Humans of Harker: Connections, cafés and creativity

Hari Bhimaraju builds relationships using technology and charm

%E2%80%9CEveryone+has+a+different+story.+In+a+caf%C3%A9%2C+I%E2%80%99ll+imagine+everyone%E2%80%99s+life+as+a+story+floating+above+their+head%2C+like+a+bubble.+I+go+to+places+where+I%27d+talk+to+people+that+I+don%27t+otherwise+meet.+I+like+to+give+little+compliments+because+they+always+make+%5Bpeople%E2%80%99s%5D+days+so+much+better%2C+and+that+will+usually+start+a+conversation.+Even+if+it%27s+a+five-minute+interaction%2C+there%27s+so+much+you+can+learn+and+so+much+that+you+can+take+away+from+it%2C%E2%80%9D+Hari+Bhimaraju+%2812%29+said.

Anoushka Buch

“Everyone has a different story. In a café, I’ll imagine everyone’s life as a story floating above their head, like a bubble. I go to places where I’d talk to people that I don’t otherwise meet. I like to give little compliments because they always make [people’s] days so much better, and that will usually start a conversation. Even if it’s a five-minute interaction, there’s so much you can learn and so much that you can take away from it,” Hari Bhimaraju (12) said.

A tool that allows the visually-impaired to learn about the periodic table. A friendship formed over a colorful journal and a hot latte. An imaginary world that’s too complex for anyone to understand but its rulers. What do these things all have in common? Hari Bhimaraju (12), their creator.

From attending camps that raised awareness for the visually-impaired as an 8-year-old to teaching them at 14, Hari has been working with the visually-impaired community for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve grown up with a fair amount of privilege, and I think that it’s really important to use it to empower others,” Hari said. “My family has been involved with the visually-impaired community [since I was] young, so I grew up around that. Now it’s a big part of my life because I like learning from different perspectives, and I’ve made a lot of friends within the community.”

One of these friends was a girl around Hari’s age named Maycie. Hari’s friendship with Maycie was a compelling factor in one of her earliest technological “inventions,” a periodic table teaching tool.

“When I met Maycie, I was [drawn] to her because she was so positive, vibrant and exuberant,” Hari said. “Later on, when I made my periodic table teaching tool, she was the first person I reached out to. I learned a lot from her in terms of improving my first invention.”

Hari’s creativity and drive to help those around her is something that Dr. Henry “Hoby” Wedler, who mentored Hari in her work for the visually-impaired, has noticed.

“Hari is such a dynamic creator of technology; she has this uncanny ability to know what needs to be done, and she’s always willing to test things,” Hoby said. “I’ve never met anyone as able to code or solve problems for the greater good as her. Not everyone uses their mind to create as much true good or excellence as she does.”

This drive is something that’s also reappeared in Hari’s other work, as close friend Chloe Affaki (12) has noticed in her three years working alongside Hari for Harker Robotics.

“Hari’s always been a very creative, outgoing person, and she’s always ready to help, no matter how busy she is,” Chloe said. “In robotics, she doesn’t just focus on the technical aspects, she tries to work with younger students outside of the Harker community to extend technology to them.”

But connections with the individuals she works with are just a part of Hari’s interaction-based life. Many of Hari’s favorite moments occur at cafés, which are one of her favorite environments to study, read or write in her bullet journal.

“Everyone has a different story. In a café, I’ll imagine everyone’s life as a story floating above their head, like a bubble,” Hari said. “I go to places where I’d talk to people that I don’t otherwise meet. I like to give little compliments because they always make [people’s] days so much better, and that will usually start a conversation. Even if it’s a five-minute interaction, there’s so much that you can take away from it.”

Hari’s face lights up as she recalls one of her favorite interactions. She was writing in her journal, nestled in a corner of the Starbucks Reserve in Cupertino, when a stranger sat next to her and said, “That’s so cool, can you show me how your system works?”

This question wasn’t uncommon. To the untrained eye, Hari’s bullet journal is a complex myriad of colors, drawings, patterns and writing.

“She told me that someone gifted her a bullet journal, and that [mine] inspired her to open it,” Hari said. “That was exciting for me [because] I was writing for myself, and I never thought that I’d influence anyone else. I really like the idea that when you’re in public, or in a place like a café, the things that you do can have a ripple effect.”

Hari’s tendency to create bonds with those around her, whether friends, acquaintances or strangers, is something that close friend Arusha Patil (12) has noticed.

“She’ll make a friendship and [even if it’s] in a very temporary setting, that friendship will run very deeply. There’s something natural about the relationships she forms; she’s very sincere and genuine about all of her relationships,” Arusha said. “That natural desire to give, and to help people, and connect … that embodies who she is.”

While many of these connections with strangers are momentary, Hari has also formed long-lasting friendships with many of the individuals who work at the café she frequents. From Mike and Michaela at Philz to Adam and Ben at Starbucks, the list goes on.

“At every café that I go to, there’s a different barista who I know [and who will] say hi or ask how I’m doing,” Hari said. “I really like that, having a friendship with a stranger. It’s this mutual, well-wishing relationship. I think that [type of] positivity is very special.”

Hari’s innate curiosity and compassion toward those she encounters is something that close friend Sachi Bajaj (12) describes as “genuine.”

“The first word that comes to mind when I think of Hari is genuine. There are not a lot of people like her, and I mean that in a very good way. Hari is not just words, she’s actions. She shows up,” Sachi said. “Throughout my four years of knowing her, the level of care and empathy she has for others is something that I really appreciate and that I’m inspired by.”

This genuinity and positivity is something that Hari’s also found in her relationship with her siblings, two of the most important connections in her life. The middle child in a family of five, Hari describes her older sister, Divija Bhimaraju (‘18), and younger brother, Sriram Bhimaraju (9), as her “best friends.”

“We talk about everything, and we can also just be super goofy,” Hari said. “We have an imaginary universe, and we’ll invent characters. That’s usually something that you do when you’re young, but our relationship has maintained that imagination and fun.”

Hari sees the lighter aspects of her relationships with her siblings as a way to keep herself grounded.

“I’d [describe myself as an] ambitious, goal-driven person, which is why it’s so important to me to embrace my childhood and never grow up, in a way,” Hari said. “Having an imagination and having fun are so underrated, but they’re a very important part of being alive and happy.”