Big lessons in small bites

Sudipta Sarangi

The Author

Sudipta Sarangi was born in the Steel City of Rourkela and began his journey at the Ispat (E.M.) School. He grew up on a steady diet of Amar Chitra Kathas and Indrajal comics and moved on to the Famous Five and other similar books. As he moved through the school system, he graduated to the usual mystery writers while also discovering major American authors. He read the classics as well, but often they were forced upon him. Incidentally, PG Wodehouse remains a favorite even today, but faces tough competition from Calvin and Hobbes. This was also time of no TV and as a kid he played cricket, football, badminton and rode his bicycle to school like many other children. Radio ruled – especially cricket commentary. Rourkela did not have enough books for Sudipta – his circle of avid reader friends had a complex network of book exchanges in place, often with strict deadlines that would even make the hawala system envious.

The next phase of Sudipta’s journey took him to Delhi. During his time in the Kirori Mal College hostel, he discovered poetry, both Hindi and English and as well as the fine of art of essay writing. It was in Delhi that he saw a Book Fair for the first time. That image of hundreds of book stalls in Pragati Maidan is still vividly fresh. It is reminiscent of the reaction of the Buena Vista Social Club band members on their first visit to New York city in the Wim Wenders documentary. DSchool, as always, an intense experience followed and reading papers took precedence over books. A moment of glory there – Sudipta Sarangi was research assistant to the John Dreze and Amartya Sen for their book India: Social and Economic Opportunities.

In 1994, it was “westward ho” and he came to the US to pursue his doctoral studies. Things were very different from India – frequent homework and tests took up most of the time. However, there were new authors to be discovered – Simenon, Akunin, Achebe, and the inimitable Amitava Ghosh to name a few. It was also a time to learn academic writing – the art of writing short crisp sentences with absolutely no frills. For example, the first chapter of Sudipta’s doctoral dissertation went through fifty-four drafts. Reading dense papers and writing about them takes up most of his time nowadays. However, he is still discovering new authors, especially reading children’s literature with his daughter. The Economics of Small Things is his first book. The journey continues…

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