The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Know Your Professor: Swagata Bhattacharjee

Smriti Agiwal, Class of 2019

“Yes. Yes. Yes,” said Professor Bhattacharjee, when I asked her if she always wanted to teach. “I love teaching. The best thing about my profession is that my time is my own and I can use it the way I like. There is a lot of flexibility and freedom. I learn a lot from my students and interacting with them, in a way, makes me feel younger. I’m growing old, right? I get to know what you guys are thinking and what kind of things you do.”

Source: Google Sites

As a child, she used to read a lot, and was often classified as a bookworm. She maintains that she was a quiet child: she says that there were times when people wouldn’t believe there was a child in the house. She lived in a joint family, in a house with 20 rooms and around 40 other people. “Having meals together was incredible because there were so many people. Since there were so many people, trying to remember what the exact relations were was also a task. That was fun, but then we had to move. We sold the house. Now when we meet everyone is surprised to see that I have grown up! People grow up, that’s what they do! Unfortunately you can never say, ‘By the way, you have also grown old.’ You have to be polite.”

When I asked her why she chose to come to Ashoka University, she said, “I wanted to come back to India after my PhD because my husband was already here. Within the country, Ashoka was the best opportunity.” Even though she describes this story as “trivial,” she has never regretted her decision. She feels that the academic model at Ashoka is both interesting and exciting, providing her with an experience of constant growth and fulfillment. “We’re all growing. Our economics department is also growing. We’re going in the right direction and that is very important.”

Apart from Economics, she is interested in learning History, Philosophy and foreign languages. She stated that she would love to take a course with either Professor Nayanjot Lahiri or Professor Pratyay Nath. “Unfortunately,” she said, “I realized I have so little time.”

She has made it a point to enter a new class with zero expectations. “Every class is new. Every person is unique, and you have to keep that in mind when interacting with a new person. If you start presuming something before you even meet the person, you actually lose out on a lot of experience.” In an attempt to get to know her better, I asked her to say one thing about her that her students might find surprising to know. She said, “In class, you just meet one side of me, so maybe you’ll be surprised to find out the real person.” After a second of silence, she whispered, “I’m scared of ghosts.” But, that doesn’t stop her from watching horror movies. In the company of friends, some of whom are as scared as her, she builds up the courage to face her greatest fear at least once a year. Occasionally, she also enjoys reading horror stories for the thrill of it.

Her current favorite quote is “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light”, by J.K. Rowling. She has a small section of her office dedicated to quotes from Harry Potter. She calls herself an “ardent” fan, and says, “That’s probably another thing you’ll be surprised to know about me.” She is “certainly a Ravenclaw with maybe, a touch of Slytherin.”

When I asked her about her favorite dish at the mess, she was silent for a couple of seconds after which she replied, “I’m not a Gryffindor. I’m not brave enough to face the mess. Please do something about it.”

Favorite authors: Toni Morrison, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Tolstoy, Agatha Christie
A must-have smart phone app: Amar Chitra Patrika — “I cannot digest the news unless and until it is written in Bengali. Just one of the idiosyncrasies I have.”

Swagata Bhattacharjee is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ashoka University. She completed her PhD in May 2016 from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently working in Applied Microeconomic Theory and Experimental Economics.

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