Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mahima Khanna's Cambridge Honours brought back Kolkata's pride

A 23-year-old from Kolkata, who works as a trade analyst in Mumbai, has become only the third Indian after Amartya Sen and Sir Partho Dasgupta to win one of Cambridge University’s highest honours.

Mahima Khanna, who has often been involved in Planning Commission assignments, has topped the 2010-11 MPhil class of economics at Cambridge and will receive the prestigious Stevenson Prize. Nobel laureate Sen was the first Indian to win the award in 1956. Dasgupta, the other Indian recipient, is a Cambridge professor emeritus who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contribution to nutrition and developmental economics.

“Imagine sharing the roll of honour with the gods in my field of study,” Mahima gushes after being informed of the award through an email from the dean’s office. Her talent and academic accomplishments will take her places, but Mahima wants to work in India. The changing matrices of the Indian economy post-liberalization, says the young economist who aspires for a career in the World Bank, are of particular interest to her. “My MPhil papers were related to trade liberalization and informality, based on evidences from the manufacturing sector in India. The size of the informal sector in India is growing. The government should patronize it. India’s fiscal deficits and interest rates also interest me,” she says.

For a daughter of doctor parents and with golfing skills that Annika Sorenstam would be proud of, economics was an unusual choice. But Mahima’s heart lay in the intricacies of numbers and logic rather than those of the human body. After her schooling at premier institutions like Loreto House and La Martiniere for Girls, she cleared the medical joint entrance examination, but eventually took admission in St Xavier’s College. When she graduated in 2009, she had topped Calcutta University. She went to Cambridge on a Commonwealth scholarship for her PG degree. She excelled there, too, ranking second, and stayed on for her MPhil.

When she isn’t cracking mathematical puzzles or solving economic riddles, Mahima loves to tee off. While in Kolkata, she played amateur golf at the RCGC and Tolly Club. She went on to play in golfing events in the UK, UAE and Kenya. But the focus remains firmly on her career. Mahima attributes her success to grandfather Swarn Kumra. An engineer who studied in London University, it was he who instilled the love of numbers and logic in her. “The day after the JEE results were out and I got the chance to study medicine, I held his hands and went and took admission in economics at St Xavier’s. He remains my pillar of strength,” she says.

Top class
Mahima Khanna, who works as a trade analyst in Mumbai, has been involved in several Planning Commission assignments. The 23-yr-old, who won the C’wealth scholarship to go to Cambridge, came 2 nd in MSc. She cleared med JEE, but chose eco at St Xavier’s & topped Calcutta University. Mahima is an amateur golf player and has played in the UK, UAE and Kenya.

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