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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

New student group centered on conversation, Chai

The smells of Chai tea permeate the air outside of the student kitchen on the second floor of the JRC. It’s a rich, original scent: cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Inside the kitchen, students chatter excitedly, some in English and others in Hindi. Talk ranges from favorite Bollywood movies to the recent trip the group took to Iowa City. At the kitchen’s stove, Henna Jobanputra ’15 adds spices to the homemade tea.

Hindi Chai Time. Photograph by Joanna Silverman.

“I usually make the Chai,” Jobanputra said. “But Anna-Lisa helps sometimes.”

Hindi Chai Time is a new student group this year. Anna-Lisa Bowans ’12 decided to start the group after studying abroad in India last year. She chose the favorite Indian drink as the group’s namesake.

“Chai is a really culturally appropriate thing to do if we’re going to be speaking Hindi,” Bowans said. “Also, Chai is just fabulous.”

The group meets weekly to talk and enjoy Chai and other Indian food. Bowans says that she wanted a place where Hindi speakers and those interested in Hindi could meet. Grinnell doesn’t have a Hindi department, but the language is offered through the Alternate Language Study Option (ALSO) Program.

“What we want to do is expand the Hindi-speaking community,” Bowans said. “[We also] want to eventually work closely with the ALSO program to get those students involved with another opportunity to practice their Hindi skills.”

For the Chai Time regulars, the group offers an opportunity to relax and share in the mutual love of Hindi culture.

“I feel like it’s a place where I meet other desi who have an interest in Hindi,” Jobanputra said. “It’s an hour of fun.”

Last week, some members of the group went to Iowa City to see the University of Iowa’s Diwali celebration. Diwali is a Hindu celebration that celebrates the victory of good over evil. Members of the group also helped to organize and put on the celebration at Grinnell a few weeks ago.

“Chai Time has been a really nice way to connect people who are interested in these kind of events,” Bowans said. “It’s connected seniors on campus with freshmen—that’s one of the best things.”

As the group grows, they hope to expand their cultural offerings. In the works are a Hindi karaoke night and a Bollywood screening. Bowans also wants to incorporate more Pakistani and Muslim cultural traditions into Chai time.

“There’s a huge diversity within the Hindi speaking community,” Bowans said. “I want Chai Time to reflect that.”

The group invites everyone to share in the Hindi fun, no matter their level of knowledge or speaking ability.

“[Chai Time] isn’t just for people who speak Hindi,” Jobanputra said. “A lot of members are just interested in Bollywood movies, it’s informal.”

Hindi Chai Time meets Wednesdays at 4:15 p.m. in the student kitchen on the second floor of the JRC.

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