In 1982, Anadish Pal, 18 then, had barely completed his first semester at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) when his mother passed away in Gorakhpur. Pal was devastated and he quit AIIMS. It was the dream of his ailing mother to see his son become a doctor, not his. "While I was never interested in formal studies, quitting AIIMS was also a kind of atonement for me. Deep down, I felt guilty for failing to save my mother despite being a medical student," says Pal, now 48, and the country's only independent inventor with nine US patents.
His house in Pitampura, Delhi, resembles a laboratory-cum-library with a plethora of equipment such as gravitational modulator, laser beam walker, spectrum analysers, gyroscopes, optoelectronic sensors, among others.
As a child, Pal - who was born in Delhi and brought up in Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh - was fascinated by literature and science. He had designed a crystal radio at the age of 14 and Thomas Alva Edison was his hero. Pal always believed that his calling lay in electronics and he could do without formal education. So, when he quit AIIMS, Pal decided not to attend any formal studies again.
But dropping out of the prestigious medical institute meant he needed to prove himself to many people, including his father, who taught psychology at Delhi University. "Now, the burden to prove myself was on me because I had voluntarily taken the decision to quit formal studies," says Pal.
For the next three years, he just could not come to terms with the death of his mother and sought solace in the books of Henry James, Samuel Becket and Ernest Hemingway. This made his father worried as he could see Pal falling deep into a hole.
Pal recalls an incident, "One day, the door bell in our house got burnt. My father knew my passion for electronics, so just to divert me, he asked in a challenging manner if I could repair it. I agreed and designed a timer with a new circuit to ensure that it never burns again," says Pal, showing the touch bell which is still working after almost three decades at his house.
His father's trick had worked: Pal had rediscovered his calling. In 1984, he landed a contract for designing electronic controls and sound generators for various rides at Appu Ghar, just before its inauguration. He earned about R60,000 for a project lasting 10 days. "It was a lot of money those days. Everyone said I had put my sad past behind and had a great future ahead," says Pal.
That was just the beginning. The project established his reputation as an ace circuit designer and a 'quickie engineer'. Many freelance projects began to come his way. Between 1990 and 2000, he worked as a freelancer for companies such as Maruti, Honda, Duracell and the Nationally Institute for the Visually Handicapped.
However, it was his marriage to Ritu Chowdhary, six years junior to her and his father's student, in 2000 that marked a new chapter in his life. "My wife wanted me to be a creative person and not just a circuit designer," says Pal. So, he shifted his focus to research and invention.
In the past few years, he has received as many as nine US patents for his inventions: For the use of induction motor as a sensor, a Personal Mobility Vehicle (PMV), a contact-less non-optical computer mouse suitable for 3D applications, a robotic platform, an electromagnetically controlled valve-less internal combustion engine, a revolutionary electromagnetic gas-operated gun with smooth bore, a BVI-noise reduction technique for helicopters, a linear motor for electromagnetic launch and a very high torque electric motor.
Despite all these achievements, Pal is disappointed as he could not peddle his concept for a PMV - a diwheel car with a canopy, which he got patented in 2006, to auto companies. "The PMV can offer a good solution to short distance transportation on congested streets in Delhi. It can also be used as a personal transport to and from Delhi Metro, replacing the cycles at the stations. I wrote to Delhi Metro in this regard but got no response," says Pal.
However, Pal's accomplishments do not end here. In 2007, he was invited by the Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG) to present his theoretical research work on electromagnetic railgun and nano satellite launcher. "Although, my work was appreciated for being promising, it did not receive developmental funding. Looking at its scale, it cannot be developed without adequate funding and governmental approvals. I also met Rahul Gandhi in this regard in 2008," he says.
As a non-institutional researcher, Pal says, he faced the problem of acceptability and funds as most of his inventions have been financed by his family. But that has not dampened his enthusiasm for research and invention.
Currently, Pal is working in the area of gravity and cosmology, trying to break the theoretical riddle of matching quantum mechanics to gravitation. "I have made several discoveries which could lead to breakthrough in energy production and gravitational communication. I soon plan to disclose the discoveries," says Pal, who wakes up at four in the morning to plan experiments for the day.
In fact, he ventures out of his house only to drop and pick up his nine-year-old daughter, Eidya, from school. "In approach, if I consider a similarity, it would be with Sherlock Holmes's elder brother, Mycroft Holmes. However, there is only a similarity in basic approach with this fictional character; physically and socially, I am as far removed from Mycroft's character, as is Delhi from London," quips Pal.
Ask him how he manages if any relatives come to visit him as there is hardly any free space in his laboratory like house and he says, "Thankfully, they maintain a distance from me as they still cannot comprehend what I am up to in life."
Pal is also an avid environmentalist and has been working to save trees in Delhi. In 2008, he protested against the illegal girdling of a tree near his area. He was shocked to know that soon he was not just threatened, but a criminal case was also registered against him at a police station in Giridih district of Jharkhand. "It was all done at the behest of a councillor, who was responsible for felling of the tree. He also filed a civil defamation suit of R20 lakh against me," says Pal, adding, "I have no regrets in life, except that my inventions, if produced, could have been used for the greater public good."