November 07, 2017, BY Beth Kaszuba

Bucknell students, faculty and staff dancing.
Bucknell community members dance at the South Asian Student Association dinner. Photo by Reid Sanchez '18

Only a handful of students actually knew the steps. But what the rest of the participants lacked in experience, they made up for in enthusiasm.

On Sunday, Oct. 29, an eager crowd of Bucknell students, faculty, staff and friends rushed a small stage in Larison Hall to take part in a Bollywood-inspired, flash-mob-style dance, as part of the South Asian Student Association's (SASA) 46th annual dinner.

The celebration of South Asian cultures is the oldest student-run event on campus, according to SASA president Deepali Koneru '18, who majors in biology. Originally called the Pakistan-India Association, the group was founded by Professor Balwant Singh, management, and his wife, Bimla, who initially cooked all the food for as many as 200 diners. Today, the dinner, while venerable, remains vibrant.

Along with piling plates full of saag paneer, lamb curry and chana masala, provided this year by the India Pavilion restaurant in State College, Pa., participants enjoyed songs and dances by student performers. The musical numbers — some lively and some soulful — were interspersed with historically significant stories from the eight represented nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Members of the South Asian Student Association help to serve food at the student-organized dinner. Photo by Reid Sanchez ‘18

"Our theme this year was legends and folklore," Koneru said. "We wanted to share the history and stories of South Asia and have fun at the same time."

She added that, although the dining hall seats 250, the event almost always sells out. "We've had to turn people away, which is sad, but wonderful at the same time," Koneru noted, joking, "The food is the highlight for most people."

Perhaps so, but the announcement of the audience-participation dance was greeted with cheers and a scramble to join the fun.

"The whole thing, from beginning to end, is organized by students," said Professor Meenakshi PonnuswamiEnglish, SASA adviser, who dished up the evening's popular dessert, gulab jamun, or milk balls in a sugary syrup. "They arrange everything, from scratch."