Piyush Daga | #TalkbackTuesday

#TalkbackTuesday number 12 – with Piyush Daga, and we talk about the German language, higher education and being smart.

Cover | Piyush Daga #TalkbackTuesday

Hi, and welcome to #TalkbackTuesday, which is where I feature people and interview them. It is always inspirational to look into the life of another person, and realize it is just as complex and confusing and large as your own.

This week’s interview was with an old friend from school – I spoke to Mr. Piyush Daga, who was very forthcoming with his views. See his interview below.


1. For the readers, who are you, what do you do, and what is your current side project?

I’m Piyush Daga, a science student. I completed my Masters degree in biochemistry and I’m currently applying for a PhD. I’ve been writing entrance exams and attending interviews. Meanwhile, to utilize this waiting period well, I’m learning German at Goethe Institute, Kolkata. I’ve finished the A1 level, and am currently doing the A2 level.

2. Why did you choose German over other languages? In today’s cross-border culture, how important do you think it is for everyone to learn multiple languages?

I tried learning Spanish during graduation, but it didn’t work well, maybe due to the instructor. I did apply to Germany for my PhD. Even though I got rejected, I will keep applying. I thought knowing German would add to my CV, although that is not my primary reason for learning the language.

I got an unexpected break after my MSc and I was at home all day, which I did not want to do. So I thought I must do something. I’m fascinated by languages. German was the first choice, more so as my school had a connection with said institute.

Books and Knowledge | Piyush Daga #TalkbackTuesday
The pursuit of knowledge is important to Piyush.

Enrolling for the course was another story. The course is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The first time I went to enquire about it, there were only 4 seats left. I went the next day with the fee and everything, but sadly all the seats were taken. The authorities wrote down my name on the waitlist but my number was over 20. I didn’t have a hope, but I guess the stars thought otherwise.

I got a call stating that there was a vacancy and went immediately to enroll myself. Even the call timing was apt – I had just returned to the city a day before.

Learning a language is never harmful. I would love to be a linguist some day.

Importance varies from an individual’s perspective. I feel somewhere all languages, rather all media of communication, have a basic root. I have seen similarities between many languages.

If given a chance, I would love to be a linguist some day. It is important to be able to communicate. Language can never be a barrier. If it were, silent films wouldn’t have achieved cult status. I personally love to challenge myself, and learning a language can aid in that. We do make fun of accents, but jokes aside, if a person is able to communicate, the job is done.

Learning a language is never harmful. It’s always an added advantage. If I speak German in Germany, I may get more attention than a non-speaker.

3. A doctorate is not something a lot of people think of attempting. What does the pursuit of knowledge mean to you and how does a doctorate factor into your future?

In our circles (specifically Marwari), people consider a science student or a PhD student to be really intelligent or clever. Too many adjectives are unnecessarily attached to a normal, smart guy. Secondly, the general perception is that a PhD is not a job. Well, it is a job, even if not in the traditional sense. One gets paid for doing research.

As a child I once heard of a distant relative who was still pursuing a degree at the age of 40. That fascinated me. I guess my pursuit for knowledge took birth then.

I’m not being pompous when I say that I can grasp things fairly well and faster than others. Maybe it’s a good or bad thing – I can’t comment on that.

In our community, too many adjectives are attached to a normal, smart and aspiring person.

I wasn’t very sure of doing a Masters in Biochemistry, but 6 months into the course I knew I had made the right choice. It’s been almost a year since the completion of my MSc. I have had doubts about pursuing a PhD, not in small part to the time required.

Our minds wander a lot. My mind wandered quite strongly towards theatre and film in the last few years. However, I came to the conclusion that the field of art has to wait for me to enter it. I can put myself in that field of work later in my life, maybe something like a parallel career.

Movies | Piyush Daga #TalkbackTuesday
Piyush is a big fan of the movies. Check out his review blog by clicking on the image!

As the days go by, I’m getting confident that I should pursue a doctorate. I do get demotivated when I don’t clear the interviews. But I recover fast, having learnt from the experience. Atleast I tried. Then I failed. But I don’t know if I consider it a failure. This is just the beginning.

The tag of a Dr. before my name doesn’t mean anything at all. The respect of society is secondary compared to the mental satisfaction and contribution made to the field of science.

The basic essence of knowledge is to spread. I love to teach and the state of education saddens me at times. Everybody runs after marks. I mean, I got a 90+ score in BSc and topped my MSc. But who is asking about it now? My PhD admission had very little to do with marks.

The tag of a doctor before my name is meaningless when compared to the satisfaction of contributing.

Quality of the mind matters. I worked in a lab for 6 months for my dissertation and loved the experience. To be able to handle things on your own, to be able to get a result and not chase it is fantastic.

Towards the end of my stay in the lab, I realized that it is important to contribute. Seeing that quality of research made me realize that the fault lies in the early years of education. I decided to try and bring a change in the way research is done in India. I have a long way to go but I want to try my best.

In the end, I’ll be back to my land to contribute to the education system.

Coming to the future bit, a doctorate may improve the future financially but I don’t think it would change me as a person. As long as I continue to learn and pursue knowledge, I think I would stay grounded.

Like many in my group, I would also love to go abroad and explore but I know that in the end, I’ll be back to my land and strive to contribute and improve the education system, at least at the individual level, if not at the national level.

4. So when you take all the education and the long hours and the effort into consideration, who is Piyush Daga? If you had to distill yourself down to 3 words, which would they be and why?

I’m going to use a German word. First word, Fragebogen – questionnaire. I love to question, and love it when people question me. It is necessary to question and clarify. If not now, then when?

Second word – Leader, a leader who liked to lead but now loves to be led. In school, I was a leader. In college, I thought I wouldn’t be able to work under a leader but I was wrong. Now I feel I work better when I am led. If there is no one to be led, would anyone be a leader?

Third – humble. It is easy to be arrogant. But to be humble is a fight within a person. When I ponder, I feel that I should get all the attention, but in reality the slightest praise makes me uncomfortable, as I know either the person is faking it or if it is genuine then I know I don’t deserve it as it could have been done better. I’m very critical of myself.

Whether negative or positive criticism, I just smile and say a humble thank you. I always change the topic when it comes to someone praising me as well.

5. Finally, do you have anything to plug? It could be something you’re selling or an organization you support, or it could be a song or even words of wisdom.

Wise plus dumb forms WISDOM. It just proves that opposites do exist and all of us have a bit of both good and bad. So decide whether you want to choose 123 or 456, the first three letters of wisdom or the last three.


Thank you for reading Talkback Tuesday! You can leave a follow-up question for Piyush in the comments below and I’ll get an answer for you.

Next, subscribe to this blog with your email address at the bottom of the page, or check out the previous interview with Kelcie Smith from last Tuesday by clicking the image below:

Kelcie Smith | #TalkbackTuesday
Click the image to go to Kelcie’s interview.