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C AMBRIDGE U NIVERSITY H INDU C ULTURAL S OCIETY H INDU C ULTURAL S OCIETY

P RESIDENT ’ S R EPORT Y EAR 2013-14

18.03.2014

L OOKING B ACK …. It has been an extremely active year for CUHCS. From weekly events such as Sanskrit classes and Karma Talkies to large events such as Garba, Ujaali and Mastana, this society has kept me on my toes. It has been wonderful to see the society grow with each new endeavor. The committee of thirteen highly capable members has also become so close throughout the year. I am truly grateful to all of them for their undying support and guidance. Balancing so many perspectives is never easy and I cannot thank them enough for challenging me when they disagree but also, accepting my decisions when I take a stand. I had never really taken a leadership role

before, so this was rather over-whelming for me and I do not know how I would have made it through without the committee’s safety net. I have learnt so much from each of them and from this experience on t h e w h o l e . Communication, assertion, negotiation - the list can go on. It has made me a lot more confident in my abilities and I now, look forward to exploring new opportunities that I can learn from in the future. This report is only a brief glance into the society’s events over the past year; words cannot capture the thrill, the anxiety or the satisfaction that I have got out of them. My best memory by far, will be

Ujaali, our annual Diwali Dinner. The way the committee bonded while rehearsing for the play was just as rewarding as the response we got after the play. I shall glance back at each of our events in this issue, so please flip through and get in touch if you have a ny suggestions or questions.

potential is sure to take you really far. Gaurav: You added the charm and humor to our team. Dharmika: I appreciate all the priorities you had to balance and you still managed to be there whenever necessary. Devang: Your passion for learning kept our weekly sessions active! Rikhil: Your star singing added a personal

T IME FOR S OME H UNGAMA !

2

S HOWCASING THE 4 BEST OF THE INDIAN HERITAGE

U JAALI : L IGHTENING UP C AM - TOWN

4

E XPLORING THE S CIENCE OF

5

KARMA

Moxi Shah, CUHCS President for the year 2013-14

T HE EXECUTIVE TEAM Shreya: You were the best support I could have asked for! Payoshaa: Your organization and conscientiousness is truly admirable. Saikiran: You were so trustworthy with the accounts and always ready to help. Devyani: Your keenness and excitement really took our publicity to another level! Nirali: Your creative

I NSIDE THIS ISSUE :

touch to all our Soul sounds as well as Garba! Nikita: You were always prompt at events and never missed a job allotted to you. Akshat: You contributed a lot more than you were expected to and I truly appreciate all the initiative you took. Gopal: Your wise advice helped me on so many occasions!

N OTHING LIKE SEWA

6

M ASTANA 2014: L IGHTS , C AMERA A CTION !

6

F LIPPING

7

THROUGH THE PAGES OF S ANSKAAR


P RESIDENT ’ S R EPORT

P AGE 2

T HE S TART OF AN E RA ... This is when it really hit me. I was meant to excel in exams and run this society alongside. Oh God, what had I got myself into? Constant phone calls, Whatsapp/Facebook messages and meetings ran alongside taking notes, practicing past papers and revision sessions. It was quite a balancing act! I understand it was the same

AN Saraswati Pooja is our annual event during exam term where we come together as a community and ask for guidance and strength during these trying times. Not just academically but socially, emotionally and spiritually, university life brings all sorts of trials. Hence, it is important to realize our true goals of life and keep them in mind while making our choices. The

turnout

was

much

for the rest of the committee and I shall take this public space to apologize for pestering them so much. I was just doing my job though! Most of the committee members had just met each other and it was all rather formal. Few had a clue of what we were meant to be doing and it took me a while

to get everyone on par. Communication is quite a hassle during exam term! Preparations for both events helped us all to get used to the committee dynamics. Everyone had such varied styles of working and it was rather enticing to mold to each others routines. Let’s have a closer look at the events we managed to carry out...

AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING WITH

better than I expected and the atmosphere was very uplifting. Dr. Vick, our Hindu Chaplain, carried out the Pooja for us while explaining the meaning of the procedure. It was very educational and made us all r ea liz e the pr a ctica l application of these rituals. He challenged us to think deeper about our lives and encouraged us to stay rooted while achieving our goals. He, himself, is an

S ARASWATI P OOJA

inspiration for all of us. The bhajans led by some of the committee and society members got everyone involved and in tuned. To end, there were two delicious dishes of Prasad, one made by Dr. Vick’s wife and one by the committee. The Saraswati momentos were also well-received by all the attendees. CUHCS was off to a great start!

“H E CHALLENGED US TO THINK DEEPER ABOUT OUR LIVES AND ENCOURAGED US TO STAY ROOTED WHILE ACHIEVING OUR GOALS .”

T IME FOR SOME H UNGAMA ! Owing to the wide variety of events that CUHCS caters to, we now move on to our more relaxed event: Hungama, the annual garden party. The turnout here was phenomenal, probably twice as much as expected. Inevitably, there was a slight panic in order to provide adequate food supplies. Nonetheless, the social atmosphere was very lively and vibrant.

Taking a look around the Sidney Sussex Garden, there were people eating mouthwatering Indian delicacies, some getting a massage, some playing carom, some trying to fly a kite and some getting their caricatures made by a professional. The traditional chilli-eating competition was popular as always and the winner had a record-breaking 28 chillies!

Well done, Jayaprakash!

Jeevan

Overall, a decent, profitable event. The presence of the ICCA members made it all the more special. There are always lessons to learn though and we made sure we took in everyone’s suggestions and implemented them the best we could in the other events.


Y EAR 2013-14

P AGE 3

W ELCOMING F RESHERS IN M ICHAELMAS This is when the real pressure kicked in. We made sure the inventory, the finances and the bookings were sorted beforehand, so the freshers were welcomed by a thriving set of events! It was an amazing response at the Freshers fair, adding a couple of hundred CRSids to our mailing list. CUHCS was anticipating a very ‘fresh’ year!

becoming members. The interest in our events was rocketing high and excitement was in the air. Let’s see how well we met everyone’s expectations. Oh, I forgot to mention our innovations for the year: the membership keyrings and the CUHCS app. These were just ways to boost our marketing and reach out to a wider audience.

Freshers’ Squash was received really well, with loads of people already

J AY L AKHANI ’ S

INTRIGUING INSIGHT INTO HINDUISM

Jay Lakhani is a theoretical physicist and a religious scholar. He speaks mainly about the overlap between the new scientific advances and ancient Eastern wisdom. This was a talk collaborated with the Festival of Ideas and attracted a very mature crowd. I am truly thankful to Thakorbhai for helping us throughout the organization of this talk. There were several things

that struck me during the discussion. Jay Lakhani stated, “Encourage the youth not to read the scriptures but the science of today…” This was intriguing because he bridged the ever-expanding gap between science and religion and broke several myths regarding their disjunction. It left us all thinking about our roles as young citizens of this modern age.

D ANCE THE NIGHT AWAY …. I NDIAN STYLE ! It is always exciting to go to an event that we are used to attending back home, let alone, organizing it. Finding the right band was such a difficult decision to make, but I don’t think anyone was disappointed in the end. Amit Kansara and his band provided the most fantastic live entertainment one could ask for. Rikhil Raithatha, also revealed his amazing

singing talents when he spontaneously joined the band to lead the attendees along. This event still attracted only a niche crowd, but a crowd that thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through! It was wonderful to see so many members, both Indian and non-Indian, showing up in such vibrant clothes. The

garba beats and disco dandiya left everyone with amazing memories!


