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Before they met one another, Aakriti Chaturvedi and Anika Radadiya felt comfortable talking to their friends about anything. They could talk about last period’s Honors Pre Calculus test, the theme of the next football game or the latest social media fad. They could talk about anything and everything except the thing that mattered most to them: their Indian culture and religion.
“A lot of people here are like ‘oh yeah I have friends at church,’ but we never had that,” Radadiya said. “When we found each other, we found out we can connect with other students on [a religious and social level] just like everyone else.”
That first connection came this year from their English teacher Melanie Miller. Chaturvedi expressed to Miller an interest in creating a more diverse club for the East students – a Bollywood dance club, where any student can participate in the eccentric dance of her Indian heritage.
Miller, aware of another student of hers who shared the love of cultural Indian dance, saw an opportunity to lead Chaturvedi to Radadiya, who has Bollywood danced since she was three years old. Not knowing of the friendship she was about to create, Miller encouraged Chaturvedi to reach out and contact Radadiya. She agreed and found Radadiya at the Freelancer meeting and personally asked her to become a co-founder of her club.
“I saw the posters in Ms. Miller’s room and Aakriti got in touch with me and told me her idea and together we put it into action,” Radadiya said. “As a Bollywood dance student, I was really interested in this and decided to help her out.”
Even though they haven’t been friends for long, they find new connections they have with every conversation. They figured out that their parents have known each other for years and that they attend the same Indian temple every week. It’s something special, they said, to get to know someone who respects and understands their Indian culture.
In order to keep in touch with that heritage, the girls have participated in Bollywood dance ever since they learned to walk. Since then, weekly rehearsals and performing at festivals such as India Night and India Fest have become customary to their everyday lives. Both girls have found their undying passion for the art of their culture through their parents’ relentless pressure to stick with Bollywood dance.
“They just push you to a point where you start to learn to love the thing you are doing, like Bollywood dance,” Radadiya said.
Not only do they relate on a religious and social level, the girls also work well together. Chaturvedi and Radadiya’s compatibility is evident while they teach the seven club members their five song routine. They collaborate on every move in order to create their flawless routine, without conflict. Their stubbornness disappears when they enter the drill team room, easily ceding the idea of a grand hand movement in place of a hip pop.
“Creating the dance went pretty smoothly,” Radadiya said. “[Chaturvedi] just has her ideas and ways and we just work to combine them evenly.”
While the girls know that their culture is far from the norm here at East, they still want to help other students learn more about their everyday lives. They agreed there was no better way than coming together and using their identical passion of Bollywood dance.
“Our club will bring out Indian culture and inform East students about all that our heritage has to offer,” Chaturvedi said. “We kind of just work and live in one society where everyone is exactly the same. It will be nice [for students] to not only learn about our culture, but embrace it with the form of Bollywood dance.”
Now, with the girl’s new friendship, they’re no longer limited to talking only about the topics most East students understand. They are now free to chat about the performances at India Fest the other day and their funny stories from fasting for the god’s birthdays.
“We don’t have that much diversity in the school and the fact that we are somewhat connected culturally, it just makes us that much closer,” Chaturvedi said.