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MSU Indian students perform annual Sargam

April 10, 2011
Dancers perform at Sargam, which means "melody" in Hindi, Saturday evening at East Lansing High School. The show was put on by the MSU Indian Students Organization, or ISO, offering patrons a variety show of sorts filled with drama, music, and dancing all based upon Indian culture and folklore. Matt Hallowell/The State News
Dancers perform at Sargam, which means "melody" in Hindi, Saturday evening at East Lansing High School. The show was put on by the MSU Indian Students Organization, or ISO, offering patrons a variety show of sorts filled with drama, music, and dancing all based upon Indian culture and folklore. Matt Hallowell/The State News —
Photo by Matt Hallowell | and Matt Hallowell The State News

The MSU Indian Student Organization, or ISO, turned an Indian folktale into a show filled with drama, dancing and humor Saturday at East Lansing High School, 509 Burcham Drive.

Graduate students performed for more than 300 students and community members to celebrate their annual event, called Sargam.

Members of ISO worked to turn Vikram Betaal, a folktale commonly told in India, into a performance that would keep the audience applauding the whole time, said Nandhini Rangan, a business administration graduate student and president of ISO.

“Tonight will be a night of music, dance and drama,” she said. “We want to bring everyone here closer together.”

ISO is a group for graduate Indian students and has about 300 active members.

The organization honors traditional Indian festivals at MSU.

Vikram Betaal is a story about a king named Vikram and his conversations with a ghost named Vetala. The story is told to children in India to express to them the importance of brotherhood and letting go of their egos, Rangan said.

They do this to bring both Indian students and students of other cultures together to appreciate events, such as the Festival of Lights in November and Indian Independence Day on Aug. 15, said Raghav Sundar, a packaging doctoral student and treasurer of ISO.

Abinand Manorama, a fifth-year mechanical engineering doctoral student and performer in the show, said the show was modified to represent India’s festivals and to add a romantic and humorous spin for the audience.

Manorama has been a member of ISO since the day he arrived in the U.S., he said.

“(ISO) arranged for me to be picked up at the airport,” he said. “The theme (of ISO) is to bring people closer together ­— Indians and other international students — to educate them about our culture.”

Sargam began as a small event that took place in campus classrooms, Sundar said.

“It started out seven years ago as a small show consisting of a few skits,” he said. “Now it is a full-fledged musical with dancing and skits.”

Those who attended were not just Indian members of the community. Many, including business administration graduate student Shannon Blakely, were there to learn more about a different culture and support members of their class who had been working hard.

“It’s fun seeing different aspects of cultures you may not know much about,” Blakely said.
Ming Gu, an electrical and computer engineering doctoral student, said being an international student herself, she wanted to learn more about the Indian culture.

“Two of my lab mates and my adviser are from India,” she said. “I really want to enjoy a different culture. I learn a lot from my lab mates, and I want to learn about their culture.”

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