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Photos (left to right): The groom awaits his bride; rose petals decorate the tables; the a capella group entertains.

October 21, 2005