How did you get started dancing Bhangra?
I started doing Bhangra — a dance that originated from Punjab, India, around the ’40s and ’50s — just with my friends at home in New Jersey; it’s part of my Punjabi identity. From there the dance style transformed and continued to grow into what it is today. It’s changed so much from when we started doing Bhangra; it’s evolved from being more of a hip-hop blend to going back to more of a folk style. But the reason I started was just because it was something that was related to me and my culture. The idea of Bhangra is to bring happiness and joy to you whenever you need it, and the dance is about love and compassion and bringing joy to the floor.
What’s it like being on the CU Bhangra team?
It’s so much bigger than when I started! As a young kid, I would just dance at family events with my close friends. But now there’s a huge collegiate circuit; it’s honestly like a full sport at this point and we practice 6–10 hours a week. We put in a lot of work!
And we compete on behalf of Columbia at other schools. We had our annual showcase, BHeights (Bhangra in the Heights) in February and 10 teams came from schools like Harvard, UConn and Yale to compete. But one thing we are pushing for is that even though it’s a competitive team and Bhangra is difficult, everyone can join! We are hosting more open workshops and we try to perform at lots of events on campus. We have a huge showcase in Low this weekend, and we want to reach out to as many students as possible so they can watch us perform but then also learn from us, come to our workshops and dance themselves. We really want to show the love and joy that Bhangra brings to us and spread that.
What’s been your favorite class at the College, and why?
Definitely “Hacking for Defense” with Professor Paul Blaer. I was so psyched about it; we worked with the Air Force to try to fix one of its issues with drone takeoffs and landings. I was able to apply the things that I’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world setting while still having the comfort of being in the classroom. That was really, really cool!
What do you like to do outside of class, Bhangra and Sewa?
I’m involved with Sigma Nu, and I really like to hang out with my friends in the frat. But on top of that, during the summer months, I love to play golf — I play pretty much every weekend. I’m also a huge New York Giants fan! I go to every home game in New York; I’ve been going since the new stadium was built in 2011. It’s such a fun time with my family; it’s a little getaway from the city every other Sunday.
How do you like to take advantage of being in New York City?
It’s so nice having the subway right here on 116th; you get to go anywhere you want. New York wasn’t that far from where I grew up, but actually living in the city has been amazing. I like to go downtown and try new foods and restaurants. Especially during Restaurant Week, I felt so lucky to go with my friends and try some of the best restaurants at such good prices. I also love to explore with bike rides in Central Park.