Humans of Harker: All for one and one for all

Arjun Virmani balances equanimity with charisma


Muthu Panchanatham

“Spirit is worth it because you can touch so many people and affect so many people’s emotions and lives. And that’s really what I like to do. I like to make people happy through anything that I do,” Arjun Virmani (12) said.

Side-stepping an opponent and weaving through the throng of players, Arjun Virmani (12) positions his arms towards the hoop, flicks his wrist and watches the orange basketball make the most satisfying swoosh through the net. The crowd goes wild.

Without a doubt, Arjun’s presence on the basketball team is undeniable. Even though he started later than others, joining the team in the middle of seventh grade, he finds that the team’s companionship continues to draw him back to the sport, providing him with a constant source of motivation.

“Basketball’s worth it for the friendships. You build really strong bonds with people on the team, and that goes beyond the court too,” Arjun said. “You guys talk in school, and you guys always help each other out. If you’re there for each other on the court, you do it for each other off the court.”

Friend and teammate Vijay Vyas (12) met Arjun through a mutual friend when he joined Harker in freshman year. Four years later, he says he can talk to Arjun about anything in his life.

“Arjun’s a great leader on and off the court. He’s never down, doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing. That’s how he does things off the court,” Vijay said. “On the court, he’s a great all-around player. He passes the ball, good defense, and all that.”

The relationships he has forged with his team members throughout the years, looking out for and caring for one another both on and off the court, taught Arjun lessons he says he would never have learned elsewhere. From this close circle of brotherhood, Arjun discovered the value of empathy. 

“The most important thing for me to remember is to treat others the way you want to be treated, and that’s more than being kind to someone,” he said. “If you’re in a place of need, you would want someone else to be there for you. It takes a lot out of you to step into someone else’s shoes and see when they need you to be there for them.”

Arjun’s caring and laid-back personality provides him the opportunity to connect with his peers and create even more meaningful relationships beyond his close-knit circle of basketball teammates. 

“I’ve seen people in the hallway and given them a quick ‘hey,’ or a smile,” Arjun said. “Even if I didn’t know them, I think it’s nice to have someone there, and I like sitting down with people and talking about whatever.”

This charisma is a hallmark of Arjun’s personality: an innate desire to spread his infectious energy to anyone he surrounds himself with. He describes himself as the jokester of his friend group, someone who’s always relaxed and easy to talk to.

“I’m always laughing and smiling and being really loud. I like to get to know everyone around me, and I feel like they see me too because of my energy. Whatever I do, I want to be able to affect people’s emotions and lives for the better,” Arjun said. “That’s really what I like to do. I like to make people happy through anything I do.”

With this in mind, Arjun’s choice to join Harker’s spirit community in freshman year becomes startlingly clear. Dedicating his hours off school to provide a better experience for others was never easy nor short work, but Arjun did each task with pride—this year, as a member of the senior Spirit Advisory Board. 

“Spirit is worth it because you can touch so many people and affect so many people’s emotions and lives. And that’s really what I like to do. I like to make people happy through anything that I do,” Arjun said.

Gowtham Irrinki (12), Arjun’s close friend since fourth grade, has seen Arjun devote more and more time to spirit over the years as he’s become the one with the loudest voice at rallies and the biggest presence for his class.

“Spirit matters to him because he likes to build a sense of community. And if people around him are disconnected, he’ll take that personally. He wants a feeling of connectedness, and he’ll drive and be happy in that sense. Anything that will make the community better, he’ll definitely work towards it,” Gowtham said.

Arjun credits his nurturing nature to his upbringing and feels thankful to be able to spread the happiness he experiences at home to his peers and beyond.

“I’m constantly surrounded by my parents and my brother, and they’re probably the happiest people I’ve ever met. They’ve made me have this grateful and positive outlook on things,” Arjun said. “So whenever I’m stressed, they tell me not to overfocus on something so trivial in the grand scheme of things, and I’m glad to have that valuable mentality from them.” 

Arjun finds this mentality is especially helpful when applied to the fast-paced, volatile games of basketball’s competition season. While confronting the “unmotivating” losses and missteps during games, he’s realized the importance of staying grounded and keeping a clear mind before playing.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m really working this hard, but it’s not paying off, and I get fixated on the losses,” Arjun said. “But at the end of the day, most of the game is mental instead of physical, so even if you have the physical skills, the next step is getting your mind ready to play the game.”

His pre-game routine usually includes dancing to hype music with his team in the locker room, and other times taking a nap to get himself “locked in.”

Understanding the importance of preparing himself to overcome the mental blocks first, Arjun especially began to take inspiration from his father. Arjun’s father regularly meditates and always tells Arjun that “if your mind is not ready to be in a certain situation, you won’t perform well because it’s extremely unfamiliar.” 

“That happened to me when I was in a game, and I completely froze even though I knew the move that I should have made,” Arjun said, recounting a particular loss that stuck with him. 

At the end of the day, he hopes to be remembered as someone approachable and open who fills others with the energy and vivacity that he carries on a daily basis. 

“I suppose it’s cliche, but I think I really just wanted to be that person in high school who’s just laid-back doesn’t take things too seriously, and instead can just make things fun for others,” Arjun said.