What did Music, Meditation & Skateboarding teach me? A LOT…

Today — 21st June, 2018 is :

1.) World Music Day

2.) World Yoga Day

3.) Go Skateboarding Day ( I bet a lot of you didn’t know this one!!)

All of the above mentioned gifts have impacted my life on an intrinsically deep level. And here’s the interesting part. I’m not particularly any good, skilled or talented in either one of them but surprisingly all three of them have been extremely good to me!!

And that’s what I’ve one thing I’ve some to realise. You don’t necessarily have to be a master of a craft to reap the maximum benefit out of any practice/ art form/ discipline etc. Being an expert with pots of knowledge certainly helps but it’s a bit overrated. Just like being a true beginner with intense curiosity is a bit underrated.

So how did each of the three things ( that we’re celebrating today) impact me in a transformative way, so far?

1.) MUSIC:

Way back in school, I had always been in awe of one particular batchmate’s near genius talent in music. Every year during the annual talent contest he had the auditorium transfixed for the duration he used to perform his set.

Being a notoriously shy and reserved kid growing up, I had never mustered up enough courage to turn up for the talent contest auditions. However, just before school leaving, this musical prodigy left me a gracious note on my farewell notebook that gave me the courage to write a few songs and play them at a school fest to experience the magic of performing in front of an audience. ( I was so musically horrendous that I couldn’t do any song covers so I used to write my own music since I could get away with murder with my own compositions as long as they were not a complete torture on the eardrums!)

Incidentally, through this fest, I met many more musically inclined friends, some of whom I still make music with to this day. So thank you Mr Music Prodigy from School. Btw, these days he keeps himself busy by collecting National Awards and international acclaim as a prominent sound designer in the Indian film industry. So I wasn’t too off target with the “Prodigy” part after all.

My first (and last!) participation in an inter school music fest in front of a packed 2500+ crowd. Thanks Mr “Music Prodigy” from School for the inspiration and encouragement !!

3 life lessons that MUSIC has taught me:

1.) Life is like music. It must be composed by ear, feeling and intution. Not by rules.

Self explanatory. Look around and find the folks who played life, line by line by the rules versus the ones who were not afraid to break a few rules and explore a few uncharted territories. You’ll get the answer.( Note: Breaking a few rules does not mean reckless abandon with no regard for any rules, whatsoever!!) The ones who’ve taken the road less travelled are almost aways the same ones who lived a life based on intuition and inspiration. The grammar is definitely important to some degree but it the story that counts in the end.

2.) It is the silence between the notes that actually make the music beautiful.

This is a very recent learning that I’ve had and it might not apply to everyone. Look around carefully and observe intensely. Everybody is so keen to blurt out their Point of View before even listening to the other. No one (or most certainly, the vast majority) is intent to engage in genuine conversation, it seems. Being the last one to speak gives you the advantage to soak in everyone’s viewpoints before engaging in a response. Silence, awkward or otherwise is not that sloppy as it is meant out to be!

3.) It (MUSIC) is by far the most magical gift that you can be presented with or give out to others. (The same holds true for any other form of art)

Again, ask any musician ( professional or otherwise) who has been blessed with this gift and they’ll tell you about it’s magical powers to connect with people across geographies and culture through this medium. If you’ve been granted this blessing and hence, obviously aware about it’s healing and bonding potential, I feel it is partly your responsibility to pass it on to others who are not as privileged as you are.

Here’s one way you can do that. One of Kolkata’s most impactful charities, Responsible Charity has a special music program called SlumJam through which they teach a group of carefully curated kids (according to their internal policy) from economically challenged backgrounds and teach them musical instruments by some of the best musicians in the city. You can reach out to them and help them with donations, which in turn will assist in making this specific program, sustain and thrive.

To know more about this unique program, kindly visit: www.SlumJam.org


Aaron and Myself on one of our early morning Skating sessions! Throwback 2013.

On an autumn morning in 2013, during my morning walks, I glanced upon an old dilapidated warehouse and was enticed by the vibrant graffiti on it’s walls. I took some pictures on my mobile and then, that was that. Few weeks later, one thing led to another and I found myself inside that same Warehouse, as a volunteering crew of a group that called themselves Kolkata Skateboarding. Skateboarding in itself did not fascinate me a lot but what ( and how) the founder of the club was going about using utilising this new and obscure sport ( at least in the city back then.) as a tool for social change was quite intriguing. The brilliant brains behind the movement was a gentleman (and his wife) from the US called Aaron, who had a heart as generous as anyone I’ve met and had an amazing passion for service. Add to the mix, an infectious smile and stupendous leadership skills and you have a near perfect human. And having the privilege to hang around him weekly and the opportunity to help shape the initial years of Kolkata Skateboarding Club (along with the other fabulous early volunteers) was a crash course in leadership and service. Time well spent and invaluable lessons learnt. Thank you Captain.

