Published May 9, 2019
The bride and groom arrived at the ballroom of the Radisson Hotel Niagara Falls-Grand Island on a recent Saturday evening, each entering the venue to playful music. In the matter of seconds, the whole room erupted into applause and laughter.
Pictures were taken, followed by dinner and dancing.
But this wasn’t a real wedding. It was a Mock Shaadi, an annual event hosted by the Pakistani Student Association (PSA) in which students get to experience and celebrate South Asian culture by taking part in a traditional Pakistani wedding. The event is especially important to the large number of UB students who are native to South Asia or have South Asian heritage.
“It’s a great event for people to get together and enjoy,” said PSA President Hamza Aamir, a student in the School of Management. “We like to provide a comfort space for those members who may not be familiar with the culture here in America. It’s nice to be around people who share similar and relatable values as your own, especially similar cultural aspects.”
After dining on South Asian cuisine, the wedding participants gathered around the dance floor. Students performed a comedy sketch that told the story of two UB students falling in love. Along with its overuse of modern slang and pandering to millennials’ love of Taco Bell, the sketch also drew laughs because the male and female lead roles were played by someone of the opposite sex.
The dance floor later served its intended purpose, as wedding guests enjoyed traditional dances performed by members of the wedding party, as well as performances of Bhangra dance, which originates from India and Pakistan’s Punjab region. The crowd quickly grew thunderous, as South Asian music pulsed throughout the ballroom. This was Aamir’s favorite part of the night.
“Many of our members worked for hours to get the performances done,” he said. “To see them have fun and doing an amazing job at the performances was heartwarming.”
The guests and wedding party watch a comedy sketch that told the story of two UB students falling in love.
For many students, the night was a fantastic experience because it was a way to celebrate and express pride in their culture.
“We’re very much involved in our culture and our religion already, but we don’t really get the chance to really dress up (in traditional formal wear),” said Malika Kodial, a computer science major. “For a lot of us, it’s already a part of our daily life; your ethnicity or your heritage is something you’re already practicing. Coming to this is like celebrating it and being proud of it. Day to day it’s hard to do, but this is a room of 300 people and you just feel a lot more connected at an event like this.”
Kodial said the community she has found at UB and the celebration of her culture are her favorite parts about the university, but are things she didn’t always have growing up as an American-born student.
“I was once in a place where there wasn’t a huge community,” she said. “That in itself was like being in two different worlds. In your home you’d be living in one way of life and outside of the home would be completely different. For many people that’s hard to reconcile, but I think what makes UB special to me is that everyone is able to reconcile that without having to choose one or the other. Bringing that here is like we’re proud to be who we are because for many of us growing up, that wasn’t the case. It really is a blessing to have something like this.”
Aamir also noted the importance of an event like this for American-born students with South Asian heritage.
“It’s important to remember your origins,” he said. “No matter how deeply involved you can be in another culture, the culture you came from is important, and it’s important to retain those values as well.”
Celebrating South Asian culture is equally as important to students who are native to the region. Mohammed Siddiqi, a psychology major from India, rarely gets to go home these days. He said it’s nice to see something familiar, like the Mock Shaadi, as well as seeing the experience enjoyed by people of all backgrounds.
“It’s really nice to see something like this when you’re so far away from home,” Siddiqi said. “It’s also cool to see culture come together and people of all races enjoying it. Seeing our culture being celebrated here in the U.S. is great.”
As the night drew to a close and the dance floor became an open one, Aamir felt the event was a rousing success. He said he’s glad it grows larger each year — prompting the PSA to look for bigger venues — because it’s a great way to celebrate his culture.
“I heard great feedback from many guests,” he said. “They were all well fed and they enjoyed the open dance floor. I’m really glad we could show how Pakistanis present their weddings culturally, as well as showcase the food, clothing and dancing of our culture.”