Humans of Harker: Spatial admiration

Arya Maheshwari shares the beauty of vulnerability


Esha Gohil

“I think people see [dependence] as a weakness. Generally, you’re supposed to be independent, and, I think that’s generally the picture of toughness or resilience. But I think there’s something much more beautiful about dependence and vulnerability, just being okay, trusting other people to help you out,” Arya Maheshwari (12) said.

Wisps of clouds play across the night sky, silvery shadows shifting against an endless well of deep blue. Miles and miles below, Arya Maheshwari (12) sits outside gazing up at the stars, watching as light from millions of years ago slows to a shining stop above his backyard.

At 5 years old, Arya accompanied his father to neighborhood star parties every other Friday to peer through telescopes set up in the community park. A fellow astronomer stepped in, explaining that the light he saw had been traveling for years to reach this point. 

“It was like time travel in a sense,” he said. “It was that kind of wonder with the sky that kicked it off more than some sort of heavily science oriented motive. What drives me is still that wonder with what we might be able to discover, what we might be able to understand about something that seems so mysterious and so impossible to understand.”

Drawing inspiration from the natural beauty of astronomy while also spending hundreds of hours to work through the formulae, he plays both the role of the narrator and scientist in Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.”

However, the thrilling challenge of astrophysics problems also comes with its difficulties. In response, Arya picks through each concept a step at a time and reaches out to contact professors for guidance. Each little step forward hacks away at the mountain of questions, flaking off golden nuggets of understanding in the process of research.

“There’s a Thomas Edison quote that I really like, where he says, ‘I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work,’” Arya said. “And the longer you spend making mistakes, the more you’re going to get out of the problem.”

Even outside the realm of research, a conversation comes as an invaluable commodity and cherished opportunity. Whether it be speaking with the webmaster of the Argentine Embassy in Washington, D.C. on a surprise interview or listening to a suggestion from a freshman in journalism, Arya takes their statements in stride and with deep respect. Close friend Michelle Si (12), who met Arya in seventh grade geometry class, notes his ability to understand and respond to others’ dynamics.

“He very much knows how to tune himself to different people’s wavelengths,” Michelle said. “When you’re talking to him about a problem, you don’t really have to necessarily say everything that you feel, and he kind of just gets it.”

As a freshman, Arya stepped up to the shaded glass doors of the journalism classroom, stepping into a tense meeting just before a newspaper deadline. Three pairs of understanding eyes looked back on him, and the two editors-in-chief and the managing editor of Winged Post suspended their schedule to take him on a tour of the program, and most importantly, show him the packs of popcorn and Keurig machine stored in the backroom. Now as the editor-in-chief of Winged Post, Arya shares the same eagerness to lend a helping hand.

“Above even things like reporting, and all of the articles I work on, my priority in journalism is to help make it a space for others to feel comfortable and do their best and to enjoy writing stories,” Arya said. “I’ve always tried to position myself in a place where I would have the most opportunity to work with others, and to really have an impact on the sort of environment that others can write in and report in.”

This supportive environment became all the more necessary after graffiti of a gun threat was found on campus last year. He was tasked with writing an editorial along with close friends Aditya Singhvi (12) and Srinath Somasundaram (12) while trying to process the shock of breaking news hitting too close to home.

“In that moment we were both super angry and anxious and confused, and we were fine with sharing those feelings, but at the same time we were on the same page about what needs to be said,” Aditya said. “There’s just a sense of openness that makes it really easy to communicate with him and work with him.” 

By 11 p.m., they were finishing each other’s thoughts and finding words that resonated in place of jumbled emotions. Those eight hours emphasized the cathartic experience of reaching out to sort through shared feelings. Recently, he joined SafeSpace, a volunteer organization that spreads mental health awareness by helping students let down their barriers to acknowledge and bounce back from struggles.

“I think people see [dependence] as a weakness. Generally, you’re supposed to be independent, and, I think that’s generally the picture of toughness or resilience,” Arya said. “But I think there’s something much more beautiful about dependence and vulnerability, just being okay, trusting other people to help you out.”

The two-way street of asking for and reciprocating support shapes a mutual trust that helps him build resilience after faltering. 

“I would love it if I were remembered for being someone who cared, someone who supported others,” Arya said. “That would be all I need, frankly, to just be remembered for that would be incredible.”

And he was there. He was there as a mentor for his cub reporter’s first interview, and he was there for a late night conversation about celery. He was there to steer away a sophomore from burning out and to wordlessly support his teammates through hilly cross country races under the dry sun.

Camped out under the stars at 1 a.m., Arya focuses on the task at hand, the task of simply taking a moment to “be fascinated with the stars.”