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|December 23, 1998||
Sen discovers that the price of the Nobel is freedom
Arup Chanda in Shantiniketan
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen's real homecoming was his arrival in Shantiniketan, the legendary institution set up by Rabindranath Tagore, where he was born and grew up.
This was also where the economist realised that the Nobel Prize has a price -- his freedom.
The prize has changed his life. Surrounded by security guards and intruding journalists, Dr Sen wasn't spared even when he met his ailing 87-year-old mother Amita at their home, 'Pratichi'.
On earlier visits, Sen would move around on a bicycle, clad simply in a dhoti and kurta. But friends and relatives doubt if he will be able to do such a thing again. The professor has become a prisoner of his own fame.
As Sen himself said, "I am yet to unwind. It will take a little bit of time to get into the rhythm. I am not sure whether I will be able to lead a normal life here."
Though Sunday was a holiday, the small town of Bolpur, near Shantiniketan, sprang to life because of Sen's visit. In the evening, he answered questions posed by journalists. Talking about Tagore's influence on him, the economist said, "Tagore influenced the thinking of contemporary Indians. The combination of culture from abroad and culture at home was a very important part of his idea of education." He pointed out that this is especially important in India now "when there are attempts to close the shutters".
Commenting on the economic situation in South and South-East Asia, Sen said economic growth and expansion are helped by human resources through basic education which is lacking in the Indian subcontinent. But in South-East Asia, there is a need for greater transparency in financial transactions, which those countries have to learn from the West.
In India, he observed, half the adult population and two-thirds of women remain illiterate. Such neglect of basic social necessities needs to change if India is to become a truly egalitarian society.
On his political leanings, Sen said he belongs to the Left and has some radicalism in him, but he is not a "radical Leftist" and considers gender equality and democracy very important. "Democracy is one of the greatest things India has. It will be very wrong to think of it as a British inheritance," he said.
Regarding his research, the 64-year-old professor said, "I don't think I will change either the pace or the direction of my work". On his future plans, he remarked, "I have no final programme in my life. I take decisions at the appropriate time."
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