Get the word out: Top Naach, from this year onward, will now be known as the South Asian Student Association (SASA).
Top Naach was a South Asian performance group that was a space for both individuals of South Asian descent and others to join and enjoy South Asian culture. Their group hosted the Diwali and Holi celebrations, which were some of the biggest cultural events on campus. Top Naach even won the President’s Award, as it was a very well-formed and managed club.
So why did Top Naach decide to make an arguably big decision on changing their name and vision? “We had a couple of different reasons,” Shobha Pai ‘24, president of SASA said. “We looked at the members of our community, and dance wasn’t the only focus they needed. And while it was an important component of Top Naach, we realized that Top Naach could expand in a more intentional and meaningful way. That led to the name change as well.” The new executive board (E-board) of Top Naach felt that they wanted to refocus the priority of being a performance group to more of an affinity space for South Asian students. Top Naach being perceived as a dance group deterred many people from joining, even those of South Asian background. Thus, the E-board took the important decision of rebranding and changing their vision to help facilitate as much inclusion as possible.
“We realized that Top Naach could expand in a more intentional and meaningful way. That led to the name change as well.”Shobha Pai ’24
But while Top Naach might now be SASA, it doesn’t mean that they have forgotten about the past. They still have a dance component to the group for those who are interested in performing. An unknown event for most was the fun “Chat with Chai” sessions that were discontinued due to COVID. SASA hopes to bring that back. They will also be planning the Diwali and Holi events with the same love and passion that their predecessors did, and hope to have an even bigger celebration to honor the graduated members who have worked so hard to bring South Asian culture to Muhlenberg. Vish Dsouza ‘26, vice president of SASA, stated, “We are planning to celebrate other festivals, but that doesn’t mean we will take the essence of Top Naach away from campus!”
For this coming year, SASA is very excited about all the new collaborations they could be part of. Due to their prior classification as dancing group, they were very limited in who they could collaborate with, but with the rebranding, it has opened various new avenues for them to tread down. Something the members of the E-board are all looking forward to is collaborating with the Muslim Student Association for a henna fundraiser. Pai commented that she is really looking forward to the henna fundraiser, as it “showcases the unity in South Asian culture by doing a fun and creative activity. And also, who doesn’t like henna?”
There was also a strong turn out of interested first-years and new members after the club fair, which can bring a whole new flux of ideas into events and activities for the club. Sabeen Safi ‘26, treasurer of SASA, said, “I’m most excited for all the new members because there were a lot of people who wanted to be part of the South Asian community but were uncomfortable with the dancing aspect of it, so I’m really excited to broaden our membership this year.”
The goals and objectives of SASA revolve around making it more inclusive and creating a space for the voices of South Asian students. They have events and activities planned that talk about the South Asian experience specifically, and one of the most important objectives is being respectful of the vast diaspora that is “South Asian.” They also want to foster unity on campus without segregating the South Asian population from the rest of the college. An important part of being from different cultures and backgrounds is educating those around you about those differences and celebrating them together. This is why SASA is open to anyone and is looking forward to people of different cultures and backgrounds joining the club. Events planned for SASA, such as Diwali, Holi, Chat with Chai, Paint and Sip and more, are open and everyone is encouraged to come. Safi said, “We also want to broaden the festivals we’re celebrating so we hope to collaborate with other groups on campus and broaden the cultures we’re representing.” For more information about times and dates you can check them out on Instagram @muhlenbergsasa.
“An important part of being from different cultures and backgrounds is educating those around you about those differences and celebrating them together.”
Most importantly, SASA is a space for the South Asian community to feel safe and accepted. Marilyn Rajesh ‘26, public relations head of SASA noted that the organization is “where you feel like you come home to a community that we’ve built on campus. It is a safe space to talk about whatever we want, to share our passions and our visions with people who have a common background.”
Being in an affinity group can be a rewarding experience and it is always nice to meet other people who can understand you in ways related to your heritage and roots.
Dsouza stated how she was eager for the new group to debut this year and that “being in an affinity group means being understood to a certain extent, being able to relate to experiences and share a sense of commonality and belonging within a group of people that probably look like you or have grown up with similar experiences.”