A Look into Baylor Taal and Gateway to India 2021
With great effort and dedication, the production of Baylor’s largest South Asian event of the year, Gateway to India 2021, is finally taking place on March 27th, 2021. Maintaining careful consideration of COVID-19 protocols, Baylor’s Indian Subcontinent Student Association outstandingly managed to preserve tradition and throw an unprecedented, mask-mandated event for the university’s South Asian community and students. As illustrated in my most previous article, the prevailing commitment of every student in Baylor’s South Asian organizations signal promising expansion and progression for the community. More significantly, the numbers and size of each organization never served as an issue for the South Asian Organizations. In fact, what prompted their predominance was their focus on foundational togetherness and support.
For example, in the creative standpoint, Baylor Taal, our South Asian dance team supports many young women and men following their love of dance and the South Asian culture. Although this is the only South Asian dance team at Baylor, personally, I believe this increases the united strength among the community by providing more support in the community rather than competition.
After speaking with Taal’s president, Shachi Deshmukh, who helped revive the collegiate team, it was clear to see how much dedication it took to grow the team into what it is today. After working diligently together through choreographing, choosing music, finding costumes, and managing social media” the revival group and the newly built team qualified to perform at Baylor’s 2018 Gateway to India for the first time since 2016. Throughout the past two years, the team managed to grow tremendously by participating and entering multiple competitions across the country, including one at University of Alabama last year. With the help of fellow South Asian alums and students, Shachi created and witnessed a remarkable growth from a “team with limited resources into a team that has more people, resources, talent, and ideas.” Identifying with many other students at Baylor, Sachi believed there “used to be a disconnect in the South Asian community” as multiple organizations operated independently from one another. However, as the team flourished with strength, many of Taal’s members efficiently collaborated with ISSA and developed close relationships with K phi G and Depsi.
With this growth, current members and students, like Mili Vazirani, view this team as an “opportunity to engage with [their] culture” and meet others going through similar situations. When Mili first entered Baylor, she felt like she was “disconcerted and…neglecting [her] culture” because of the climate she was surrounded by “with little to no South Asian representation.” Though after joining Taal, Mili began to feel a sense of home and form strong bonds with her current teammates. Apart from the community, Taal served as a place where she was given the opportunity to learn more varieties of Indian dance styles and cultures helping her “appreciate [her] own background and stand up for” something she neglected at first.
Joining forces with Depsi, KphiG, Baylor’s Indian Subcontinent Student Association supports Baylor Taal by organizing the largest event for Baylor’s South Asian community, Gateway to India; an annual dance competition and culture show highlighting performances from other national and state collegiate teams along with Baylor Taal. This unique event presents exhibition acts showcasing their individual and group ties to South Asian backgrounds. Ritz Battula and Caleb Eliazer, the co-leaders of this event, exemplify the dedication and commitment that characterizes our south asian community as they have already begun planning and anticipating the annual event taking place on Baylor’s campus. Ritz, and many other South Asians, see this event as “a way to showcase our culture and bond as a greater community through a night of meaningful realignment to a greater and thriving culture that lives on in our generation despite growing distance from being “fully” indian”. Additionally, this event brings our South Asian organizations together, such as Depsi and KphiG, to promote our community, traditions, and culture.
Without the tremendous student collaboration and leadership, this show and team would fail to illustrate the true traits of devotion and pride that exist within Baylor’s South Asian community.
Credits and Special Thanks to:
Shachi Deshmukh (Senior, Baylor 2021)
Ritz Battula (Sophomore, Baylor 2023)
Mili Vazirani (Sophomore, Baylor 2023)