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Humans of Harker: Rahul Mehta befriends others through banter

%E2%80%9CThis+is+like+a+melting+pot+of+Cupertino%2C+Lynbrook%2C+Saratoga%2C+some+people+from+De+Anza%2C+so+you+meet+all+kinds+of+people%2C%E2%80%9D+Rahul+Mehta+%2812%29+said.+%E2%80%9CHalf+the+time+I%E2%80%99m+not+even+playing+with+my+friends%2C+so+I%E2%80%99m+playing+with+random+people.+You+start+off+in+the+beginning+a+bit+wary+of+each+other%2C+and+then+by+end+you%E2%80%99re+playing+like+they%E2%80%99re+your+friends.+It%E2%80%99s+kind+of+gradual.+Like+after+a+really+cool+play%2C+you%E2%80%99ll+high+five+each+other%2C+and+that%E2%80%99s+how+it+all+begins.%E2%80%9D
“This is like a melting pot of Cupertino, Lynbrook, Saratoga, some people from De Anza, so you meet all kinds of people,” Rahul Mehta (12) said. “Half the time I’m not even playing with my friends, so I’m playing with random people. You start off in the beginning a bit wary of each other, and then by end you’re playing like they’re your friends. It’s kind of gradual. Like after a really cool play, you’ll high five each other, and that’s how it all begins.”

“This is like a melting pot of Cupertino, Lynbrook, Saratoga, some people from De Anza, so you meet all kinds of people,” Rahul Mehta (12) said. “Half the time I’m not even playing with my friends, so I’m playing with random people. You start off in the beginning a bit wary of each other, and then by end you’re playing like they’re your friends. It’s kind of gradual. Like after a really cool play, you’ll high five each other, and that’s how it all begins.”

Melissa Kwan

Melissa Kwan

“This is like a melting pot of Cupertino, Lynbrook, Saratoga, some people from De Anza, so you meet all kinds of people,” Rahul Mehta (12) said. “Half the time I’m not even playing with my friends, so I’m playing with random people. You start off in the beginning a bit wary of each other, and then by end you’re playing like they’re your friends. It’s kind of gradual. Like after a really cool play, you’ll high five each other, and that’s how it all begins.”

by Melissa Kwan, Humans of Harker managing editor

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“Let me tell you, that guy knew he was a natural charmer,” Preeya Mehta (‘14) said of her brother Rahul Mehta (12) in his childhood years. She and Rahul are standing by the counter at the bustling Philz Coffee on Main Street, waiting to place their orders.

Preeya leans conspiratorially towards the phone recorder.

“He literally tried to charm everyone — all our aunts, all our uncles,” she said, laughing. “He’d be like, ‘look at me, I’m so cute!’ So, as he got older, I saw that, ‘oh, okay, this guy is getting [pretty] full of himself, and someone needs to keep it down because no one else is.’”

Rahul can hardly get in a word edgewise, other than a good-natured “I want someone else as the alternate source!” before Preeya proceeds to scroll through baby photos of her brother on her phone.

It’s true that Rahul has a talent for building rapport with others: he’s both teased and admired by students and teachers alike. To biology teacher Dr. Matthew Harley, he’s a “fantastic student” whose lively comments brought “comic relief” to the classroom. To Vedant Shah (12), he’s a thoughtful, “really good-looking” guy with a surprisingly large vocabulary. To Alisa Su (12), he’s her birthday twin and close friend.

“Rahul is the definition of the type of guy you’d friendly banter with,” Alisa said. “But also, sometimes when you get too close to home, he gets really sensitive. Everybody who’s remotely close to him knows this — he’ll be cracking up, and a second later, he’ll look at you really seriously, and he’ll be like, ‘Really? You really have to call me out for playing crosswords?”’

When he entered the high school as a new student, facing the all-too-pressing “who do I sit with?” dilemma, he found that humor was the easiest way to break the ice.

“That’s the common ground you have,” he said. “You’re going to have different tastes, and different interests and different hobbies, but I guess the one thing you have is the ability to laugh at things. I was actually a really shy kid, maybe even in freshman year, and then I realized all you have do is just make people laugh.”

For Rahul, making friends was never an issue. (He attributes this to his “pure, unadulterated charisma,” a term so over-the-top that he can’t even take himself seriously when he says it.) Nevertheless, he regrets not branching out more.

“It’s kind of sad, but once I got my friends, I felt like I kind of closed off,” he said of his underclassman years. “But I don’t think that’s right.”

Naturally, Preeya was the one who alerted him to that fact. She told him that he needed to be more open-minded, and he listened.

“I have a tendency for my ego to run away, you know, like runaway inflation, exponentially up,” he said, laughing. “But my sister keeps me grounded. When she puts her foot down, then it becomes real.”

In the wake of his sister’s advice, Rahul struck up conversations with people he had only superficially known before. He found himself looking forward to chance meetings at Philz, previously a place for uninterrupted work. He even joined dance show on a whim senior year, where he performed in a “JABBAWOCKEEZ” graphic T-shirt and plaid pajama pants. It was a far cry from a basketball uniform.

“Definitely, the first day, in front of everyone, I was like, ‘am I really going to do this?’” he said of dance show. “I came in with this mindset that, ‘yeah, I’m just going to get my P.E. credit and leave.’ But instead, I found this community that I admittedly didn’t used to talk to, but they were super supportive and really nice, and they made me feel welcome even though I was horrible. A lot of my dance routine mates had been together for a lot of time, so you wouldn’t expect them to be like, ‘oh, for sure, join us.’ But they were.”

In friendships old and new, Rahul recognizes the importance of the smaller moments: the unexpected FaceTime calls, the late-night boba runs, the Madden in basements. He brings this mindset to Calabazas Park, the so-called “melting pot” of the Bay Area where he plays pickup basketball in the evenings.

“Half the time I’m not even playing with my friends, so I’m playing with random people,” he said. “You start off in the beginning a bit wary of each other, and then by end you’re playing like they’re your friends. It’s kind of gradual. Like after a really cool play, you’ll high five each other, and that’s how it all begins.”

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Humans of Harker: Rahul Mehta befriends others through banter