On April 18th, Daniel Roque interviewed Sameer Sridhar about his first impression with our fellowship. What follows is an interview that sheds light on our topics, and what inspires us to make a change in the world.
1. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF UAT?
My first impression was at the Religion Roundtable, that’s where I got to see the sort of vibe that Under a Tree had to offer. When I got there I was surprised to see that we sat in a circle, and the students as well as the parents were getting involved. It wasn’t so much question-answer, it was was a question and then a discussion based on many different answers. They let us participate in the discussion, and showed that they were really invested in getting to know the people there, especially the ones not currently in Under a Tree; they wanted to see what they had to offer. Also, I had the privilege of being invited to an online session and that itself was really cool too. They treated me like someone that they’ve known forever, even only after meeting some for the first time. It was really nice to see that even though I was a guest, my opinion was still valued as much as everyone else’s. They listened to what I had to say as if I had been in Under a Tree all year.
2. WE WERE HAPPY TO HAVE YOU AS A GUEST! HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE LIVE SESSIONS?
A mentor and a fellow led the session that week, and Danny came in and prefaced the whole thing by introducing and welcoming me. He asked me to introduce myself and I said a few things about myself. Then he handed it over to the facilitators, and they led the session. Natalia Wollschlaeger talked about the social aspect of body shaming and body dysmorphic disorder and Natalia Rivera discussed the statistic aspect of it. They went back and forth and it was really good to hear several sides of the same coin. After that we split into two mini-groups so that we would all be able to give our opinions and ideas based on the topic in a more intimate setting. Once we split into mini-groups, or break-out rooms, we ended up digging deeper about how we feel on the topic, what our past or present experiences with it are, what we think the real problem may be, possible solutions, or anything related. We reconvened into a whole group to talk about how the future can look and what we might be able to do to fix the issue. It was really nice.
3. WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE TOPIC DISCUSSED?
The topic that we discussed was body shaming and body dysmorphic disorder. I feel like in this day and age that topic, obviously every topic you guys discuss is a pressing issue, but this topic is something that I believe leads to other issues. There are gateway issues, so to speak, and I feel like body dysmorphia is one of these gateway problems.
4. WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKE-AWAY FROM THE SESSION?
When I came into the session, I felt like I knew a lot about body dysmorphia, but after being there and listening to people’s stories and hearing the statistics, I realized that almost everyone around me has suffered from it. The thought of having people I care about suffering from body dysmorphia and not being confident in themselves really hit home. It inspired me to want to help the issue. That was my biggest takeaway. I want to fix the problem, and the session made me more aware of the situation.
5. HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING THE DISCUSSIONS AND THE QUESTIONS BEING ASKED?
Personally, I have never been affected by body dysmorphia, but I felt like it was time for things to change. I felt like now things need to happen, maybe not even on a grand scale, but if someone comes up to me asking if they’re too skinny, fat, tall, short, ugly, or pretty, I would encourage them that they should feel good about themselves regardless of what society tells us. They shouldn’t have to ask.
6. IF YOU COULD ADD TO THE SESSION, WHAT WOULD YOU INCLUDE/WANT TO DISCUSS?
When we went into the break-rooms, I talked about how the idea in children of body dysmorphia starts from social and cultural norms of beauty. I talked about it from an Indian standpoint. When I was growing up in Miami, I remember seeing a disparity. Everyone around me seemed to want to get more tan, but Indians have this obsession with becoming more fair and more white. That is because everyone’s standard of beauty, even internationally, is whiter human beings. In India, even when we do have Indian models, they’re still lighter models, not darker. That cultural aspect really plays a big role in a child thinking that they’re too dark or not considered beautiful.
7. HOW DID THIS SESSION POSITIVELY IMPACT YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE TOPIC?
It made me more aware of the situation and inspired me to want to do something about it. Now is my chance to step up, now I want to do something.
8. WHAT TOPIC DO YOU THINK WOULD INTERESTING FOR A UAT SESSION?
Based on recent situations like the Facebook Killer and stalking, I think that it would be really interesting to see what might lead people into thinking that threatening people and doing harmful things online and in real life is okay. I’d like to learn the psychological and social aspect of it, and about how we can prevent that. Maybe that would lead to more awareness among peers. We should encourage each other to not foster bad thoughts and ideas about accepting bullying.
9. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND UAT TO A FRIEND? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Definitely! I feel like Under a Tree has an interesting and positive impact - it inspires others to fight for justice, and to support changing situations that are harmful to people. Honestly, I feel like we should spread the word about Under a Tree and what it is. We can share that we discuss, and question social problems, and are inspired to make a difference in this world.