When the all-powerful Arts editors offered me a Bollywood column last summer, I already knew what my last article would be about. I’ve been sitting on this column for months — years, really — and it’s only fitting that I finally combine my favorite things about this university in my final farewell.

The truth is that Bollywood movies — or rather, dancing to their music — are the reason I ended up at the University. Once I saw my first Indian American Student Association Cultural Show in 2003, I knew in my heart that there was no other school for me. The show consisted entirely of students dancing to Bollywood songs.

I’ve been dancing my entire life. Growing up in Boston, I would help my mother move the furniture in our apartment aside to make room for her weekly dance classes, which I’d then watch from my newly assembled couch-fort in the kitchen. I trained for years in classical and contemporary Indian dance and saw every performance that passed through town, but I had long since given up on living out my Bollywood dreams on stage. At the IASA show, I saw 200 people doing just that.

IASA gave me a stage experience unlike any I had ever known or will likely ever know again. I will leave this university with the unbelievable memory of dancing for almost 4,000 people, feeding off their energy and trying to give them just as much back. I went up on that stage as dancer, choreographer and organizer of the show, but those seven minutes under the lights never lost their magic.

In the words of my wise and esteemed co-cultural show coordinator this year: “You don’t dance at Hill Auditorium every day. You go up there for the first time freshman year, and it changes you.”

Every fall, IASA gave me a new family of dancers. Through it, I made some of my best friends in college, without whom my life would be incomplete and painfully boring. I was fortunate enough to work with not one, but two fantastic show cores, as we spent sleepless nights in the fishbowl eating crappy pizza and being part of something incredible, something bigger than all of us.

But then, winter came.

I didn’t realize it until sophomore year, when three of my roommates were on competitive dance teams. After Nov. 12th, they were still going off to practice and performing and competing. And me — I was bored.

The bratty tragedy of it all was that there wasn’t a team for me. I knew by then that there were competitive Bollywood dance teams all over the country, but alas, a lack thereof was the only thing keeping Michigan from perfection in my eyes. “If only we had a co-ed filmi team,” I’d sigh to myself. If only someone started one. Right. Now.

And then there was Manzil.

“Manzil,” in Hindi, quite literally means “destination,” but it’s a far more romantic word. I’d liken it more to “destiny.” The team was formed two years ago, and going to those first tryouts was easily one of the best things that ever happened to me.

When I made Manzil on the lucky night of March 17, 2011, the group of us went out to Denny’s on the spot, around 5 a.m. But what I remember of that night, and of so many nights since, is how it felt to drive home and watch the sunrise together. I felt in my every nerve a sensation of infinite possibility, the same feeling I get every time we chant, “One team, one manzil” before going on stage.

For the past two years, Manzil has been my family, with all the glorious dysfunctionality of any family. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve argued, we’ve celebrated, but every night we end up back together, dancing our hearts out when the rest of the world isn’t as comforting.

What makes Bollywood films so memorable is the blessed unreality of the world in which they take place. College is that world, that unreality. I will leave this place with so many movie moments, from dancing all day to talking all night, Lake Shore Drive to the hills of San Francisco. I will never forget the finale of my Manzil movie, when we placed for the first time this year at my last competition.

I’ll remember swapping stories from a particularly eventful weekend at our teammate’s house the next morning, or bonding with my underclassmen brothers and sisters. Years from now, I’ll smile quietly to myself when I hear a song from one of our routines, or when someone tries to innocuously use the word “heist” in a sentence. I will remember, above all, the people who shared that stage and so many stages with me, who let me into the magical realm of Bollywood fantasy, if only for a little while.

And so, to IASA, to Manzil, to the University: Thank you for our little Bollywood movie. Thank you for filling my life with love, laughter, drama and dance, and for making these past four years unimaginably wonderful. It’s a rare thing in this world to live out your dreams, and I have been lucky enough to do so constantly. I hope it is only the beginning.

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