Telugu Association of Memphis hosts Youth Fest



Various Youth Committee members help set up decorations around the Pickering Center. Attendees were able to play cornhole, which served as one of the games played at the Youth Festival.

Chitakala Ali (11), Tejasvi Epuri (12), Anandi Durgam (10), Arya Rajesh (12) and Spoorthi Marada (12) are pictured from left to right. They posed with prop masks in front of a photo wall while attending the 2022 Youth Fest.
(From top left to bottom right) Gowtham Pradeep (10), Aashish Chidambaram (11), Srijith Jawabnavis (12), Rishabh Sen (11), Adith Kotha (11), Tejasvi Epuri (12), Anandi Durgam (10), Shivani Menon (11), Spoorthi Marada (12), Chitkala Ali (11) and Arya Rajesh (12) each attended the 2022 Youth Fest hosted by the Telugu Association of Memphis. Students from White Station are posed in front of a picture wall.

The Telugu Association of Memphis (TAM) has existed for 41 years and in those years has had countless cultural festivals. However, it recently held its Youth Festival; its main purpose being not to celebrate cultural holidays, but to spread relief. 

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented many large gatherings, especially a large one hosted by the Indian Association of Memphis (IAM) called India Fest. This led to Indian, and specifically Telugu, culture not being celebrated publicly for three years. However, this was remedied by the Youth Festival, held on Sunday, Nov. 6th from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Pickering Center in Germantown, Tenn. 

“The purpose of this was to raise spirits after these past two years, because our age group didn’t get to experience [as many social gatherings as we should have],” Spoorthi Marada (12) said. “I think that was just the main purpose. There wasn’t any holiday of cultural significance that we were celebrating.”

This was the Youth Committee’s first time planning an event, and their success at their first independent project was displayed on the day of the festival. This was also TAM’s first youth festival, as their other events were usually holiday parties or sporting events.

 “This is the first time [that we have had a youth festival],” Srijith Jawabnavis (12) said. “I think it was pretty important because it was the guinea pig stage. [We wanted to] try it out and see what works and what doesn’t, so that next year, if they do decide to do this again, people would have a much better time.”

The committee was given a budget, and other than that, they had free reign on what to plan. While some students simply enjoyed planning the festival, others enjoyed being able to delegate roles to others. Picking out the food and decorations were important as well. The President of the Youth Committee, Marada, and the Vice President, Jawabnavis, were very involved in hearing out ideas on how to structure the event. Meanwhile, Tejasvi Epuri (12) and Anandi Durgam (10), who are the Community Outreach Vice President and a volunteer respectively, picked out vendors and made some of the decorations.

 “[The best part about the planning was] trying to build up the Indian high school community in Memphis,” Epuri said. “It was a place for [Indian and non-Indian highschoolers] to learn about South Asian culture and be a safe place for high schoolers.”

The main struggles in planning were with some of the members coming together and some displeasure towards the venue. Closer to the day of the event, it was hard for Marada to persuade members to participate and play their part. Durgam feels that if they could have planned a bit more, they could have gotten a more suitable location.

“As nice as it was to not have a strict schedule, I think we were all in a box,” Durgam said. “Everything was just in one place. I feel like with the location we had, there wasn’t much we could do.”

The Youth Committee is composed mainly of young volunteers that help out with TAM events and also try to get non-Indian people to attend. 

“They have like hundreds of people attending [TAM’s larger events], and so we like to volunteer for those,” Jawabnavis said. “And we sometimes plan them. So, that’s mostly what our job is.”

The festival was outfitted with bright decorations and a dance floor while Indian music played. The food table was full of foods such as fried chicken and pizza, while also having savory egg pastries. There were also games and other activities for people to participate in. Essentially, it was an event for high schoolers to just come together and decompress.

“We played beanbag toss, caroms, [and] we did henna,” Durgam said. “We had music playing in the background, so we were all dancing together.”