By Aimee-Lili Peters
He wears a shirt decorated with palm trees and coconuts undone to his belly button, a purple gemstone hanging on a thin black cord. His shaggy hair flops over his eyes and skin smells of coconut oil. Kaushik Ram looks like a typical Bondi surfer, except he’s not. He’s a neuroscientist with a PhD in magnetic resonance imaging and his own business.
Kaushik, 25, grew up in Suva, Fiji in a small village where he spent his childhood climbing fruit trees and not just to pick the fruit. Kaushik would climb with his notebook tucked under his arm to record leaf structures, analyze the mechanics of how insects moved and observe different bird species. His parents would give him a toy, only for it to be pulled to pieces, rewired and redesigned to create a new one. This was when he was eight.
But Kaushik’s parents never thought he was anything special, and he didn’t do well in high school. “Health care in Fiji was very behind; if I had been taken to a western doctor, I would have been diagnosed with ADHD but, in fact, I was just very bored and hyperactive. I knew all the information because I spent so much time in nature and in the library as a child”
When Kaushik was 16, he was forced to move to New Zealand and live with his uncle due to political problems in Suva. “One day I was in school in Fiji and a week later I was in school in New Zealand. It was a very sudden transition. Even though I could speak English I could not understand the Kiwi accent so little things like that were very difficult,” he said.
It was in New Zealand that Kaushik pursued his love of nature, completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in zoology and environmental restoration and his Masters in Neuroscience. Neuroscience was Kaushik’s key to unlocking the mind and “unleashing his curiosity”.
“The brain was like a black box to me, I didn’t know what was inside my own head.” Kaushik’s dark eyes light up. “Do you know, we have over 70, 000 thoughts per day and that 90 per cent of those thoughts are repetitive? As a scientist I ask why? Why is that? And neuroscience provided a foundation for me to discover all of that and give me those answers.”
On graduating, Kaushik moved to Sydney to earn money for the first time in his life. “I worked as light a engineer for two years. In my job interview, I lied and said I had majored in physics, not zoology. They hired me and never found out”. Kaushik had no idea what he was doing or even what the company was doing for months. “I just pretended. I got very good at what I was doing, I even got a promotion and eventually I was better than the people who actually did study engineering. But I hated the job, it was not my passion.”
After two years “playing” an engineer, Kaushik left and travelled to South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and South America for six months. Almost half that time was spent in Brazil learning capoeira, a Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance, aerobics and music. “I loved the freedom it gave me to move my body. Capoeira very quickly became a deep seated passion.” And it was capoeira that lead to his fascination in movement and the way the brain responds to the physical body.
Kaushik refers to this mind body connection as the “flow state”, a concept that would later form the core of his business.
Upon returning to Sydney, Kaushik continued capoeira and completed his doctorate of magnetic resonance imaging. He was hired by an investment company to develop neuro-technology that would improve the mental performance of people who work in the stock market. A controversial, challenging and exciting role, but Kaushik worked there for just four months. “It really got to me that I had to be at work at 8am, have a 20 minute lunch break and work till 6pm. I like to live my life in the flow and not knowing what each day will bring,” he says.
So Kaushik decided to further explore the “flow state” and establish his business, Movegen. He describes the flow state as all regions of the brain working as one, when your body becomes completely aligned with the mind. “Being in the flow state allows you to reach your full capacity. Mentally you can tap into creativity you never knew you had and physically it can allow you to move in a way you never thought possible.” He says.
“When you’re in the flow, it is like unleashing uncapped potential because you don’t have things like memory or emotion holding you back. It allows you to think outside your normal range.”
Now with Movegen Kaushik is his own boss. Based in Bondi Beach, he provides movement-training programs for professional football players in the Sydney Swans to chief executives and local mums.
“Neuroscience has never left me, it’s always going to be there but I can’t return to a nine to five job. Once you’ve found your passion, it’s really hard to do anything else. I don’t know which direction I will go or where my curiosity will take me next.”
Kaushik does dream of opening up his own movement institute in the future but for now is finally content running his business, writing his blog, speaking at conferences, and “going with the flow”.