Humans of Harker: Rhythmic confidence

Aniket Kriplani approaches life with poise


Nicholas Wei

“I got to a certain place where … you start to really feel empathy with [tabla], and you just enjoy playing and enjoy the speed. I felt like [the instrument] was trapped in this box of classical Indian music … But listening to the songs I listen to every day, I would start drumming in my lap, and at that point, I thought, ‘This isn’t out of place,’” Nicky Kriplani (12) said.

Sitting cross-legged before the tabla, a classical Indian pair of drums, Aniket “Nicky” Kriplani (12) gazes intently as he rests his hands on the twin set of instruments. A pulse echoes in his mind that longs to dance upon the surface of the drums, stretched taut by a ring of ropes encircling a gleaming silver body. Then a single ripple resonates, the first in a flurrying tide of beats – some sharp and quick, others sonorous and melodious, they build a rhythm that ignites a fire that courses through the veins. 

Nicky started playing the tabla 11 years ago, partly because his sister danced classical Indian Kathak. Being able to connect with his cultural roots greatly interested Nicky, and the novelty drew him in. Because tabla’s learning curve is flatter, requiring much more time for improvement, Nicky eventually grew slightly discouraged. Yet, over time, he came to enjoy the instrument and even began adapting it for modern pieces.

“I got to a certain place where … you start to really feel empathy with [tabla], and you just enjoy playing and enjoy the speed. I felt like [the instrument] was trapped in this box of classical Indian music,” Nicky said. “But listening to the songs I listen to every day, I would start drumming in my lap, and at that point, I thought, ‘This isn’t out of place.’”

Tabla also helps Nicky focus at times; the steady, repetitive drumming motions are a channel for excess energy.

“Moving your hands really quickly, in a very calculated way helps to get rid of that energy. It’s better than just shaking your hands because you’re actually doing something meaningful with them,” Nicky said.

Time has taught Nicky patience. Advancing one’s tabla skills does not happen quickly, but this gradual refinement has only added more value to the instrument. 

“[The tabla’s] so odd because you never feel any faster,” Nicky said. “You’ll practice, and it’ll feel like the same speed every single day. But then as you look back and wonder, ‘Wait, a month ago, I was 10 beats per minute slower – I’m faster now.’ I think tabla helped me learn that it’s more important to enjoy the process, enjoy practicing and be happy with what you have.”

Nicky brings the energy he channels into tabla to his friend group as well, heightening their energy. This sparkle was one of the factors that drew the group together.

“He’s the kind of person who initiates that first conversation, breaking the ice a little bit. And so I think that’s why it was easy for us to become friends with him, and he’s learned to use that to his advantage when making friends in new places,” Andrew Chavez (12) said. “I think it’s really helpful for us to converse with him and just be able to talk with people who are more energetic than us.”

Wilson Zhang (12) admires Nicky’s emphasis on connecting himself with those around him, a trait that has only strengthened their group ties.

“He strongly believes that the best course of action is to stick with his friends and stay close to people,” Wilson said. “He’s not one to face adversity and pin himself against that adversity all alone. He is the kind of person who knows that greatness comes from collaboration.”

Another outlet for Nicky’s liveliness is acting. Upper school theater teacher Jeffrey Draper has always been impressed by Nicky’s dynamic and outgoing nature. This spirit was apparent even during their first interaction. 

“I remember really engaging with his focused energy. He’s a very energetic performer; he has a lot of facial expressions, a lot of gestures,” Draper said. “He loves embodying characters, and he’s very physical first. And that’s really fun to see in rehearsal, especially if he’s playing the broad characters.”

Nicky enjoys the work he puts into his acting. He strongly believes in putting in the quality effort necessary to culminate in a successful performance.

“It’s a very cliche thing to say, but it really is like you do the rehearsals for three or four months, and that all gets [concentrated] in two hours over three days. There has to be something enjoyable coming out of that,” Nicky said. “It’s all building up to those two hours on the stage, so it’s got to be good.”

Nicky has translated his outgoing nature and theater skills into other performing arts as well, embracing new opportunities with a fearless attitude.

“Nicky took jazz band last year… [to learn] trombone, despite his having played only tabla for the past 11 years. I remember when he performed a solo on his first concert in jazz band, and I thought it really stood out to me because despite not being very proficient at the instrument, he was going to take a shot and try something he hadn’t done before,” close friend Varun Mangla (12) said.

Nicky’s ability to push past uncertainty allowed him to convey himself musically early on as he was learning a new instrument.

“Varun and I had played [trombone] for quite some time, but [since] we were a little bit more reserved, we hadn’t really gone out there and done solos, even though we probably could. But for Nicky to just go out there – he had been playing for only two or three months – was really exciting,” Andrew said. “He’s not afraid to express himself, and rather than just telling us what he can do, he can show us.”

Nicky also brings his enthusiasm to the sciences, always seeking to find answers and not hesitating to ask questions.

“He tends to be pretty thoughtful and analytical about things. He tends to prioritize understanding the mechanics of how something works, understanding the reason why it happens, what better alternatives there are, and he’s just all he’s always looking for something to learn in that sense,” Wilson said.

Upper school biology teacher Mike Pistacchi, who taught Nicky last year, appreciates the energy and interest that Nicky brings to the subject. 

“He’s really into science and biology and bioethics and thinking about how it all works. So it was really a pleasure to teach him because he was really into it. He always asked great questions, and he always wanted to talk about the articles he read and things he’d seen,” Pistacchi said.

The boundless energy that Nicky brings to everything he does has enabled him to conquer challenges, diversify his interests and build more meaningful connections. Over the years, Draper has watched Nicky grow only stronger and hopes he will continue to carry this passion forward.

“Some artists mature as they settle in, and they get quieter, and I think just to watch Nicky do so many things at school – to be involved in other areas and then come into the theater department and be as committed and as creative and expressive there, I just see someone with a lot of varied skills, varied talents. And I just look forward to what happens next,” Draper said.