Dr. Rita Nezami’s students were losing sleep. “At 3 a.m., they were still e-mailing each other,” said Nezami, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stony Brook University. After a devastating earthquake struck Nepal on April 25 killing more than 7,000 people, students from the Taandava crew and the Himalayan club leapt into action, organizing clubs and meeting with deans. Monday night was the culmination of their weeklong effort as a number of clubs and more than 200 people came together to raise approximately $3,756 for the United Nations World Food Programme and the International Medical Corps working in Nepal.
“They really just needed a venue for the event and I just helped them with that,” said Catherine Duffy, associate director of student support. “It’s amazing the amount of students who have come together and collaborated.”
Monday night’s event came together quickly, but it was another devastating event in December 2004 that compelled Shargush Swargaloganathan–a senior bio-chem major and a native of Sri Lanka–to respond last week. “I was young and I couldn’t do much,” said Swargaloganathan, who was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami swept away hundreds of thousands of lives over a decade ago. This time was different. “I immediately contacted my group,” said Swargaloganathan of the Taandava Indian Classical dance team.
The response was overwhelming. “We all went to Director Catherine and Dean Euckland and just said—we need a venue,” said Shreeya Tuladhar, vice president of the Himalayan club, and a sophomore biology major originally from Kathmandu, Nepal. “I made an event page and in 20 minutes, we had 200 people attending,” said Tuladhar.
The night’s performers included a list of speakers and performers, among them Rabbi Joseph Topek of the interfaith chapel, Duffy and Dean of Students Timothy Euckland. “My heart grew and grew and grew because of all the support and all the caring,” said Euckland.
Dancers included the Stony Brook University Tandaava; De Taali, a South Asian a cappella and dance performance team; Nepali Dance; singer Madison Castillo Cu; Junoon, a fusion dance team; SBU Bhangra; YUVA, a South Asian a cappella group and singer Naveed Ahmed.
Along with singing and dancing were reminders of the tragedy that closely affected some members of the Stony Brook community. “It was really devastating to see all this news about Nepal, where I belong,” said Oshin Bharati, president of the community service club and a senior pre-med psychology major from Kathmandu, Nepal. Bharati said her family was living in “fear of death every moment” and slept outside wary of the violent aftershocks.
For the most part though, the room was filled with colorful, shimmying dancers and soulful voices. “I think my students almost achieved a level of perfection. Especially because of the spirit that is here, “ said Nezami. “The fact that they did not just dwell upon tragedy, the fact that they’re also able to rejoice and to continue dancing and performing is itself an achievement.”
As the evening came to a close and crumpled bills filled the donation boxes, students hugged and smiled. A separate GoFundMe initiative has raised $4,658 so far.
“Good things fall apart so better things can come together. And Nepal fell apart, but the whole world came together,” said Tuladhar.