Group acclimates Indians to UA

Elisabeth Garcia

Nonprofit organizations are widespread across the University’s campus, but the Indian Association of Tuscaloosa is much different from the typical club.

“We are all together all the time,” said Nischit Kadari, the organization’s president.

Kadari, a graduate student in the mechanical engineering program, said he came to the University in 2009 after learning about its top program in aerospace engineering.

After being accepted, he contacted the Indian Association via email after locating their website online. They quickly replied and assured him that he would be taken care of, even offering Kadari a temporary apartment for the first week.

Narendra Chaganti, the association’s webmaster, said these apartments are offered to all incoming students who contact them through email.

Entrants are paired with Indian roommates, with whom they normally room for the remainder of their campus stay.

“Most of them just want to stay close to anybody who is from India,” he said.

Gaurav Mehta, the association’s treasurer, said about 10 to 15 students come from India each year. He said entrance has decreased over the years, which may be associated with rising tuition.

Mehta came from Bombay, India to get his Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University.

Besides helping newcomers find accommodations, the association celebrates Indian culture with festivals such as Diwali and Indian Independence Day, Mehta said.

The association makes sure others understand the Indian culture and shows them how good it is, he said. Events they hold share the customs and history of the nation, including traditional food and dance.

Despite the name, the association maintains diversity. Mehta said they’ve reached out to other Asians who come to the University and may not be familiar with the customs.

Though all three board members have engineering focuses, Mehta said they have people from many majors, ranging from business to science.

Chaganti stressed that the association is not solely for those from India and is largely a learning environment.

“We are open to anyone who wants to come and know what’s happening here,” he said.

The association also participates in the Crimson Cricket Club, which competes in championships with other Southern schools.

The club incorporates students from many nations, including Ghana and Trinidad.

Kadari said the Indian Association is not a very big community, numbering around 100 students.

This contributes to a very tight knit community, however. Though the group does not meet very often, Mehta said everyone is quick to help each other.

He said they keep a mailing list, and everyone is contacted whether somebody wishes to sell a car or celebrate a happy moment in their life.

Chaganti said they also have potluck dinners and get-togethers. Seniors leaving the University also address the community with advice to the students staying behind.

Though he soon graduates, Kadari said he has bright hopes for the association.

“I hope in the future it keeps continuing,” he said, “and that it will really contribute on our behalf to the University.”