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Image courtesy of TASHAN

Keeping the TASHAN Alive

Due to the sheer scale of TASHAN’s events and programming, it has molded NYUAD’s cultural landscape, bringing together all members of the community, allowing them to better understand what it means to be South Asian.

Dec 7, 2019

TASHAN is NYU Abu Dhabi’s “Association of South Asian Cultural Understanding”, or as many know it, the South Asian cultural SIG. It is not only one of the largest SIGs on campus but also prides itself to be one of the oldest. TASHAN aims to ensure representation of South Asian cultures at NYUAD by hosting widely popular events like Diwali, Dashain and Holi. More recently, they have sought to achieve this through panel discussions, round table conversations and other smaller-scale events that aim to unravel, not just the cultural, but also the social and political complexities of South Asia.
For South Asians, TASHAN provides a sense of comfort and belonging on campus — for many, it is the first time they are being exposed to such a diverse cultural atmosphere, which may initially be overwhelming.
“In my freshman year, TASHAN was a way for me to go back to my roots,” shared Praggya Ayshwarya, Class of 2021 and TASHAN’s Events Coordinator. “It was just such a nice community to be a part of and to see other people from outside of this community come and enjoy these events; it was a nice way for me to connect back home.”
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For Arya Gautam, Class of 2023, who will be serving on the Tashan Executive Board next semester as the Nepali Representative, TASHAN serves as a reminder of home, particularly as it is the first Dashain she spends away from home. In addition, she sees the SIG as a way to share her culture with the NYUAD community.
“Seeing so many other people from diverse communities come and enjoy momos and Nepali Music and Teeka and all that inspired me to share my culture with pride and make people happy through that,” Gautam shared .
One of TASHAN’s many successes has been its inclusivity. Year after year, it has been able to loop in people from many different cultural backgrounds and provide them with a platform that allows them to constructively engage with South Asian cultures through a variety of ways. Further, TASHAN functions as a powerful unifier for the NYUAD community, with staff members also attending larger celebrations like Diwali.
“One of the biggest things we have been able to do as a cultural SIG on campus is that we have been able to include people who are not from South Asia … We see people who are not from the region taking interest in dancing for Diwali, coming to our events and panels … And in that sense we are giving them an opportunity to engage on some level with a culture that is different from theirs,” said Ayan Marwaha, Class of 2022 and current Treasurer of TASHAN.
TASHAN has also been actively collaborating with other SIGs on campus such as the Pakistani Students Association, Anchorage and Caribbean Student Association to cut across intersections of the NYUAD community and push for greater multiculturalism.
“I think what is impressive is the kind of teamwork TASHAN shows and how it’s being lead … you can see the progression over the semesters; more people are coming and enjoying these events, access to these events has increased, marketing’s improved,” commented Amna Hasan, Class of 2020 and President of the Pakistani Student Association. “I have really enjoyed working with them, and hope that continues in the future.”
Over the years, TASHAN has transformed to focus on trying to build towards a better understanding of South Asian culture. While Holi and Diwali are an integral part of this culture, TASHAN has evolved into a SIG that aims to also focus on social and political issues and break down cultural stereotypes. In that process, the SIG allows the wider NYUAD community to truly immerse itself in South Asian culture, society and politics.
“TASHAN has been actively trying to tackle these stereotypes through panels like being South Asian diaspora in the UAE and gender orientation in South Asia,” Doovaraha Maheswarasarma, Class of 2020, added. “These events have more of educational value and enable people to better understand what it means to be South Asian.”
With TASHAN’s leadership changing, Maheswarasarma hopes that the new Executive Board will continue to keep traditions alive while also taking risks, such as launching new initiatives and events for the wider NYUAD community. Due to the sheer scale of TASHAN’s events and programming, it has molded NYUAD’s cultural landscape, bringing together all members of the community, allowing them to better understand what it means to be South Asian.
Vatsa Singh is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
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