5 questions with…religion scholar Deepak Sarma

Deepak SarmaFinding humor in a religion class might seem difficult to do. Not for Deepak Sarma, associate professor of South Asian religions in the Department of Religious Studies. In fact, Sarma strives to crack one joke every 10 minutes during class (and even more in this Q&A).

And although he may not have achieved his childhood dream of becoming a late-night talk show host, Sarma has certainly had a successful career so far. His teaching style—a mix of intellectualism and creativity, peppered with Sarma’s sharp humor—garnered him the Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2007.

Plus, he’s published books and articles on Indian philosophy, Hindu studies, bioethics and method and theory in the study of religion, and he now pens a regular blog on Huffington Post.

Learn more about Sarma, from his favorite spots to dine to his proudest accomplishments.

1. What superpower would you most like to have?
Total omniscience.

2. What’s your favorite place to dine in Cleveland?
Well, the answer to this is context-dependent:

  • For take out, we love Aladdin’s Eatery in Cleveland Heights. Takes them 15 minutes to prepare our usual order (lentil soup, fattoush, vegetarian combo and their fabulous hot sauce). It’s on the way home from University Circle and makes for a great dinner.
  • For the whole family (both toddlers in tow), we love Los Habaneros in Shaker Heights. Food is great and the place is kid-friendly. There are lots of families who go there, so if a kid has a total meltdown other patrons usually understand and sympathize. And the Habaneros staff will add jalapenos to anything.
  • For just my wife and I? Then our favorite place to dine is Bangkok Thai Cuisine on Mayfield Road in Lyndhurst. Their “hot” is way-wickedly hot, brings about desirable changes in consciousness and mood, and, by my standards, is just about right.

3. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

  1. Omniscient. Totally.
  2. I’ve grown up?
  3. Actually, I wanted to be an artist. This morphed into an architect and then a late-night talk show host.

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of—personally and professionally?

  • Being tenured here at Case Western Reserve.
  • I am proud that my publications have had a positive impact on students and scholars throughout the world. And now, with the Huff Post Blog that I was invited to write, I have been given an opportunity to publish in a new format and to initiate discussion with, potentially, the total global Internet audience.
  • I am proud that I was the guest curator for the Indian Kalighat Paintings Exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art last year.
  • I am proud that my 4.5-year-old daughter brushes her teeth on her own.
  • I am proud that my 2.5-year-old son has decided to eat things other than peanut butter and jelly.

But by far, my greatest accomplishment is still being alive. I have lived my life taking all sorts of risks—physical, social, intellectual and so on—and I have, thus far, survived them!

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve University?
My favorite thing about CWRU is its location in University Circle. There are not too many neighborhoods in the United States where one finds so many intellectual institutions in such proximity to one another. These proximities permit, and make possible, wonderful synergies.