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'Quiet student, liked football': Teacher, friend recall Abhijit Banerjee's time in Kolkata school

As the news of Nobel Prize in Economics to Abhijit Banerjee reached Kolkata, friends and family of the Indian-American economist was overjoyed with the honour. 

Nirmala Banerjee, the mother of the Indian-born economist, is on cloud nine over her son's achievement.

"I am very happy. It's a big glory for the entire family," she told reporters in Kolkata on Monday.

Banerjee is among the three economists jointly awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for their "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty." His fellow laureates are  Esther Duflo, also his wife, and Harvard University Professor Michael Kremer.

Currently, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he received his early education from South Point School in Kolkata.

He  Indranath Guha, who taught Banerjee in school and was principal at the time said, "I am Very Happy and proud Because I used to know his parents very well. His father Dipak Banerjee taught us when he was faculty in Presidency College. I knew Abhijit quite well, naturally, I am very happy." "He was always a good student but at that time he used to be very quiet. He was not so extrovert in his school days as far I remember, as many years have passed it's tough for me to recover any such incident," Guha said. 

Guha added that he did not meet Abhijit after he passed out of school.

Sharmila Dey Sarkar, a classmate of Banerjee in school, also recalled the time when she studied with him in South Point School.

I have studied with Abhijit From Class 7 to 10. He was in a different section from class 11 as he studied statistics," Sarkar, who now teaches at the same school, said. 

"He was very quiet and used to play football, in school and playground near his home. He used to share it with us, and we used to have fun out of it in school," she said. 

"Since 2012, we really reorganised him and we felt that he makes us all proud. We are so overwhelmed and I cried out of happiness. No words to express my joy," Sarkar said. 

Today, he has made the entire country proud, she added. 

Born in 1961 in Mumbai, Abhijit went completed his higher education from Presidency College, Kolkata and Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi. He then went to the US where he received his PhD from Harvard University in 1988.

In 2003, he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan and remains one of the directors of the lab.

His areas of research are development economics and economic theory. Banerjee is a member of J-PAL's Executive Committee and previously served as co-chair of J-PAL’s Education Sector.

In 2009, he received the Infosys Prize 2009 in Social Sciences and Economics. 

According to his profile at the J-PAL website, he was named one of Foreign Policy magazine's top 100 global thinkers in 2011. 

He is the author of a large number of articles and three books, including Poor Economics which won the Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year. He is the editor of a fourth book, and he finished his first documentary film, "The Name of the Disease," in 2006. 

Most recently, Banerjee served on the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Reacting to the news of his award, Banerjee, with wife Duflo standing next to him, said, "It is wonderful to get this prize. It is a prize for the entire movement."

(With inputs from Shreyashi and Sukanta in Kolkata)

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