A Painted Tribute for Raj Mehta
On March 27, a group of Duke students painted a portrait of their friend, Raj Mehta, a member of the Class of 2022 who passed away in 2020, on the Campus Drive free expression tunnel. We share a statement from Shivam Patel ’22, Raj’s former roommate, about this painted tribute.
Green buds color the canopy over Campus Drive at this time of year, their sudden appearance signaling spring and the sprint to the end of the academic year. If you passed this way last week, you also saw a colorful mural appear in honor of a member of the Duke family we lost in 2020.
On Saturday, March 27, a group of over 50 Duke students spent the day painting a mural portrait of their friend, Raj Mehta.
We were touched by this collaborative offering to Mehta’s memory and helped with paint and supplies. What follows is a statement by Shivam Patel ’22, Raj’s former roommate:
In Memory of Raj Mehta
Shivam Patel ’22
Firstly, we want to thank Danette Clark and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts for sponsoring this project. This mural and event would not have been possible without their support. They sponsored all the painting supplies for the project and we are beyond thankful for their help. We also want to thank everyone who came to help paint the mural. We were able to make this beautiful mural with the help of over 50 Duke students, and we were able to do it in a safe manner because of everyone’s conscious efforts to be COVID-19 safe.
Raj Mehta was a dear friend who passed away last year. He touched the lives of many people throughout his time at Duke, and we wanted to do something to help memorialize Raj’s memory. Because during the time of his passing we were all at our homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and could not be physically present for each other, we wanted this experience to be one of healing and togetherness in a safe manner. We knew a mural would be the perfect way to honor him because we wanted Raj’s name and memory to be shared with as many people as possible.
The location of the bridge facing the road was ideal because we wanted the community at large to see and remember our friend’s face. Sarah Chang ‘23 was the talented artist who drew the mural. The organization and execution of this project was done by a group of Raj’s friends, including Sarah, Mashal Ali ‘22, Arjun Juneja ‘22, Maddie Cecchini ‘22, Dylan Lev ‘22, Saagar Jain ‘22, and Shivam Patel ‘22. The list of the students who showed up and contributed is countless, and each person truly made an impact.
We chose to paint the mural on March 27, 2021, exactly one year since Raj passed away. The process of painting this mural served as a fun way for everyone to express ourselves and to bring the Duke community together. People were able to write messages and add their handprints to the mural, and we wanted everyone involved in the painting process.
Everyone had the opportunity to help make the mural their own to bring a sense of connection to the painting and Raj.
The best interactions during the process of painting the mural were the random ones, when passersby would sound their support for the mural. Countless runners would comment on how beautiful it was, and we would see cars slowing down as they drove by. Being able to see the reactions of others and their appreciation felt fulfilling.
The most unexpected moment was when it began to rain after most people had left. The handful of us who stayed and quickly covered the mural with a tarp. I remember sitting on top of the bridge holding the tarp down in the pouring rain and just thinking about how worthwhile this all was. We were determined to complete this mural no matter what, and that is exactly what we did. What made this moment even more memorable was the bus driver who stopped near us and really lifted our spirits by telling us that, in his 12 years of working at Duke, he has never seen a group of students so determined to complete an endeavor. He was the same bus driver who had been driving by all day from 8am until 5pm honking his horn in support.
His encouragement along with that of everyone who came out, Raj’s family, and Duke administrators helped make this mural into a beautiful memorial that we all will cherish for years to come. We love you forever Raj. You will always be in our hearts.
Blood Drive In Memory of Raj Mehta
In Memory of Raj Mehta, the Mehta Family, Duke University and the American Red Cross are hosting an upcoming blood drive. Please join our lifesaving mission and schedule an appointment today!
Site: Duke Wellness Center
Address: 305 Towerview Drive, Durham, NC, 27708
Room Name: Large Conference Room 148
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2021
Time: 10:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Blood Program Leader Name: Samir Mehta
Click here to make an appointment. (Select the Duke Wellness Center location.)