If you go to York University, you have probably heard of the Indian Cultural Association (ICA). Rahat Virji the current President of the Indian Cultural Association at York University gives us an insight of what ICA really does.
Indian Cultural Association’s main goal is to create a platform for students to express their talents. Before Indian Cultural Association was known as Bharatiya at York, it was primarily a social organization. They were known as the Bollywood club; they had pub nights, and Bollywood movie nights. ICA was blamed for not opening up or staying within closed doors. As the word Bharatiya is derived from Hindi, many people did not understand what Bharatiya meant. “It is not even an Indian “Student” Association where we are restricting ourselves to just students, but it is an Indian “Cultural” Association, we are trying to spread knowledge about the Indian culture, we are trying to allow people to celebrate the Indian culture” says Rahat Virji. The Indian Cultural Association holds political, social and cultural events.
The Indian Cultural Association tries to accommodate all kinds of interests which is why they have seven different portfolios including dance, academic, finance, membership volunteers, marketing, webmaster and events. For example the academic portfolio was in charge of a recent movie night event. This time instead of holding a Bollywood movie night, they held a documentary movie night, they showed a documentary titled “Born into Brothels”. It was shot in Calcutta. The documentary is based on a photographer who went to Calcutta and taught children of prostitutes. The photographer showed the children to view the world in a different lens. Then an organization was formed called “Kids with Cameras” that sends children to schools. has fundraisers and a sponsorship program. After the movie night, ICA held a fundraiser and sent money to the “Kids with Cameras” organization. Also ICA came first last year in the dance competition that happens during multicultural week. They have Bollywood dance classes throughout the year, and they performed at many places including Gerrard Festival and Chin Picnic. Great Job ICA!
The Indian Cultural Association currently has more than 400 members. Elections are held at the end of the year. The students are sent out position openings on the listserv. You need certain volunteer hours for certain positions. Multicultural Week at York University is a great time to volunteer with ICA, as they always need people to help out and represent the amazing Indian Culture! You may become a member by giving a minimal fee of $5; this will give access to free events, discounted events, email updates and so on.
Rahat Virji came to Canada for studies from Bombay, India. he is currently doing a Specialized Honors in Financial Business Economics. When I asked Rahat Virji whether balancing academic life and the responsibilities that come with ICA is a challenge, she says, “It is, to be very honest, it is very hard. I don’t only do these two things, but I also work 24 hours a week, but there is so much exposure, I have learned so much from this group.”
According to Rahat Virji, racism still exists in our community. It is the sad reality. “Basically as soon as I came to York University, it was my first year, I did not know anyone , I had family but I was still living on campus. Winter was starting and it was depressing. People were not making an effort to understand me, I was facing covert racism. I had a strong Indian accent, when I said something, it was gone unheard, people ignored it. And eventually I got over it, I am really happy because it made me a stronger person today. There are different groups at York, there are some people who will make an effort to know who you are, and some who will push you to the side and tell you that you don’t belong here. Racism still exists within the community.”
People need to welcome people from different cultures, most of us living in Toronto already know how to do this. But some of us tend to forget that we are all human in the end. Hopefully next time you meet an intelligent, nice individual who just sounds or looks different from you, you will extend your hand to them rather than turning your back on them!
Rahul Bose is coming to York University on Monday Oct. 19th, noon -2 pm at the Health, Nursing and Environment Studies building, room 140.
Author: Noorah Uddin