As co-insurers of Columbia events, we have noticed a strange phenomenon in the University's offerings. Every week one finds at least one or two, but on average far more, events intended to open a dialogue on East Asian (especially Chinese) affairs. But search the same week for events fostering a greater understanding and discourse on South Asia and you will come up skint. Indeed, while many organizations and institutions see fit to produce the occasional event tying into China or North Korea, Columbia's South Asia Institute stands all but alone in providing a forum for discussion on the region. And its events (just six projected over the next month) are not nearly as well promoted or attended as those on East Asia. This is merely one example of the ways in which South Asia is pushed to the side in campus discourse, relegated to a spot behind East Asia, the Middle East, and, given the strength of the Harriman Institute on campus, even Eastern Europe. And yet South Asia is of comparable size to East Asia. It encompasses Pakistan and India, vital interests to U.S. diplomacy, growth, and security. It envelops the Maldives, a nation on the forefront of climate change advocacy, and Bhutan, the last independent Himalayan state. And, closer to home, Columbia professors have had a personal hand in defining the direction of the burgeoning democracy in Nepal. For a university with such a large and vibrant South Asian population and such an eye to global dialogue, this silence borders on the absurd. But now there is an Awaaz (Urdu for "voice") to end that silence and bring about the student-driven dialogue that such a complex and vital region deserves. Despite the forms of expression that exist for South Asians on campus, there remains a large gap for engagement with South Asia for those with a mind toward the fringe, or the arts, or the overly academic. Our community needs an outlet for personal expression about and exploration of South Asian affairs. We lack, but require, a forum in which all aspects of South Asian life can be translated into global terms, and all global trends displayed in their South Asian incarnations. This is the desired function of Awaaz—to provide a space for substantive student-generated discourse on and engagement with one of the most important and fascinating regions in the world. Awaaz is still a young publication, but in just two issues we have broached discussion on issues ranging from Indian immigration in the U.S., to issues of religious tolerance and practice, to the life of women in the area, to natural resource management, Bollywood, and everything in between. We also seek to help existing South Asian groups and any others interested in expanding such dialogues and efforts blend the cultural and artistic with the academic and even spiritual ends of South Asian discussions by co-sponsoring events on campus. Furthermore, we aim to soon have a regularly updated blog functional on Awaaz's website, bringing campus dialogue on South Asian culture and politics beyond the printed page, out of the lecture hall, and into regular consideration in everyday life. And South Asia has an increasingly important place in our lives. South Asia is an intricate and engaging territory, with a rich history, culture, and people. As diverse and palatial South Asia is in its scope, so too is Awaaz. In our mission, in our ambition, and in the services we provide, Awaaz is unique among campus publications. We are the voice of South Asia, but only insomuch as we are a mouthpiece for all those children of South Asia, in fact and in spirit, who choose to speak. We are a means of exploration and elucidation, and an incubator for innovative and creative thought. But we can only achieve this goal if you all speak—explore and ponder and get lost in South Asia. We want you to be a part of our voice by exercising your voice. Let us together seek to bring South Asia to the light it so deserves, and in so doing open the region and the campus to an illuminating, unique, satisfying, and perpetual dialogue. For yourself and for Awaaz, use your awaaz. Prapti Chatterjee is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in creative writing. She is a managing editor for Awaaz. Mark Hay is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in religion and political science. He is a Spectator columnist and an editor for Awaaz.
Columbia Spectator Staff