“….No college? You plan to just sit at home for a year?”
The magic of growing up in India is that, every individual has a unique story to tell. I was born to a typical Bengali family of high academic rank holders and toppers. When I graduated from high school, I had boldly decided to take an unconventional detour because I believed that I was more than a piece of paper judging me. The concept is not anew, but it was a life decision uncommon to my background. To most people it was hard to accept the fact that I was not attending college. Many often reminded me about the adverse effects and dreadful uncertainties of my “wasteful” decision. People often confuse a gap year with inactivity whereas my reality was far from it.
My fulfilling experience included photography shoots, trying my hand at videography, learning new software like Adobe Illustrator and Premier Pro, classical piano training and music making, reading mind expanding books, studying neuroscience and economics via online courses, attending my first MUN conference, and so on.
In the age of online tutorials, learning image post production is a just click away. As an amateur photographer, it was indeed an exciting challenge to understand all the technical factors that made a photo ‘great’. I interned at a photography firm called Oodio where, along with technical skills and work responsibilities, I also learnt priceless people skills. The work environment gave me a taste of the real world; decisions have consequences. It also helped me network and interact at entrepreneurial hubs such as the Microsoft Accelerator and Startup Leardership Program.
Further, I took my passion to argue – to the masses through The Debate Club, and ever since I have been better informed about the world and myself. In this active life I led in exploration, I met very interesting people and built truly wonderful relationships.
Although I felt quite scared, I chose to add value to my life and engage in things that I felt a personal connection with. I set goals and began to venture into things that I had very little experience in. By pursuing what I love, for the first time I was not living someone else’s life. My motivation was not to build an impressive résumé, but to acquire important life skills that took me closer to a happy place— mentally and physically.
My high school years have been full of revelations, and the three important ones that shaped my world-view are:
First, question! Always question what you study, question how basic things that surround you work, question beyond the examination, and question to seek your personal truths. Over time, this skill you will help you spark ideas. Asking ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’ helped me identify the things that I could improve upon. Currently, Quora is my homepage as it helps me interact with people, and increase my understanding on varied issues to a higher plane.
The second is confidence. Acquisition of knowledge will liberate you of fear. You realize that your biggest fears are nothing but illusions. Upon this realization, you are instantly better equipped in your pursuits. This may not be the end of fear, but is the beginning of building character.
The third is to build a varied friend circle; one that has multiple interests across myriad spheres. This will ensure that you are in a constant cycle of sharing and learning. Further, understand that it is okay to be different from your peers. You must identify friends from acquaintances and build relations that you can save, or that will save you one day.
In May 2013, I met my new piano teacher, Mr Terence Pereira. My former teacher felt that I was ready to take up advance levels and introduced me to him. At first, I felt he was very cold, because he didn’t even ask my name or what I did. He did an Ear Test and said, “Tuesdays, 5:30.” And now, I eagerly wait for that time every week.
In my first class, he opened the Grade 4 in Piano book by Trinity College and played all the pieces to give me an idea of the sound and level. Out of the set, I loved the slow and contemporary pieces. Soon after which, he played Rondo, 2nd movement from Sonatina in F, by Ludwig van Beethoven. This piece looked complex; full of intricate dynamics, quarter notes on a 2/4 timing at 120 BPM tempo. Since I was preparing for a grade examination, I dreaded choosing this difficult piece. Sensing my fear he said, “Great! So we start with this piece.”
From a very young age, I was taught by ear and never had any formal training in music until a year ago. Sight reading was out of question! It took me months to analyse each hand, and only then could I begin to play each hand separately and slowly. These examinations required three pieces. After working on the first piece, it took me less than a week to accomplish the other two. With three months of effort, I could finally play the Beethoven piece at 89 BPM.
I had overcome the most limiting factor— the fear of failing at trying something new. I also realized how fortunate I was to have a patient teacher like him, who spread his love for music exponentially, and who didn’t teach for exams, but taught with the ambition to create the most skilled pianist out of me.