Indian Heritage Takes on the Court at Rice Basketball

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Basketball, Bollywood and bhangra, it seems, are made for each other. It’s the perfect court to show off all the synchronized moves that are part and participle of the colourful dance groups that are popping up all over the Bayou City at ball games, starting off from the Houston Rockets half-time shows over the past four years.

This past weekend, on Saturday, January 24, three dance groups from the area let loose at Rice University’s basketball arena when Rice took on Louisiana Tech in front of about 2,000 spectators. Just before the exciting ball game started, two groups – Naach Houston and Rice Bhangra – took to the court and game the people some dance music and choreographed moves to get pumped up about. Towards the end of the ball game, students from the Sunanda’s Performing Arts Center brought the crowd to their feet with dancers spread all over the floor.

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The Indian treatment was the brainchild of Shulmith Mathyala, the General Manager for Ticket Sales at Rice Athletics. He not only invited the groups to perform but also got some local Indian merchants –a mehndi artist, Parinaz Boutique and another – to put up booths in the front lobby area. Well-known local community organizer an India Culture Center Director Jasmeeta Singh got wind of what Shu was trying to do and helped out with a booth depicting the culture of India. Her sister-in-law, Jasleen Kaur, a wedding and event photographer helped out taking pictures of the event.

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Many people at the game were walking around with mehndi designs on their forearms. “It was definitely a great experience,” said Ashuman Garg of Parinaz, which had brought along a host of clothing and traditional shoes from her store on Jones Road and FM 1960.

“I really wanted to bring exposure to the large Indian student body at Rice,” said Shu after the game. Originally from Pune and Bombay, Shu has been with Rice Athletics for the past three years and was with an NBA Development team in McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley for three years before that. “I’d love to do this again next year,” he added, even considering a similar event when the baseball season starts up.