Humans of Harker: Embracing empathy

Simren Gupta (12) invests kindness into her relationships

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Varsha Rammohan

"I really just live. I love to the fullest. I do everything, and I enjoy everything because you never really know what’s going to happen," Simren Gupta (12) said.

Smack! The small, black ball makes contact with the wall as Simren Gupta (12) extends her racket outward and lunges forward with her right leg. The ball hurdles back toward her with an alarming velocity, but she deftly hits a backhand that sends the ball flying.

In fourth grade, Simren’s dad took her to the gym and told her to just bounce the ball on the racket at least 10 times, and she ended up doing it 30 times. Three years later, she played in her first squash tournament. Her tall, lean stature and agility allowed her to naturally ease into the sport and develop a skill for it.

“I think my favorite part is just the rush of adrenaline in competition. When you walk onto the court just like any other athletic situation, there are two people, but only one can win,” she said. “And that desire to win makes you work really hard and pushes you to your limit.”

As Simren has refined and improved her technique over the last eight years, she garnered more and more confidence in her own athletic abilities, which helped her with Indian classical dance, a highly intensive type of movement that she has been learning since she was a toddler.

Indian classical dance has tens of hundreds of different styles, differing with each region of the subcontinent. Rather than focusing on one particular region, Simren’s dance teacher emphasized the importance of having a multicultural understanding of dance by learning styles from all over India like Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Bhangra.

“I love watching Bollywood movies, and there’s so many people I know who aren’t necessarily immersed in their culture, so I feel like I’ve been really lucky to enjoy it,” she said. “It would have been easy to miss out on all these traditions, but I’m really glad I had an upbringing that didn’t.”

Simren’s paternal grandmother, who she describes as “forthright and strong-willed,” was a physics professor in 1960s India, a climate that didn’t hold much respect for women at the time. She’s now become one of Simren’s biggest role models and inspires her to work hard.

“‘You never get what you deserve, you get what you bargain.’ I guess for me that just means to always act on my chances and never lose sight of any opportunities,” Simren said. “It’s a reminder for me to always work hard and put my mind to whatever I want to achieve.”

Last fall, Simren started tutoring upper school Spanish teacher Diana Moss’s students with basic verb conjugation and other vocabulary. The experience has taught her to become more communicative and also grow out of her shell.

“I really wish people could empathize more and look beyond themselves because I feel like it’s really easy to get caught up in one’s own troubles, but there’s a lot of people out there who could use your help,” she said.

Childhood friend Anjali Sheth (12) remarked on Simren’s compassion and called her a “forever friend.”

“One time, I remember I had a mental breakdown, and Simren dropped everything to be there for me,” Anjali said. “That just kind of goes to show you the person she is; even though she had a ton of other work, she made sure I was okay.”

Eight years ago, Simren experienced an enormous loss in her family, and the process taught her an important lesson of independence.

“Although it was sad, it taught me to detach and move on. That was a big thing for me to cope with. It wasn’t death, but just dealing with that loss and not having that older sibling in my life anymore was a lot,” she said. “I had to learn not to depend on that anymore and look toward myself and focus on myself.”

Senior Anthony Shing has watched Simren blossom into the young woman she is today over the last four years.

“Simren’s the realest person I know. She’s incredibly strong, and she always puts others before herself,” he said. “I know that she’ll always be there for me.”

Upper school economics teacher Dean Lizardo has taught Simren for the last two years in AP Economics, Behavioral Economics and ATE: Game Theory. He admires her habit of constantly coming in for office hours to make sure she has a solid understanding of the concepts.

“She’s grown to be one of the students that’s the most open and willing to share her experiences and talk about what’s going on outside of the classroom,” he said. “If she sees you as someone she can trust, she’s willing to ask for advice from you, and you get an idea of what things matter in her life.”

Overall, Simren relishes all moments of life and takes advantage of all experiences.

“I really just live. I love to the fullest. I do everything, and I enjoy everything because you never really know what’s going to happen,” Simren said.