P RESIDENT ’ S R EPORT

P AGE 4

S INGING AWAY TO B OLLYWOOD TUNES ... Antakshari night is always something to look forward to when you are burdened with work! It was great to see people recall their memories of old and new songs and release stress as well. Everyone joined in at some point or another and the atmosphere became energetic really fast. We also gave away an award for the Best Singer to Ash Nandi!

S HOWCASING

The night ended with dancing away to Bollywood tunes - something that we rarely see! We also had a spot sale of Diwali tickets; the excitement and expectations for it were rocketing high. With a decent turnout and great support from the members, we were looking forward to Ujaali now!

THE BEST OF THE

Swami Vivekananda, the face of modern Hinduism, has been revered for decades now. SV150 is a national organization that celebrates his 150th birth anniversary. They had a goal of showcasing his life at 100 different cities around Cambridge. I believe we were the 79th city they contacted.

The exhibition also showcased the Ancient Indian Civilization. From Vedic Maths, Ancient Biology and Architecture to religions such as Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, it had a lot of valuable information about these fields. It was the first time we tried such an initiative and cater to a wider group of people.

The exhibition entailed the life and works of Swami Vivekananda. He is a true inspiration for all of us and I was glad to see many people interested in his teachings.

One thing that marked the highlight of the event was the presence of the Mayor of Cambridge. We invited him to give a speech and were honored by his interest and curiosity. He

I NDIAN H ERITAGE

communicated with several attendees and we had great discussions regarding the information provided at the exhibition. It was one of the few times we had the local community show appreciation for our culture and heritage.

U JAALI : L IGTHENING UP C AM - TOWN Food, entertainment and a Bridge Se really kept every big crowd of people! What tapping their feet with some phenomenal singing. CUICAS more can one ask for? was as gripping as ever with a The food was delivered well-choreographed routine! from Ajanta caterers and The solo performances were everyone truly relished it. well received as well. Last but There was also enough for not the least, the committee second servings! The play maintained a light entertainment included atmosphere but also sent an Bridge Se, CUICAS, surprise important message across. The solo performances by Shreya, play was a modern twist on the Payoshaa and myself, as well Ramayana, using a cricketas the annual Diwali play! based theme. The victory of

good over evil and light over darkness captures the essence of this Hindu epic. I can honestly say that my committee and I were most proud of this event. We spent a decent amount of money on it and we really just hoped to break even. Surprisingly though, we made just as much profit as the expenses. In fact, it was the biggest profit-making event CUHCS has ever had!


Y EAR 2013-14

P AGE 5

S INGING AWAY TO B HAKTI TUNES ... After a vey eventful Michaelmas, we were awaiting a more relaxed Lent Term. But we ensured that we do not keep the members too disengaged. Small events spanned the duration of the term, alongside Mastana practices for a lot of us.

also volunteered to lead songs and together, we created a very uplifting atmosphere. The presence of some ICCA members added to the community spirit as well. CUHCS was off to a very serene start for Lent!

We had had one Soul Sounds in Michaelmas and marked the beginning of Lent with yet another. This time, we had Rikhil Raithatha leading the tunes. He also brought along his collection of Bhakti tunes for the audience to choose from. Many attendees

E XPLORING

THE

S CIENCE

Dr. Ankur Barua is a lecturer of Hinduism at Cambridge University itself. He gave a very insightful talk regarding the integration between the two strands of science and religion. He raised several questions, usually proposed by scientists and provided answers to them through the help of philosophy. He outlined the study of religion and philosophy as a course for the intelligentsia, and not

OF

K ARMA

the superstitious. He provided a solid foundation for religious enquiry to be based on, one tha t is su ppor te d b y intellectual thinking. “H E O UTLINED THE STUDY OF RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY AS A COURSE FOR THE INTELLIGENTSIA , AND NOT THE SUPERSTITIOUS .�

The audience was a little scant but varied from undergraduates to postgraduates and from Hindus to Buddhists to agnostics. A very fruitful discussion was generated, owing to various different experiences and perspectives. Topics such as cause and effect, reincarnation, liberation were all touched upon, leaving the audience thinking deeper about their lives. Overall, a very educational talk indeed!