3 life lessons that SKATEBOARDING has taught me:

1.) Fall down seven times. Stand up eight.

Though this is a basic tenant of learning any new sport or skill it applies best to Skateboarding. Second best actually. Real Life being it’s best application! Let’s face it, life will knock you down, beat the living crap out of you and try it’s best to keep you down. (For more times that you can bother to remember) I’m sure, you know the next part that really counts. Rocky Balboa said it best so I’ll quote him verbatim. “It’s ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

You will fall many times along the way, to learn even the basics of riding around on a Skateboard. I personally, cannot do any fancy tricks on a board. All I can manage is to get on it and go for a ride. Even learning that simple skill will expose you to a few nasty falls. ( I know the more seasoned skateboarders might cringe at the idea of making the mere balancing act on a board sound so bloated up but I’m merely extrapolating this example and applying it to life in general. Your fancy tricks will eventually fade over time but the Resilience you develop, is a life long and invaluable skill that will last, till you become food for worms!!)

2.) Extremes are Easy. Strive for Balance.

This is also a very personal take on what I’ve learnt from the sport of Skateboarding. As I suffer from a Mood Disorder that tends to put me on a pendulum on both mood extremes at times, I’ve had to learn it the hard way that Balance is indeed Beautiful. And sometimes pretty damn hard to attain. It’s best to leave out the frills and focus on the essentials instead.

3.) The gift of Leadership and Service ( this one is very specific in my case )

I’ve touched upon this earlier in the segment above. Apart from learning from Aaron’s brilliant leadership skills and his passion towards service I was also fortunate to meet and witness another leadership wizard in action. She (Ulrike Reinhard) is a globally acclaimed digital nomad, social innovator and the brain and heart behind India’s revolutionary skatepark in the quaint village of Janwaar (Madhya Pradesh)

Attaching a video below on her project to give you an idea of the impact she and her work is having through Skateboarding in India. Needlessly to say, watching this inspiring lady at work, was also a pretty good lesson in learning about innovation and applying the creative thinking approach towards problem solving.


Post my brain surgery and NDE — Near Death Experience — (I’ve blogged about it here before, in case you might wondering, WTF!) in the end of December 2015, I was first introduced to breath based meditation after being suggested by a friend. Although it did not do any wonders right away, I gradually took a liking towards breadth based guided mindfulness meditation ( Let not these fancy names confuse you, it is actually ridiculously simple and straight forward) Although I did it once in a while back then, it is only recently that I’ve integrated it into my daily practice. Ideally twice daily for 12–15 minutes. I’ve been at it for just over a month a half for now (longest streak so far without missing a day!) and the results have been quite heartening so far. Improved focus, clarity and cognition, less reactiveness, better decision making ability, enhanced creativity, better sleep and so on. Who wouldn’t want a daily dose of those?

THE CALM (left) and HEADSPACE (right) APP interface.

I personally use a guided meditation app called Calm. There’s another one out there called Headspace. Both are currently the very best ones out there, so you cannot really go wrong with either. Both are free to try for a few days after which you can choose to upgrade to a premium subscription. Maybe what works for me even more, is the ambience in which I practice the meditation (specially in the mornings). Take a look below to get a view of the spot from where I meditate, in the morning! Who wouldn’t want such a view of the sunrise every morning??!!

My #DailyCalm Meditation Spot. Who wouldn’t want such a view of the sunrise every morning??!!

3 life lessons that MEDITATION has taught me:

1.) The quieter you become, the more you can hear.

And maybe, just maybe you’ll get to hear your own inner voice ( not the monkey chatter inner critic!!) in the process. That’s not such a big price to pay to keep your mouth and mind shut. Isn’t it??

2.) Your EGO is not your AMIGO.

Your Ego is NOT for friend. In fact it is your worst enemy. This point calls for a a slightly deeper discussion so I’ll not go too much in that direction here on the web. The last thing I would want here is a heated IM debate! (Drop a comment below you are not aware what “IM” actually stands for and is interested to know!! Lol!)

3.) Just Breathe.

JUST BREATHE — The semicolon in the tattoo stands for THIS , just in case you were wondering.

Self explanatory. Once you stop breathing, then it’s game over. As simple as that. And always remember, that it could be game over far earlier than you assume. In the words of a certain illustrious person, “Live each day as if it was your last and some day you’ll most certainly be right.”

Just breathe also because Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) told you so!

So today, take some time off to to celebrate these three gifts, Spend a bit quiet alone time, find a bit of balance ( on a skateboard or otherwise!) and make some art. Sounds like a plan? Go do it.



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