Prannoy Roy Interviews Amartya Sen On Nobel Laureate's Memoir: Highlights

In the book, Professor Sen, a celebrated author, talks about the first 30 years of his life.

Dr Prannoy Roy interviews Nobel-winning economist Professor Amartya Sen on his upcoming book 'Home in the World: A Memoir'. In the book, Professor Sen, a celebrated author, talks about the first 30 years of his life.

Here are the highlights of the interview:

Jul 24, 2021 22:56 (IST)

Jul 24, 2021 22:55 (IST)

Jul 24, 2021 22:54 (IST)
"Preventive detention was a great tool of harassment, and keeping the country in check," says Professor Amartya Sen, Indian Economist

Jul 24, 2021 22:43 (IST)
NDTV: You learnt about global amity over a glass of wine where they said countries may be far apart geographically, that's what you write, but we want everybody to be neighbours at heart sort of thing. Is that right, roughly?

Prof. Amartya Sen: This was a German girl I met, along with her companions, in Rudesheim. I was taking the boat. I took heaps of journeys that I could. And this was going down the Rhein, at a student fair. There were students travelling with me that said, do you know about Rudesheim fair? So, I said no, so they said we are all getting off. So, I got off there. And then I went and joined in the pub. And there were some very active students there. Who began with elementary questions when they learnt that the parts of India that I come from, Bengal, old name is Bongo, they wanted to know whether it was anywhere near Congo?
Jul 24, 2021 22:40 (IST)
Prof. Amartya Sen on Nobel: I think, because you know, it's a prize and there are other prizes, and there are other ways of making a mark in the world...including influencing the lives of others, improving the lives of others. I think just as there's a danger of being too steamrolled by others, there's a danger of having a kind of single prize interest. I was very happy to get the Nobel Prize, because it gave me some money with which I could do some real donations, for which I had no money at all.
Jul 24, 2021 22:36 (IST)
"Aung San Suu Kyi seemed to stand for the nation of Burma, but to not include Rohingyas who were residents of Burma for a very long time anyway. So, there was a kind of discrimination": Professor Amartya Sen, Indian Economist and Nobel Laureate
Jul 24, 2021 22:28 (IST)

Jul 24, 2021 22:28 (IST)
NDTV: Just coming to the Nobel Prize and the amazing, what they read out about you is just wonderful. But they also asked you to donate two things that were important to you in your life to their museum and you write, "I was made to reflect on all this when the Nobel Foundation asked me to give them, on long term loan, two objects that have been closely associated with my work to be displayed in the Nobel Museum. After some dithering, I gave the Nobel Museum a copy of Aryabhatiya, one of the great Sanskrit classics on mathematics from AD 499, from which I had benefitted so much, and my old bicycle, which had been with me since my school days." Explain those two gifts to the Nobel Museum.

Prof. Amartya Sen:  Okay. Well, the bicycle first perhaps, because quite a lot of my work is empirical. And I had to gather data in many of the subjects I was working in. We didn't have already collected data. I had to get them very often for myself, whether I'm dealing with gender inequality, how girls and boys comparatively favour, comparatively perform as they are getting older from a very early age. And also going back to history, what happened during the famine, how much were the wages of people compared with prices, to make it impossible for them to buy food. So, I was collecting all these things, going to all storages and godowns, as they say in India, and pulling all the old records out. And I had to do it all on the bike, because the long distances were mostly not very well connected. The Aryabhatiya was a book of great interest to me. The author was Aryabhata, who was one of the great mathematicians in India.
Jul 24, 2021 22:18 (IST)

Jul 24, 2021 22:16 (IST)
NDTV: You did say this about Delhi School, "The thrill I experienced from teaching my astonishingly talented students in Delhi is hard to describe. I expected them to be of high quality but they turned out to be much more than that." Delhi School of Economics, and you taught people at Cambridge, Harvard, MIT and Stanford, and you still say that about Delhi School?

Prof. Amartya Sen: Oh, I certainly would say that, yes. At different levels, I taught both the elementary economics, a personal choice theory and social choice theory. And I think both in terms of the innovative work on social choice theory that people like Prasanta Pattanaik and others did, that was fantastic. But also, in the general class of elementary economics, there was a kind of level of interest, concern, engagement, that I found right across the big lecture hall which I found enormously energizing. And I think if I were to put them in next to Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard or MIT, I don't know where exactly there might be, in terms of exact performance and score, but in terms of being engaged in the subject matter, I got as much as I could expect.
Jul 24, 2021 22:10 (IST)

Jul 24, 2021 22:08 (IST)
NDTV: One of the things that struck us in the book is friendship. And that you had so many wonderful friends, all over the world. And you would spend lots of time arguing, chatting, drinking, dancing, basically friendship was very important. Friendship meant a lot to you, is that right?

Prof. Amartya Sen: Yes, it did. Very much so. Friendship, closeness, learning from others, as well as relying on others, I think one thing friendship does is to give a notion that when you encounter a person, your inclination is to treat that person as being on your side in some ways. And you know, I sometimes am lucky, I think I discussed in one of the chapters, I think the chapter where I miss my plane, going to Warsaw. And I didn't have any money at all. And there I am, in the East Berlin station, and not knowing exactly what to do. And there emerges a friend, he happened to be a student, studying electrical engineering in Berlin. And he becomes a supporter, a friend and company.