B OOSTING THE INTER - CULTURAL SPIRIT The African Carribbean Society organize a Come Dine With Me event every year, with a different society each time. This year, they contacted us to collaborate with us this year. Despite several hiccups, we managed to have an intercultural atmosphere with music, food and people from both backgrounds.

It was quite a dilemma for me in terms of how liberal I would like to be with the society. However, all the catering and provisions from our side were entirely in accordance with our tradition. The food that they cater is something we are open to but do not necessarily promote. As long as this was clear to the attendees, we did not step over the boundaries of our

society. In the future, we would like to maintain our relationship with them for the sake of a broader outreach but perhaps, in a different manner. The crowd that attended was rather organic and were joining for the sake of interest in both cultures. A wonderful evening on the whole!


P RESIDENT ’ S R EPORT

P AGE 6

N OTHING LIKE SEWA Last year, we had a SEWA day with bucket collection rotas for the society. This year, we took it a bit forward with the Games Night. It was a new initiative and we weren't sure about the response but it worked out pretty well in the end. Some of the games were made by the committee itself. We made a Hinduism Taboo and added an

educational twist to Twister. We also had Hinduism Crossword, A-Z quiz and a CUHCS Q&A. We tried to add a fun aspect to learning and had a really positive response from the attendees. This is definitely something I would like to see being continued in the future!

R ELIGION MAKING ITS WAY THROUGH THE ‘ MODERN ’ WORLD Shaunaka Rishi Das, the Hindu Chaplain of Oxford, was invited again this year to give us another one of his intriguing talks. This time, the topic was less philosophical and more sociological though. He discussed the importance of religion in the face of modernization, science and politics. It was almost reassuring to consider that religion can be consolidated due to these sectors, rather than be diminished.

The turnout was better than I expected and the talk as very educational. The audience covered a wide range of ages, including a parent with his 12 year old daughter! The discussion that followed involved debates about the education system, the direction for the new generation as well as the secular politics in India today.

“I T

WAS ALMOST REASSURING TO CONSIDER THAT RELIGION CAN BE CONSOLIDATED DUE TO THESE SECTORS , RATHER THAN BE DIMINISHED .”

M ASTANA 2014: L IGHTS , CAMERA , ACTION ! Now turning to our biggest annual show, Mastana! It is so big that we need a separate committee to run it. This year’s Mastana chairs, Sheel Raithatha and Avish Patel did an outstanding job putting the show together. Their diligence and commitment was truly commendable. The Mastana committee was highly competent and dedicated towards the show. All the acts were of great quality and kept

the audience on the edge of their seats. The Indian Classical dance excelled beyond expectations as did the street dance. The singers were highly talented and soothing to the ears. Bollywood and Fashion show was a delight to watch! The script, with its touch of mystery and humor, gripped the audience through to the end.

Unfortunately, tickets sales could have been higher but considering it was a Sunday, we raised a decent amount in the end. Thank you to everyone who watched, performed or organized the show. We have had a really positive response so far, even from The Cambridge Student who gave us a 10/10 rating!


Y EAR 2013-14

P AGE 7

D O ME A FAVOR , LET ’ S PLAY HOLI ! This year, Holi was bigger and better than ever before. With twice the amount of paint and powder, the sight at Queens’ Green was as colorful as it could be. A large non-brown population added to the popularity of the event and everyone celebrated the end of term with lots of enthusiasm and zeal. Holi is also our annual handover event. So, it was organized by our committee as well as the committee of

T HE

REGULAR

2014-15. It was a lot of fun working with Devyani Gajjar, our new President, and her team! Traditionally, Holi is celebrated to welcome the spring time and what a co-incidence that we are also welcoming a new committee time!

photographers for capturing the moments so strategically. Gladly, the cameras survived the mayhem!

