India’s first Nobel Prize winner in Economics Prof. Amartya Sen stepped into 89 on November 3 this year. It has been a long innings for him as a proactive global intellectual who has made a deep impact on the thoughts of the thinking worldwide apart from India covering the areas of economics, polity, philosophy and also history. His memoir Home in the World’ published last year gives a graphic account of his growing up and entering into the academic world in the first thirty years of his life beginning in 1933 and it also shows that his worldview took shape in his beginning years in Shantiniketan followed by years in Presidency College and Cambridge University. This view was only strengthened in the next six decades and till today, Sen is on the frontline in defending human rights globally and opposing the attacks against democracy and inclusivity in any part of the world including India.
Amartya was born in Shantiniketan, was nurtured in the ambience of Rabindranath Tagore’s ideals, and got lessons on India’s history and culture from his maternal grandfather Acharya Kshiti Mohan Sen who was a great scholar in Sanskrit, Pali and classics. His initial view about India wanted to take shape in the course of his long conversations with Kshiti Mohan. Amartya was inquisitive to the hilt and his future role as an argumentative Indian was laid during these early school days in Shantiniketan. Amartya was highly impressed by the Sufi outlook of his grandfather who travelled extensively during his younger days in northern and western parts of India to collect and compile poems and songs of Kabir, Dadu and other Sants. Kshiti Mohan studied and analysed the rural oral texts with a scientific thoroughness that classical scholars applied to ancient texts. The influence of Sant Kabir was so much on Amartya that he named his son after his second wife Eva Colorni ‘Kabir’. In the preface of his memoir, Amartya mentions candidly that in his youth itself,’ I decided that there were two quite different ways of thinking about the civilisations of the world.
Amartya has some clear ideas about the role of democracy in the building of socialism. He writes in his memoir that there is an important lacuna in Marx’s treatment of democracy. But simultaneously he says ‘it is not of course fair to blame Marx for the authoritarian practices of the communist regimes that claim that his thinking was their inspiration since he neither devised nor recommended them. The constructive role of Opposition politics seemed to have escaped Marx’s attention significantly. Amartya covered only his first thirty years in his memoir ‘Home in the World’ published in 2021 at the age of 87. Six more decades of his active life are yet to be informed to the readers. He is a fast writer with unusual clarity in thought and vision. Those who have read his ‘Home in the World’ are eagerly waiting for the next volume to get a further glimpse of his masterly prose, erudition and high sense of humour. His admirers are wishing him many more years of an active healthy life so that he can accomplish that task to the great enjoyment of lakhs of readers.