No small talk, we discuss economics: Abhijit's mother

Last Updated 15 October 2019, 04:34 IST

It was around 2.30 pm on Monday and she was reading a book at her residence at Ballygunge in south Kolkata.

Suddenly her phone rang and her younger son informed her that his elder brother Abhijit Banerjee has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. This is how Abhijit’s mother Nirmala Baerjee came to know of her son’s achievement.

When informed Nirmala said that she was not aware of it and her younger son asked her to watch news channels who were flashing the development.

“I got know about it today (Monday) afternoon. At around 2.30 pm I was reading when my younger son called. He told me to watch television as it was being flashed on news channels. I am proud of Abhijit” said Nirmala.

She was speaking to reporters at her residence. She also said that she is yet to speak to Abhjit as he is not taking calls for some reason.

A former professor of Economics at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Nirmala said that she never prodded her son to study economics. She doesn’t believe in hand holding her children when it comes to education.

However, she often discusses issues regarding economics with Abhijit who is more keen on such conversations rather then the usual chit chat.

“We share a very cordial relation. We talk often. When I find a subject of interest I ask him about it and he does the same. It is not exactly a mother-son type conversation. He doesn’t like regular chit chat about topics such as how was his day and what he had for lunch,” said Nirmala.

The mother and son have also exchanged views about the current tax policy of the Centre.

“We often chat about economics and I ask him about issues which I can’t understand. For instance I once asked him whether he feels that the current tax policy is erroneous. He said that there are flaws in it,” said Nirmala.

There is an interesting background to Abhijit’s decision to study economics. Nirmala revealed that first he decided to study physics but later changed his mind as he did not like conducting small experiments.

Then he decided to study statistics at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata but left it half way as the institute was too far from home and enrolled into Presidency College (now University) to study economics.

She said that her son has a unique ability to explain complex issues in a very simple manner.

Born in Mumbai the 58-year-old economist completed his school education from the South Point School in Kolkata and became a graduate in 1981. Abhijit received his PhD from Harvard University in 1988. At present, he is the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Abhijit Banerjee along with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize jointly on Monday "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."

Banerjee along with his wife Esther Duflo- also a Nobel prize winner this year- have worked with Kolkata based Bandhan Bank for a poverty alleviation program titled Targeting the Hard Core Poor.

Kolkata based economist and Abhijit’s senior at Presidency College Abhirup Sarkar told DH that Abhijit’s work is more about empirical knowledge than theory.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee congratulated Abhijit for his achievement.

(Published 14 October 2019, 15:23 IST)

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