Award is a surprise, says Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee

Kolkata: Mumbai-born economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee can not believe he has won the Nobel Prize. He was so surprised with the Nobel Committee’s announcement of his name among the list of three winners including his wife Esther Duflo on Monday that he first went to enjoy a sleep for over half an hour.

The Massachusetts Institute Technology professor is also the second Bengali after Prof Amartya Sen to win Nobel in economics.

According to him, he never imagined of getting Nobel Prize in economics. If at all he was to get it, it would have taken a decade because he feels there were more talented and senior scholars than him who were yet to be awarded.

Speaking to a Bengali TV channel from the US he said, “When I first heard the news, my first reaction was a thought that they may ask me to go to some places on certain dates.”

Born to a family of economists, Prof Banerjee, who studied at South Point High School and then graduated from the Presidency College, elaborated, “So I felt Oh, I have to change so many tickets. My second reaction was to sleep a bit because many calls would start coming soon. So after getting the news on phone, I quickly went to sleep which lasted for around 40 minutes before all the calls started coming.”

He quipped, “After that I did not get any chance however. I am yet to have a word with my mother. Some friends called me up though. But the moment I am thinking to call up my mother, another call is coming.”

On the Nobel Prize to him for “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty” Prof Banerjee, however, made a candid confession on his selection.

He added, “I never imagined I would get it. I had rather thought that if I were to get it, it would have happened ten years later after many more highly talented people who are yet to get it. They are not only senior to me but also more successful than me. So in that sense it is indeed an utter surprise to me.” Sharing his research work Prof Banerjee recalled, “I have been conducting the research since 1995.”

He observed, “Esther joined me in late 1990s. For my research work I personally travelled to Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, India and China to collect resource materials. I also undertook research in West Bengal many times. West Bengal’s history pulls me because it comes to my mind when I think about the questions people ask often.”

Prof Banerjee underlined, “Before starting a research work some time is needed to spend for unstructured thoughts on the subjects. In the process I have found that lot of resources come up from my childhood memories of growing up in West Bengal.”

Banerjee in India this week to release his book

Nobel Laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is coming to India this week. He will release a book in New Delhi before visiting his hometown: Kolkata, his mother Nirmala Banerjee informed on Monday after the announcement of his success.

She said, “I am yet to speak to him. I spoke to him last night. He did not mention anything about it. (Once we talk) I will tell him: Oh you should have told me about this. I saw the other Nobel Prizes were out. But I did not expect it. So what can I say?”

Ms Banerjee elaborated, “He earlier wrote a book in which he tried to get economics away from the theoretical part but using theory to understand the world as it is, the way it works, the way poverty is, the way people handle poverty, what should be the policy. His other book is going to be released this week in Delhi. I do not know its name as yet.”

Praising her daughter-in-law she noted, “She is a very smart woman and she is very young. It is remarkable for her too.”

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