Nobel Prize Winner, Amartya Sen’s Life Until Now

The Indian economist looked back at his first sunrise and the fact that drove him to study the underlying mechanisms of poverty and gender equity, in an interview with The Harvard Gazette. He talks of growing up in a small town with his grandparents when Japanese forces attempted to invade eastern India during World War 2, till winning Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. One word stand out for him is ‘Extraordinary’.
Continuing with the interview, Sen traces his progressive outlook from the very beginning and says, “I liked the university town atmosphere. I loved the fact that my school was progressive. It was coeducational with an almost equal number of boys and girls.” Alongside, he expressed his love towards bicycling, which was his sole means of transport for his long research trips. One such trip of him stood out. Contrarily, he said, “I studied the Bengal famine of 1943, where about 3 million people died. It was clear to me that it did not happen due to the food supply, having fallen compared with earlier. It hadn’t.”


Sen was asked how he felt growing up in colonial India when violent crashes used to take place between Hindus and Muslims. Recalling the incident at the age of 10 or 11, he said, “I was playing in the garden when I saw somebody coming in through the outside gates of our compound, a very stricken man, continuously bleeding being knifed in the back, which could clearly be seen. I and my father took the man to the hospital, where he capitulated to injuries.” That man, he helped, was a Muslim laborer, basically a prey for Hindu thugs. Therefore, that incident was scary to him and had given a shape to his several researches, which later more enthusiastically focused on “violence and premature death”.
Later, he also mentions his interest in gender equality. Basically, he studied that while a boy and a girl often born the same weight, the boy went on overtaking the girl as she grew older. That time, the drop in weight of girls was often due to lack of medical care, he concluded.
Speaking of Sen’s article on the missing women of India, the talk mainly questioned of life and death. The article, being based on 1980s’ data, came out in 1990 in New York Review and the British English Journal. The theory mainly brought up the higher mortality of women than men, girls than boys. His thought made everyone curious the fact. Later, after discussing the whole matter with The Indian Express in 2014, he said in the interview, “But, in fact girls should have lower mortality. Has that discrimination stayed the same now? No, it’s gone down a bit.”
Calcutta created a huge impact in Sen’s intellectual life. The city reminds him of his college days at Presidency College, where the college, the coffee, the hostel and the neighbourhood fascinated him a lot. Recalling the happy days, he said, “Calcutta, the urban town, had a mystic sense for us.”

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