Humans of Harker: Pinpointing passions

Ananya Bammi connects her separate interests by using her voice and giving her all


Katie Wang

“I used to think that I shouldn’t try if I’m not already good at it, which hurt me because I didn’t put my best effort into some things. If I go in with an ’all or nothing’ mindset, it helps motivate me to try my best at the things that I do,” Ananya Bammi (12) said.

Colored thumbtacks dot the wall, piercing through the fabric behind them. White, jagged outlines trace around labeled regions of land and water: North America, Europe, the Atlantic Ocean. Thinner lines delicately map out countries, states, rivers. Ananya Bammi (12) quickly scans the world map for the answer to her friend’s trivia question, her eyes lighting up with excitement as she confidently points to a country in Africa and receives affirmation that her answer is correct.

During the uncertain, trying times of the pandemic, many sought solace in new hobbies such as jigsaw puzzles, baking and gardening. Meanwhile, Ananya discovered a newfound passion for online geography trivia. Over time, she has come to appreciate the value of geography knowledge and has committed many locations to memory. Her knowledge has equipped her with a deeper understanding of global events and their interconnected nature.

It’s fun, because [geography’s] something that I can apply in my life,” Ananya said. “If I wake up in the morning and read a news article, I’ll actually know more about what’s going on.”

Ananya’s devotion to geography and trivia is evident to those around her. Amrita Pasupathy (12), who has known Ananya since lower school, admires the amount of time she has invested in expanding her knowledge through trivia over the years.

“Her level of dedication is insane,” Amrita said. “She uses a website where you do timed quizzes and have to answer prompts, and you just do more to get better. Over COVID, she put in so many hours. You can ask her anything and she just has the answer — it amazes me because it requires so much memorization.”

Just as she connects geography with her understanding of real-world events, Ananya finds that two other prominent aspects of her life relate to each other in many ways: art and STEM. Within the realm of biomedical engineering, for example, she believes knowledge of art will help her design more innovative solutions to improve human health. She reflects on how the two subjects inform one another in their creative process and how they mutually enhance each other.

“I’ve found that [art] fits in with other things in my life,” Ananya said. “The art process is very similar to an engineering process. You start with your idea, and then you have to come up with a process and design, which is applicable to both sides. There’s a lot of science that can go into art, and the other way around — I’m also interested in biology, and those two subjects connect really easily: having knowledge of the body, the skeleton and muscles will really help with my drawings.

In art, Ananya allows her creativity to flourish unrestricted by guidelines. In contemplating the connection between art and STEM, Ananya has discovered parallels between the creative process in art and the coding process in computer science.

“It’s very liberating — there are no rules,” Ananya said. “With art, you can do whatever you want. That also translates to other things, like in CS, there’s not one way you can code, you can be creative in your approach, which is the same as in art. Even if I’m trying to draw a specific image, there’s so many ways I can go about that.”

Despite her bold, experimental approach to art and other activities, Ananya has struggled with embracing risks. However, by taking small, steady steps like vocalizing her thoughts in the classroom, she has grown more confident in taking calculated risks.

“Sometimes I do things in a low-risk, low-reward situation as opposed to a more high-risk, high-reward situation,” Ananya said. “Something I’ve been trying to get better at is stopping fear from stopping me in terms of just small things like going to office hours more often and taking more chances.”

Over the course of high school, Ananya has overcome her fear of taking risks, and her progress shows in the classroom. Upper school biology teacher Eric Johnson recalls their first interactions with Ananya and notes the striking transformation in her confidence and willingness to put herself out there.

“Ananya at first was quiet,” Johnson said. “But as time went on, she would come into my class and office hours, she would hang out after school. That’s where I got to see her personality. She definitely was someone who would make efforts to come talk to me. I think she could really communicate her voice. Standing out and having a voice is really important in science.”

In addition to expressing herself in a classroom environment, Ananya enjoys starting conversations within her tight-knit group of friends and sharing contrasting viewpoints. Close friend Lucy Feng (12) reflects on the value of having a friend like Ananya.

“She’s a lover of discussion, in the sense that she will argue against you, but not in a ‘I think you’re wrong’ sort of way,” Lucy said. “It’s just different opinions. She’s easy to agree with. She really likes to bring up all sorts of conversations. I feel like if every friend group had a character similar to [Ananya], the friend group would be better.”

From memorizing geographical locations to exploring science through an artistic lens, Ananya has found that dedication is the key to fulfillment in all aspects of her life. She applies this overarching principle to every task she undertakes, ensuring that she gives her best effort to each of her endeavors.

“I used to think that I shouldn’t try if I’m not already good at it, which hurt me because I didn’t put my best effort into some things,” Ananya said. “If I go in with an ‘all or nothing’ mindset, it helps motivate me to try my best at the things that I do.”