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The Rational Optimist

Deepak Pental, the former Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, talks to EDU about why he is so lucky, and how research keeps him ticking

By admin

Added 4th February 2011

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There are a few people on this planet who can overlook a negative, and focus only upon the positiveDeepak Pental will like to believe that he is one such person. Ask him about the controversies that surrounded him while he was the Vice Chancellor of one of the oldest and most prestigious universitiesDelhi University (DU)he shrugs them off. Those were occupational hazards, as far as he is concerned. Instead, he would rather tell you how lucky he was all these years.

Those who crib about life, do their lives and themselves injustice. There are so many people on this planet who do not get a decent meal, or education. I received both. I never thought that I would be able to do research on a topic that I loved. I did! Or, be the Vice Chancellor of such a prestigious university.
But, both the chances were mine. I consider myself to be very lucky. We believe that he is as well. Not because of what he is. But, how he istaking in the positive, and discarding the negativehe is one of the lucky few.

Apart from being optimistic, Pental also confesses that he is rather the professor-at-heart and a bit of a geek. We get that feeling as well, when he stresses over and over again that a college is where education takes place. I mean there should be a time for fun. But, that (time) should not overlap with your study period dedicated to learning.

On his part, Pental never mixed his pastime with his study period? Wait, he did. The bookwormwho would rather read than talkconsidered his laboratory as his playground. And he was content studying for the better part of the day. Its his thing that keeps him happy still. Mention books, especially those related to evolutionary biology, and he gets real chatty. Panjab University had the best books on evolutionary biology that I had ever laid eyes upon. As a student I was deeply interested in the topic. What are the odds of that happening? he asks with his eyes shining.

An Odd Point Out
Glancing through Deepak Pentals curriculum vitae, there are oddities that strike the reader. These make him rather the odd ballas far as interests are concerned and as far as passions go. An odd subjecta diploma degree in Gandhian philosophystands out especially hard, considering that Pental is a self-confessed fan of the evolutionary sciences.

What, then, could be a scientists interest in Gandhi, we had to askis there a missing link between Pentals passion and the countrys most charismatic leader? Figures out thats exactly the question that led him to mix the two. Evolutionary biology and Darwinism, with its idea of the survival of the fittest, was such a contrast to what the Mahatma believed, that Pental (an admirer of Charles Darwin) wished to find out what the Father of the Nation (who he admired equally) had said of the topic.



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