Avantika Aggarwal's commonapp essay and what she has to say about it!

I teetered dangerously on the seat as the rickshaw bumped over potholes. After skirting all kinds of animal life I finally reached my destination – a small school run by Udyam Prayas. Children came to study here after school and during their vacation, to supplement what they get from the inadequately trained staff of their government run school.

It was a decrepit building where the doors hung precariously. The uneven, gloomy stairs led to the classroom, which, in contrast, was vibrant and happy with the chatter and laughter of the children. As I stood tentatively at the door, one of them spotted me and before I knew it I was surrounded and gently nudged into the classroom and into their lives. It made me reflect how long my friends and I took to give a new kid a break.

Later that day, I noticed Shivam, sitting apart, in one corner of the classroom, ignored and withdrawn. His demeanour reminded me of the person I had been way back in grade eight – reticent, diffident and lacking in confidence.  I spent some time chatting with him and by the end of the day I realised that Shivam struggled endlessly, especially in mathematics.  Added to this was his complete disengagement from the surrounding environment and he appeared to be a social misfit.  It was as if he saw no reason to be there.

As I rode the metro home, I reflected on my life and surmised that a series of events and people had helped me change from a risk averse, retreating human being into a person who loved life and its challenges.  I wanted very much to help Shivam, but I had limited time on my hands. I knew I could only make a beginning.

Shivam and I started putting in an extra hour each morning to help him catch up with his mathematics and on the third day we had a breakthrough. Shivam was playing with clay and I watched, fascinated, as he shaped exquisite little figurines from it. I coaxed him to display these to his fellow students. As the kids squealed and exclaimed, he looked down, bashful and bewildered.  It was hard for him to believe that he too could be appreciated.

From there began our journey.  We started devoting the lunch break each day to clay-play.  A small group of kids would join in and in that slice of time, the metamorphosis in Shivam was astounding as he helped them pat and shape the clay.  Although I longed for a miracle, it was unrealistic to expect one. However, the little changes that I noticed gave me the confidence that we were on the right path.  He was now a part of a small group of kids, hovering on the edges but, nevertheless, a part of it.  His academic progress was painfully slow but he was trying.  The desperate look of wanting to escape was not there in his eyes anymore.

I knew that this was only the start of a journey for Shivam but I was happy that together we had set a ball rolling.


At times, life seems to lack meaning, direction or any sense whatsoever. One feels lost, dazed, almost as if nothing has a purpose anymore.
Yet there are certain moments of such extreme clarity, where the path we tread seems ever so clear, almost as if the stars are guiding us along our way, that we realize it is for these moments that one must continue to live life and not give up in the face of even the biggest adversity.

A similar life altering incident teaches me how to take life in my stride and help a lost soul find a few moments of happiness in what had been up till then, a lifetime of misery.

The article is delicately written, and it is obvious that much care and attention has been paid to ensure that my emotions are conveyed to the reader in their purest form. The vivid descriptions of all the elements involved immediately help the reader picture exactly what is being said, almost as if everything is happening before their own eyes. However, there is a certain incompleteness to the story, almost as if I had too much to say, too many thoughts, but just couldn’t pen them down. Certain parts seem to have been eliminated, as if the I was too scared that I had revealed things about myself too intimate to be shared with others. What makes this story memorable though, is the underlying tone of optimism throughout. While reading the story, I couldn't help but wish that the boy gains a little joy from my attempts to make a difference in his life.

There are a few thing in life that make you smile because you’re happy, a few things that make you cry because you’re sad, but the true treasures are the things that make you so happy, they make you cry. It is this very essence that I have managed to capture in my story, which hold people captivated till the very end.