|2 Oct 2023|
Gautam is just shy of 30 years old and has already skillfully woven together the colorful threads of his experience in New Delhi and at AES in ways that would make us all very proud. Imagine Gautam’s anticipation before moving to the place he only ever knew as home to his grandparents and as holding stories of his parents who had long before moved to the US—where they gave birth to him—and then moved to Australia and Singapore. Gautam’s arrival in Delhi, especially finding fertile ground within the AES campus, enabled him to claim his roots and to find a deeper sense of belonging than he had previously felt at other schools.
While always a fan of basketball—as a player and spectator—Gautam found a renewed passion for the sport on the Gate 2 BBall Courts at AES—which by the way, back then were nothing like they are today—the courts then featuring net-less rims, hard concrete, and an overall scrappy urban feel. Playing there though, for Gautam, was magical—and the courts were like a magnet for other AES kids who needed to get their young boy energy out!
And the most amazing thing to Gautam about the games at Gate 2 was that most of the players were Brown. They were Desis just like him. He was one of many on this court as compared to being one of the only Brown kids in Singapore or Australia. And that sense of belonging on the court fed his sense of belonging everywhere at AES. And belonging bred confidence and before he knew it, he had made Varsity as a Freshman. And while Gautam is now 6’3”, back then, he was still much shorter—often spending afternoons with his friends just trying to jump high enough to touch the rim!
In Gautam’s stretching to reach the rim, he was also growing in all kinds of other ways. And so while basketball was his first stake in Delhi ground, an important teacher in that the rules of the game kept him disciplined in temperament, and a venue whereby he could feel like a leader, it didn’t take up all his time. Gautam was also on the move all about campus—from joining the Model UN to writing for the Eagles Newspaper, Gautam was building all kinds of skills, and interests—and all along seeming to understand what the activities, classes, and teachers had to teach.
One teacher that Gautam loved was Jonah Rosenfield, teacher of IB Environmental Systems and Societies. Why? Because he taught really cool stuff but also because he presented himself in some ways as a peer—insisting that students called him Jonah. The class combined with Gautam’s love for TOK and his Extended Essay, advised by Vera Garg, were all a bit interdisciplinary and engaging to Gautam in a way that felt interconnected, organic to who he was, and important—and ultimately in ways that led him to want to study International Relations and Economics at Tufts University.
After Tufts, Gautam landed a job for the National Basketball Association (NBA). But more than that, he got the job because he had a compelling vision about what he had to offer the organization. And he shared it with confidence and conviction. He described having grown up loving basketball but never having been to an NBA game and that he was not alone in that—that four out of five fans had never been to an NBA game—some perhaps because it was too expensive and others because they lived abroad and did not have access because of location. But these lower income and international fans deserved to be able to have more access to something that brought them such inspiration. And so Gautam was on his way to bringing more equity to this multi-billion dollar institution.
Six years later, Gautam is the founder and CEO of Brown Ballers and India Rising, an ESPN basketball team of Desi players—and full-circle, bringing him back most recently to India to recruit players. While growing up Gautam faced implicit biases—a Desi couldn’t possibly dunk a basketball, or become a star—now he is on a mission to ensure other young Brown players will not be burdened by this! And the social media for Brown Ballers has grown quickly from zero to 50,000 followers. Gautam always played point guard, and it seems today he functions in much the same way off the court—assessing the sport’s landscape, hatching plays, distributing the balls, and most of all making sure he is about building a team of confident individuals empowered through a collective spirit.
While Gautam has attended a number of impressive institutions, including his current enrollment as an MBA student at Stanford, he gives much credit to the American Embassy School for helping him find a sense of individual identity, cultural belonging, community, and agency to make an impact in the world.