Ever since I was rejected from every campus dance troupe I’ve been looking for a new crew. All I want is a group of fun, good looking, and hip friends to troll around campus with. Why is this so hard? Why is everyone so busy? Does Metro North go to Copenhagen?
Enter project #findnewfriends. For the next month I'll spend 20 minutes a week talking to a new kid on campus to see if they're the BFF I'm missing. Last week I talked to Lucia Proctor-Bonbright. This week I found Aanandita Vaghani, a freshman from Mumbai.
WORDS: SOPHIA JENNINGS ('16), CREATIVE DIRECTOR
IMAGE: ELIJAH STEVENS ('15), PHOTO EDITOR
Aanandita Vaghani talks really fast. And she tells a lot of stories. There was the time her dad was so sure Wesleyan was the right school he woke her up with the fight song to get her to drive up from NYC for a tour. Then there was the time in grade school she ripped off her ghungroo (anklet) during dance class and threw it across the floor cause as she explains, “unlike everyone else I hate to dance.”
But of all of Aanandita’s stories, it’s her gap year story I like the most. Halfway through her senior year, Aanandita decided to defer college applications and talk to 30 celebrated Indians instead. About poetry. “I kept asking my mom, is poetry still around in our generation?” She explains. “People don’t seem to like it that much.”
Encouraged by her parents to find out herself, Aanandita made a list of over 100 contemporary Indians to interview. And then she started calling. Now, two years later, she pulls out Wind Beneath my Wings on a rainy Wednesday night in Olin, a 200-page coffee table book full of photos, drawings, interviews and poetry.
From fashion designer Sandeep Khosla to former Indian president Pratibha Patil, Aanandita talked to over 30 accomplished Indians. She even got an interview with Kanak Rele, the leading Mohiniyattam dancer and did a skype call with journalist Fareed Zakaria.
Here she is with Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC, India's largest housing finance company:
Her list wasn’t just suited and sari-ed professionals though. Here she is with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the infamous advaita vedanta guru:
Aanandita’s love for poetry is largely rooted in her family. Growing up, she describes her parent’s bookshelves as full of history, philosophy, and poetry. Her dad even writes his own poems in Urdu. “My mom always makes fun of us,” she laughs. “She thinks we’ll end up hermits in the mountains thinking about the meaning of life.”
A year after she started her project, Aanandita plans on returning to Mumbai over Winter break to get her book published before donating the money to the Poetry Society of India (and throwing a launch party). “I want people to know what I did,” she admits. “But the Poetry Society are the people trying to evoke the interest in poetry in general.”
For now though, she’s enjoying Wesleyan. Between auditioning for films and pursuing a psych major, Aanandita keeps poetry on her mind. “On a day like today, when its so gloomy, I just open my laptop and vent everything out in poetry form,” she explains. She’s even started incorporating poetry into some of her school work, turning in a playwriting assignment as a slam poem earlier this semester.
15 QUESTIONS w ANANDITA VAGHANI
BIGGEST MISTAKE SO FAR: Eating at the Asian Restaurant. I fainted. Puked. And went to the hospital.
WHERE YOU GO INSTEAD: I used to like Summerfields a lot but now I can’t eat Mexican food. Even this weekend in New York I saw Mexican Food and was like "no." I love Star and Crescent though. I feel like I’m in a 4-Star restaurant. After I eat there I go back to my dorm and I”m like dancing. I spent all my points on that and last week when I went to WesWings I had no points!!
WEIRDEST THING @ WES: Uh the slogan. “This Is Why?” I don’t get it. Every time I read that slogan I just ask myself…why?
WHAT'S YOUR SECRET: The people in my dorm think I’m staying up until 4 studying but I”m actually rewatching Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. They look at me like this super studious person but I’m really just in my room having warm showers.
WHAT YOU BEING FOR HALLOWEEN: I wanna be Iron Woman cause I just got diagnosed with anemia so I think it’d be ‘iron’ic.
FAVORITE CLASS: Psychology with Scott Plous. That guy is amazing. Even though there’s 150 people, I sit in the front row and I literally cannot sit in my chair! He seems like more of a magician than a professor.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Confessions of a Shopaholic. I really like the use of metaphor in that movie. Really? Yeah! Like how they personify all of the clothes. I also like some Indian movies. Like what? Jab we met? It’s about this girl who really really talks a lot and is so funny. Cause I always wonder how people talk so much sometimes. My sister for example, never understood why she can manage to talk so much without a breath.
YOU WRITING W FRIENDS? I do a lot of homework for all of my friends at their new schools. That’s how I get practice with writing. But I like slam poetry. That’s the thing I’ve been really in to. I wanna start doing that.
FAVORITE POEM: "Even This Shall Pass Away" by Tilton. Throughout childhood whenever we’d sit at the breakfast table my dad would read it to us. It’s about how nothing lasts forever. Good or bad, everything pasts away eventually. Very ancient poem but I like the original one.
WHAT’S SOMETHING NEW: I tried for film. I didn’t get it. But I’m gonna try for more. I haven’t been in theater in awhile. I used to be so in to theater but then one time my friend was supposed to push me in a scene but then did it for real- I fell off the stage and luckily people thought it was all part of the act and said I acted brilliantly. After that I took a hiatus from acting, but now I’m back on, looking for new projects here at Wes.
BIGGEST SHOCK: Gender neutral toilets.
FIRST THING YOU’LL DO WHEN YOU GO HOME: Eat good Indian food. I like daal makhni and cheese naan.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST SURPRISED ABOUT: How easily I could get along with people. I feel like this space has changed me. I’ve become so much more open to talking to new people here. Orientation week itself I saw that side of me that I hadn’t seen of myself. I haven’t done theater in so long and now I’m trying out for films.
FIVE YEARS: My dream is to go to Conde Nast in NYC and work there full time. Get a cool apartment in New York and keep traveling and writing my heart out.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO GET OUT OF YOUR FOUR YEARS HERE: A lot of experience. Living alone and independently. Back in India we have helpers to do everything for us and we’re really pampered. I want to get the experience of living alone and allocating time. I want to learn good time management. And I want to be a really, really good writer at the end.
CATCH ME AND AANANDITA AT S AND C THIS WEEK!