Our Tufts: Taarika Bala, E24

Data science junior Taarika Bala connects with her culture through the University Chaplaincy and Jumboraas, one of Tufts’ South Asian dance groups.
Taarika Bala, E24, poses for a photograph in the Science and Engineering Complex.

“When I first moved from Bangalore, India to the United States at age 13, I began to feel like something was missing. It’s only been since I’ve lived in the United States that I’ve begun to consciously connect with my culture.

Since my freshman year at Tufts, I’ve been on Jumboraas, one of Tufts’ South Asian dance groups. There are about 20 of us, and we perform high-energy, traditional choreography to folk music from Gujarat, where the dance form originated. We build on our dance throughout the year, leading up to our biggest performance at the spring culture show that highlights all South Asian performers as Tufts. I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember, and it’s always been a big part of my life. However, Raas was something I was only introduced to at Tufts, and it’s given me a new perspective into traditional Indian dance. 

I’m also in the Hindu Students Association. We come together once a week to learn more about our religion and socialize. It’s always interesting to hear from the other members since we each come from such unique backgrounds. 

Every two weeks, I go to a reading group organized by the Hindu chaplain where we have thought-provoking, philosophical discussions about Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. One of our talks was about the idea that when you have something to compare an experience to, it’s a lot easier to appreciate it—like the way I began appreciating India after I left. I’ve recently thought a lot about the practice of appreciating life for what it is and how it can be difficult, since we aren’t aware of alternative states and so we can’t possibly compare it to anything else. I’m trying to learn to be grateful for life just as it is. 

In the reading group, we’ve also talked about the idea of holding paradox. In my own religion, I’ve sometimes questioned if I was a true Hindu for seeking reasons behind things rather than purely believing. But I’m realizing now it’s okay to have inquiry and belief. There’s value in both. 

-- Taarika Bala, E24, is the former president of the Hindu Students Association. As shared with Layla Noor Landrum, A24.

#OurTufts is a series of personal stories shared by members of the Tufts community. Photo by Alonso Nichols/Tufts University.