Look, Ma, One Hand!

Listen to "Look, Ma, One Hand!"


SomnathkakadeQuality of thoughts determine the quality of your work, according to Mr. Somnath Kakade, a renowned tabla maker based in Pune, Maharashtra, India. His is another inspiring story of resilience.

Mr. Kakade had a motorcycle accident in 2013 in which he sustained a brachial plexus injury which left him with sensory and motor deficits in his right arm. He can’t feel or move his right arm much. He is right-handed. And he is a tabla maker.

In this inspiring conversation* conducted in his small shop in Old Pune he shares how he has known for a long time that work originates in thought. He firmly believes that the quality of his work has more to do with the quality of his thoughts, intention, and heart than it does with the functional capacity of his right arm. After his accident he asked the doctor about his prognosis. The doctor told him there was little chance of recovering. Mr. Kakade decided he wouldn’t worry about what was going to happen, but rather was going to pour his energies into what he was going to do.

He feels the quality of his tablas now is even better than it was when he was a two-handed tabla maker. His entire focus is on the quality of his thoughts and the quality of the sound. I have a set of tablas from him and they indeed do have a beautiful ring and tone. I will record something off of them and share with you  in the next post. Stay tuned. (That’s the hardest part of playing the tabla! For me, as my tablas buddies know.) And, Somnath Bhai’s tablas stay in tune very well, which makes my practice much more fun.

brachial plexus-4Brachial means arm or arm-like structure. Plexus means a network, sometimes in a web-like formation. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves extending from the cervical spine into the shoulder and arm. These nerves control the movement of and sensation in the upper extremity. The brachial plexus can get stretched, compressed, or severed by a traumatic event, such as an accident, fall, sporting injury, gun shot wound, or stabbing. Most brachial plexus injuries are traumatic, with an incidence of about 1% in multi-trauma accident survivors. The most severe injuries occur, not surprisingly, in motorcycle and snowmobile accidents, with an incidence of nearly 5%. Most often in young men. Also not a surprise. Swelling, bleeding, infection, or a tumor in the area between the collar bone and the first rib could also injure the brachial plexus. A baby can also get a brachial plexus injury on its way out of the birth canal. That’s a traumatic experience too, even when it all goes smoothly. Approximately 15 babies out of every 10,000 may suffer a brachial plexus palsy, the bigger the baby, the higher the risk.

Recovery from a mild injury can take weeks to months with rest and therapy. With severe injuries, recovery is often incomplete. Historically, most severe brachial plexus injuries would leave the person “one-handed”within two years. The many surgical advances in treatment include tendon transfers, nerve grafting, free muscle transfers, nerve transfers, nerve rootlet replantation, and neurolysis for pain. Advances in MRIs and testing of nerve function has also helped improve treatment and rehabilitation. Access to care depends on location, economics, and other resources.

The caution in this tale is to drive as safely as possible. With all their pros and cons, avoid motorcycles and snowmobiles as much as possible, or at least refrain from riding them at high speeds or recklessly. And sometimes, despite our best efforts to do everything well, things still happen. Encouragement lies in the fact that the prognosis of any injury is variable. It is our job to aim for the best outcome of which we are capable. That process starts in the mind. Advances is medicine improve extent of recovery. Participating proactively is our responsibility. Ultimately, what you do with what you have is entirely up to your own mind and heart. Thank you, Somnath Bhai, for reminding us and inspiring us.

Below is a video clip of Mr. Kakade working on a tabla.

*This interview was conducted partly in English, partly in Hindi. I translated my questions and comments as the interview was in progress. Dubbing of Hindi spoken by Mr. Kakade into English in the interview was spoken by Dr. John Samson.

Episode: Guest Bios & Individual Clips

Mr. Somnath Kakade
Mr. Somnath Kakade is a renowned tabla maker in Pune, Maharashtra, India
Dr. John Samson
Dr. John Samson is a dentist with a private practice in Pune, Maharashtra, India. He also really enjoys participating in the performing arts as a storyteller. He performed the voice-over dubbing of the Hindi into English for this interview.