Let’s get colorful!

StudentSpeak is pleased to present a guest post by Rajkaran “Raj” Sachdej, a second-year M.D. student and member of the Middle Eastern & South Asian Association (MESAA).

Yai re, yai re, zor laga ke naache re. Yai re, yai re, mil ke dhoom machaye re. Chal mere sang-sang. Le le duniya ke rang. Ho ja rangeela re.

MESAA-flashTrace your steps from the last time you walked into the Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB). You jumped off the yellow and blue streetcar, trod neon-green bike paths, tripped over the silver tracks, smirked at the “platinum” LEED award and slammed the blue handicap entry access button – only for the colors to cease as you face white walls and concrete floors for the rest of the day.

Don’t get me wrong. The CLSB and its sleek, modern design has its merits. However, when it becomes your second home for 10 hours each day, cabin fever begins to set in and the chair sounds of 2-South certainly don’t help. Short of playing indoor paintball to break the monotonous stress of studying in a building lacking campus culture, on November 9, 2015, MESAA found a way to paint the town red.

MESAA, the Middle Eastern and South Asian Association, is a new student-led interest group. We aim to highlight medical and social issues of our communities while celebrating and sharing our iridescent cultures. Where better to show off those colors than the blank backdrop of the CLSB?

Aside from finding ways to bridge the spectrum of cultures, MESAA had one goal – to make people smile. But how? It was pretty obvious to us. Dancing is an integral part of both Middle Eastern and South Asian childhood experiences. From Bollywood performances at Diwali to dabke at your cousin’s wedding or bhangra for Vaisakhi to talent show belly-dancing – these experiences paint the pictures of our childhoods. Immediately, plans for a dance flash mob formed.

Our enthusiasm took a hit as plans were halted by coordination, preparation and red tape. It wasn’t as simple as just practicing a vibrant dance and then performing at random for surprised onlookers. Instead, we had to address unforeseen, unchartered issues to ensure a successful and regulation-compliant flash mob. We had to find an appropriate time for OHSU and PSU students, garner Center for Diversity and Inclusion support, maintain public safety, get administration approval and assure dancers’ professionalism would not be questioned. Not to mention the general live performance difficulties – dancers, choreography, practice, and audio – all while maintaining the element of surprise. It certainly felt as though we bit off more than we could chew and the months-long process for such a simple goal seemed futile.

MESAA-flash2Debut day finally came, with people drawn to the CLSB atrium by the eyebrow-raising flyers we scattered in classrooms at midnight. At 12:10 p.m., some dancers practiced last-minute moves while the other half blended into clueless crowds – blissfully unaware of the speakers hidden by winter coats. Looking up from the center of the atrium, I was not distracted by the nautilus pattern of bulbs, but was overwhelmed by the number of students peering from the balconies. This collaborated event brought us all together like never before. At 12:15 p.m. and in a flash, our East-West Rangeela Re remix, Persian pop, Arabic dabke, and Bollywood finale ended with smiles and a roar of applause. MESAA succeeded; we united the student population by celebrating what transcends our individual cultures all while adding much-needed brilliant color to the CLSB.

More importantly, the flash mob showed us the CLSB is fundamentally missing something: that which makes a building with “learning studios” into a collaborative, supportive and vibrant learning environment. MESAA had to jump through too many hoops to spread happiness and unity amongst colleagues and peers. Events with similar goals of transforming the CLSB should be encouraged and nurtured. I don’t know what the aforementioned “something” is or if we will ever find it. I just know the dance flash mob gave us a glimpse as to what might be needed and how brilliant the CLSB can become.

For now, we must recognize we have the opportunity to be the pioneers of the CLSB. Maybe its white walls and concrete floors were meant to be our blank canvas. Let’s embrace each other’s differences, celebrate our similarities and add some color to our lives at the CLSB. click below for video

Hey, friend, put in effort and dance. Hey, friend, together we’ll cause a ruckus. Come with me and take the colors of the world. Let’s get colorful!

One response to “Let’s get colorful!

  1. Raj & MESAA, it was truly my pleasure to witness the unfolding of the flash mob from your very first questions about practicality to witnessing your performance take over the atrium. Watching the video today again brought new life and energy into the CLSB – this time my office on the 5th floor.

    I share your frustration about the occasional administrative challenges of working in such a large institution and hope that having gone through this you could provide me with ways the UME Office of Student Affairs might be able to help. I continue to be impressed by not only your performance but the behind the scenes work you did to stage this event in a shared public space of a brand new building. This event was groundbreaking in many ways and you all brought wellness and diversity front and center to the entire CLSB community – Thank You! You are right to call out that you are the pioneers of the CLSB and I hope that we can work together to cultivate this collaborative space into a place where all students feel safe to embrace differences and celebrate similarities.

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