Sponsorship from Rice Boat really helped with the funds of the Holi supplies. Our Tshirts were personalized for the first time and we gave due credit to Rice Boat as well. Thank you to all our

CUHCS-C RAZE

A little word is necessary for our weekly sessions. We had Karma Talkies (also called Hinduism 101) every week where we discussed the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8 (debatably the most crucial of all Hindu scriptures) The discussions were engaging and thought-provoking. Varun Khanna, a PhD student led them with admirable zeal. His level of knowledge is truly inspirational.

He also taught our weekly Spoken Sanskrit classes. Language provides the quickest gateway into the culture it refers to. Hence, these classes helped our attendees

“V ARUN K HANNA , A P H D STUDENT LED

understand Indian tradition and beliefs better. Both weekly sessions had a consistent turnout and we also live-streamed some of them for those who could not attend but would like to follow the discussion.

THEM WITH ADMIRABLE ZEAL .”

F LIPPING THROUGH THE PROGRESS OF S ANSKAAR Sanskaar, our termly magazine, made great progress in terms of the content. We had more interactive articles such as interviews, movie reviews and crosswords. We also had contributions from various different sources. Anilbhai sent in a review on the Swami Vivekananda Exhibition while an alumni student, Parmesh Gajjar wrote a short biography of Sri Aurobindo’s

life. We also had an article of the Jainism of Mathematics from a student in Warwick which only exemplifies our widened outreach this year. Our Sanskaar editor, Nirali Patel, showed tremendous amount of dedication and revealed much creative talent in putting this magazine together. We hope to further its impact even more in the future.


C AMBRIDGE U NIVERSITY H INDU C ULTURAL S OCIETY

Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/cuhcs E-mail: president@cuhcs.org.uk

WEBSITE: W W W . C U H C S . O RG . U K

CUHCS is a thriving, dynamic society offering a wonderful opportunity for social interaction whilst providing the chance to sample and learn a little about the rich heritage and culture of Hinduism and Jainism. Although these religions are one of the oldest in the world, we believe that they have a continuing relevance for contemporary problems. These religions are open and diverse and CUHCS aims to reflect this both in our activities and membership. All are welcome to join! Our wide and varied range of events throughout the year include discussion forums, our very popular Diwali Dinner with traditional, home-made Indian food, poojas, social events and more! There is also the fun of our Raas Garba event and of course the massive, tremendously successful evening of music, dance and drama that is Mastana. CUHCS broadens horizons, bringing people together through enjoyable events, advancing our cultural, religious, social and intellectual development whilst at the same time, helping to make a difference in people's lives while at university. The diversity of events means that whatever your background or interest, there will be something for you!

‘BE THE CREATOR OF YOUR OWN DESTINY.’

A CKNOWLEDGMENTS There are several people to whom I am truly grateful for: 

Previous Presidents, Nikhila Ravi  and Meghavi Mashar, for their undying support and guidance

Our band for Garba, Amit Kansara and his team, for the mind-blowing entertainment

The ICCA members, Anilbhai,  Thakorbhai, Mukundbhai and Harishbhai, for providing us with various contacts and equipment whenever necessary 

Our various speakers, Jay Lakhani, Dr. Ankur Barua and Shaunaka Rishi Das, for their educational and thought-provoking talks

Our caterers for Hungama (Prashad Sweets) and for Ujaali (Ajanta Caterers) for their  delicious food

Dr. Vick, our Hindu Chaplain, for performing our Poojas at Saraswati Pooja and Ujaali

Our performers for Ujaali, Bride Se and CUICAS for their gripping acts

Video recorder for VarsiTV, Farah Ghouri, for being so patient throughout the committee play Our Mastana chairs, Sheel Raithatha and Avish Patel, Mastana committee members, sponsors, performers, photographers and raffle prize donors, for making the show such a success


President's Report 2013-14