“ICS is a very vibrant and energetic CCA; not only for Indians but for students of all races to come together to celebrate Indian culture.” — Anonymous ICS member
To Priyanshi, an Indian who is not in ICS, the Indian Cultural Society in Victoria Junior College is a fun and chill CCA. Many people share her sentiments — even the members themselves. Neha Yadav, the Vice-Chairperson of ICS, feels that others think that they are “a very funny bunch”.
And yes, this is true — a lot of members feel that ICS is a fun and open CCA. The members feel that their CCA sessions are fun, relaxing and that is a good platform for them to make new friends and learn more about each other. In addition, they feel that the CCA is also very open and inclusive. One does not need to know a lot about the Indian culture to be able to join the club, but can instead join to learn about it. The members also feel that attending ICS sessions allows them to also “keep in touch with the Indian culture” and educate others about it.
Although the nature of ICS as a CCA allows for deep learning experiences as members eventually immerse themselves in Indian culture along the way, not all members of ICS initially joined for the purpose of learning. Some of the members we talked to actually joined due to manpower shortages, such as Adam Naeha Sitara (15A12) and Roy Tan (15S37). Naeha shared with us how she “wasn’t planning on doing much in ICS” but found her purpose in the CCA after realising that ICS provided her with an opportunity to be on the stage once again. (Naeha used to be in Drama in her secondary school.)
Surprisingly, Roy joined ICS by chance as well — he was encouraged by his friend Shameer to try out for the ICS Night performances, after being recruited to help out with the Students’ Council dance (which is a tradition for ICS Night). In Roy’s case, ICS might seem like an unconventional choice for a non-Indian — being Chinese, and potentially not being able to fit into the predominantly Indian community, is something one would naturally take into consideration. Nevertheless, Roy assured us that the community is inclusive, and an in-depth knowledge of Indian culture is not required. “Once you’re immersed, you can slowly learn from the others. They are no different from your own race,” comments Roy on the perceived difference in cultures.
This spirit of looking past differences to appreciate Indian culture in its entirety manifests in the much-anticipated production of the annual ICS Night. This year, ICS Night was titled Neethane 2016, filled with colourful dances and even a love hexagon! It showcased the main characters, Kabir (performed by Amrish) and Ananya (performed by Trisha Partabrai), who embark on numerous failed relationships before eventually (spoiler alert!) confessing their love to each other and getting together. It was held on 15 April this year and nearly sold out, attesting to how the Victorian population views the club and it’s performance as enjoyable and accessible to them, even though it originates from a culture which may not be theirs.
We interviewed some members of the audience on ICS Night itself, and the response we received was extremely positive. Neethane “shattered the illusion of the CCA being a very culturally based and traditional CCA,” according to Pearlyn Low, attributing it to the “modern and hyped-up performance”. Siti Nur Iman called Neethane a “racially diverse show” which is inclusive and exciting enough for non-Indians to enjoy as well, saying that even “a Malay can watch”! Speaking of which, the Malay Cultural Society (MCS) even featured in one of the dances, yet again illustrating the open nature of the CCA. As dramatically related to us by Adeline Loh, “the cries of boring changed to the cries of interesting!” Indeed, the high-energy dances and comical skits left the audience reeling in laughter by the end of the performance, despite any initial reservations they might have had.
As said by one of the members, even if Neethane was not completely representative of the Indian culture, as it was almost like “a parody of Bollywood”, with the dancing and cheesy drama, it did showcase Indian culture. This could also be seen from how a buffet spread of Indian food was provided outside the PT that night — something that ICS always does during the intermission, to share and promote Indian culture. By framing the culture in a way that non-Indians would be able to appreciate and understand, the CCA successfully celebrated the culture, allowing the school community to see through their eyes in “such an official, big and positive production”.
“Our dedication has only been increasing,” Naeha told us, recalling how they put in a lot of effort to make Neethane a success. Ultimately, ICS as a cultural club and a CCA desires to be recognised as one that does work rather than just existing for the sake of it. Little known to others, ICS also holds Deepavali celebrations and participates in Tamil inter-school competitions, and there is the hope for the junior exco to be more involved in the community as well. Even though ICS Night is their main event, ICS does more than that, and strives to continue to improve the CCA.
We hope that, through this article, any misinformed stereotypes about the Indian Cultural Society have been debunked, and on behalf of the Victorian Press, a very well done to ICS for the success of Neethane 2016! If anyone out there desires to make new friends and learn about the Indian culture, ICS could be for you, regardless of your ethnicity or language. As an ICS member says, “anyone can join and find a place in ICS!”
Wong Jean, 15A12
Elizabeth Wan, 15A12
Louise Lee, 15S46