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Life has been full of pleasant surprises, says Rajan

February 12, 2014 09:12 IST

Life has been full of pleasant surprises, says Rajan

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Manojit Saha in Mumbai

Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan believes in serendipity and he made good use of the word, which means something interesting or pleasant happening by chance, at a gathering of his batchmates and fellow graduates from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

As a young man in his early-twenties, he said, he dreamt of getting the top job at the Reserve Bank of India.

Almost three decades later, that job is his.

"I want to highlight the role of serendipity. . . I have a confession to make. At IIM-A, I was asked about my career choice.

"I said, I want to be the RBI governor," Rajan said during a felicitation ceremony organised by the IIM-A Alumni Association in Mumbai on Tuesday.

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Image: RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.
Photographs: Reuters

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There were more cases of serendipity in his life.

For example, he almost gave up hopes of pursuing PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after he was declined a scholarship. Given his humble family background (his father was a senior bureaucrat in the central government), he did not have the money to finance his course at MIT.

"I wrote back to them. . . I am a poor Indian citizen. There is no way I can pay for the PhD. . .

"A few weeks later, I received a letter from MIT saying there is a scholarship programme and they would like to consider me.

"This was an act of serendipity," Rajan told the audience amid deafening applause.

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Image: Raghuram Rajan leaves after a news conference for the mid-quarter monetary policy review at the RBI headquarters in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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Life has been full of pleasant surprises, says Rajan

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He also said it's fate that got him the job of chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

Despite not studying macro economics, he was offered the coveted post and considers himself fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade while working for the IMF.

The governor added that even the opportunity to work as the chief economic adviser to the government came to him at an opportune time -- just when his son was getting enrolled in a boarding school and he was free to relocate.

The call had come from C R Rangarajan, chief advisor to the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council and former RBI governor.

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Image: Raghuram Rajan.
Photographs: IMF/Wikimedia Commons

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Life has been full of pleasant surprises, says Rajan

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While the media often describes Rajan as a flamboyant and a 'rock star' economist, none of that was evident when he was at the premier management institute.

Cricket commentator and journalist Harsha Bhogle, for instance, said he did not even know Rajan during his IIM-A days and met the governor for the first time in Sachin Tendulkar's final test match in Mumbai's Wankhede stadium in November 2013.

It was also because Rajan never had time outside his studies.

"First year at the IIM-A, I worked the hardest in my life. . . 80-90 hours in a week was routine," he admits adding it probably made him unfit for a corporate job.

"I think IIM-A spoiled me, it pushed me to academia," he said with a laugh.

Markets would most certainly hope it's their turn to get some pleasant surprises from the governor.


Image: Raghuram Rajan.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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