By Adora Namigadde

The first thing you see when you approach the Kalapriya Center for Indian Performing Arts are maps.

The maps adorn the exterior and interior of the building. Each features the same outline of South Asia, splashed with primary colors, but telling a different story. One focuses on historical language families, another traces how people have migrated over time.

Mridu Sekhar, who runs the center in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood, loves to reference these maps. She said they show the multidimensional nature of her history; how her personhood goes much deeper than being an Indian and a Hindu.

“I think the diversity of India is its strength,” Sekhar said. “And if you look at the people in that genetic pool, they’re all over the world, doing all kinds of things.”

But Sekhar, who grew up in India, worries the country is moving away from celebrating its diversity. At issue is the potential re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sekhar and some members of the Indian diaspora think Modi’s style of governance promotes Hindu nationalism. They’re concerned Modi is instituting policies that harm religious minorities in the country – a concern that’s impacting their faith.

“We’re very proud of the heritage we have. We are open to all ethnicities.” Sekhar said. “So, are we Hindu by, if you want to say birth? Yes. Do we respect all religions? Yes.”

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