For students who feel the cultural experience they have on campus has been put on pause, a new student-run magazine called "SAATH HAI SHAKTI" offers a fresh perspective.
The magazine, which focuses on the mental health of the South Asian community, will launch on Nov. 15. Founded on the goals and values of the student organization, WE ARE SAATH (“WE ARE TOGETHER”), the magazine showcases what it means to be South Asian.
For many of the editors, including sophomore Vanya Bhat, this is their first time working on a magazine or publication of this type.
“It was one of the most wonderful opportunities I could have possibly had to make connections with some of my South Asian peers and to learn about some of their struggles and cultures,” Bhat said. “South Asia is so diverse. It looks like it's uniform, and the media acts like everything's the same, but it's really not.”
While the magazine emphasizes the unique and diverse cultures of the South Asian community, readers of all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds are encouraged to learn more.
“We aim to have readers outside of the South Asian community because we want to spread our culture and our message,” Bhat said. “We want to show and highlight the beauty of South Asia in general, but we also want to inform and bring to light some of the things that we face.”
Unlike many mainstream magazines, SAATH HAI SHAKTI’s coverage is not restricted to a finite number of topics or issues within its community of focus. Readers can expect to engage with a variety of meaningful articles about each issue.
Junior Anissa Deol, another student editor, said the magazine’s launch is a key step toward vocalizing the necessity for South Asian representation in the media.
This information can also be used to guide readers on how to seek help for any mental health issues they may be facing. Seeking mental health assistance is considered taboo in many South Asian cultures, especially for children of immigrants.
“We address stigmas within our own community, but also the goods that can come out it, like what kind of food we eat and what we celebrate in the various months of every year,” Deol said. “And that's really what the first publication touches on: a little bit of everything. It’s like an introduction.”
The first publication will focus on a wide variety of topics, introducing important aspects of South Asian culture and the backgrounds of notable South Asian influencers. While the components of the second and third publications are still up in the air, Deol said the editors are thinking of honing in on women’s fashion in specific countries — especially countries that are underrepresented in the media.
Hrishika Muthukrishnan, the founder of the University’s WE ARE SAATH chapter and the editor-in-chief of SAATH HAI SHAKTI, had the idea of creating the magazine for a long time before it was finally able to come to life.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, SAATH HAI SHAKTI’s editors had to prepare for unprecedented methods of collaborative communication.
Teja Siripurapu, a co-editor of the magazine, said that the pandemic had a negative effect on the ability of the writers to engage and interact with the larger UNC community.
“I do wish that we could have included more student experiences from the South Asian community on UNC’s campus,” Siripurapu said. “It's really hard to do that because of the pandemic and the fact that it's a brand-new magazine, so hopefully in the future if the magazine gets more popular, we can get more students involved in the process.”
The magazine also gifted many of its editors with a sense of communal belonging. As a first-year entering college in the middle of a pandemic, Siripurapu has been able to meet and connect with new friends through WE ARE SAATH.
“I’ve gotten to learn more about my own culture and also other countries near South Asia,” Siripurapu said. “I got to showcase a lot of my previous interests with that, so it really aligns with what I wanted to do. I got to meet other freshmen and individuals of the South Asian community."
Bhat said she is excited to see the community’s response to the editors’ dedication to the magazine and their culture. They will rely on feedback when developing their next publications.
“Just read it,” Bhat said. “Take a look at it. Glimpse it, skim through it. This is meant to be a lifestyle magazine, so there’s something for everyone. Just read it and learn.”
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