Event brings comfort for students from afar

Keerthana Ram (23), of Chennai, India, gives a henna tattoo to Mally Ha (25), of Ho Chi Minh City...
Keerthana Ram (23), of Chennai, India, gives a henna tattoo to Mally Ha (25), of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, during the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) International Cultural Carnival on Saturday. PHOTOS: GERARD O’BRIEN
In memories, there is solace.

For Otago Polytechnic design master’s student Keerthana Ram, giving henna tattoos to fellow students at the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) International Cultural Carnival on Saturday helped ease her homesickness for Chennai, India.

She said henna tattoos were generally given to women attending weddings or special family events, so the carnival activity stirred many recollections of good times with her family and friends.

"I’m actually enjoying it. I’m not homesick.

"It feels like back in India."

She last visited Chennai in February and had hoped to return this Christmas.

"I don’t think that is a possibility now — not with the Covid pandemic."

The event had helped put many international students at peace by reminding them there were others in Dunedin in similar situations, she said.

Miss Ram’s booth was one of 10 at the carnival, from different cultural clubs.

Listed activities included weaving, Tamil and Chinese calligraphy, a cultural hand-puppet display and an invitation to try on a hijab.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 Alert Level 2 conditions forced the carnival organisers to cancel cultural food offerings at the event.

The event was part of the OUSA’s Diversity Week, which included a diversity quiz, an interfaith peace project, neuro-diversity awareness and danceability workshops, The Queerest Tea Party and a Queerytales Rainbow Ball.

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