Know Your Professor: Bipasha Maity

Aasim Ansari, Class of 2020

“I don’t remember the particular point when I made a conscious decision to pursue economics, but there are numerous things to like about economics as a discipline. It tries to inculcate some sort of objective thought process or logic in trying to understand how people behave, which is also devoid of moral statements in general. Economics is there in every part of our lives: from what kind of food you want to eat, to what kind of people you want to interact with, or how you want to interact with them” said Professor Bipasha Maity when I asked her what drove her to study economics.

Professor Maity was born in Kolkata, where she also spent most of her childhood and college life. After completing her undergraduate studies in her home state, she moved to Delhi to pursue her Master’s at the Indian Statistical Institute. It was a completely new and an enjoyable experience for her because she was living all by herself for the first time. She then moved to Canada to pursue her PhD at the University of British Columbia, after which she taught in Japan for a couple of years. When I asked her what she liked about Japan, apart from the cherry blossoms, Professor noted, the food was specifically great. She loves Japanese food, and is particularly very fond of sushi, and also a dish known as kaisendon, which is a sashimi (raw fish), topped on a rice bowl, eaten with soy sauce.

Apart from Japanese food, Professor Maity also loves plants. She recalled how her father bought her a bicycle when she was a child, and given that there was no safe place to cycle near her home, she used to cycle on the terrace. Subsequently, there were many plants on her terrace, and her extended time with her cycle led her to befriend these plants. As she grew older, her love for plants didn’t fade. While pursuing her PhD in Canada, she vividly remembers how the leaves of the three giant maple trees outside her apartment turned scarlet in late October, creating a scene one would call no less than transcending, and how cherry blossoms (sakura) from cherry trees filled the streets in the Spring during her stay in Japan. Even in her office here at Ashoka, one cannot miss the numerous plants that fill the corners of her room.

Source: ashoka.edu.in

After returning to India, Professor Maity applied to many universities and didn’t specifically have Ashoka University in mind. She came to know about Ashoka through her supervisors who recommended it as it was a relatively new university in a liberal arts environment. She was attracted to it because she felt that she would have more control over how she wanted to go about doing things, and what kinds of research endeavors she took, not to mention the promise of a liberal environment and many well-known professors in the faculty. As a professor, teaching and research go hand in hand, and given that Professor Maity is very inclined towards her field, she also loves teaching economics. She feels that when one has knowledge about something, the ability to transfer knowledge to students is a rewarding experience in itself. When I asked her if she always wanted to be a professor, she gave a mixed response. In her words, “one of the first people that students interact with are teachers, and many automatically generate a desire to be a teacher too. It was the same for me.” While most of them change it over the course of their life and end up choosing different career paths, Professor Maity’s aspirations to teach did not waver. She certainly did not see herself teaching in a university, though. As she grew older, she slowly bought into the idea of teaching as a university professor.

When asked what would she do if she won a lottery, the professor said that she would open a café filled with bookshelves. Customers could go there to read while having a cup of coffee. She has, for the larger part of her life, been a book person. She loves history and fiction. She adores the work of authors like Hilary Mantel, Chinua Achebe, and Amitabh Ghosh, who write historical fiction, and non-fiction that touch many pertinent issues like colonialism and historical cultures. However, in more recent years, given time constraints, she has substituted to watching movies. Satirical comedies like Peepli Live are her favorite. She also enjoys watching House of Cards and is a fan of Robin Wright, who plays the character of Claire Underwood in the series. She felt strongly for the series, as in her words, “that’s exactly how politics work. They have some dark areas.”

It was an utmost pleasure to interview Professor Maity. Her passion for her subject was inherent throughout the interview. It provided me with an avenue to know the professor better and I am thankful to the professor for the opportunity.

Professor Bipasha Maity is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ashoka University.