‘His compassion and
‘We work at
concern for society is
desks in our
reflected in his research’
‘Amma, I did not mind the snake biting me. You would not have
been able to run as fast as I could. And it would have bitten you again.’
Sundari Chetty tells Arthur J
Pais how rewarding being part
of an academic couple is.
We were at a wedding in a small village in Tamil Nadu and as we came out of the temple I could not find my chappals
left outside. There was no time to look
around as we had to be at home for the
Raj, who was nine years old, was by my
side. I used Raj’s chappals, started walking with him and took a short cut to
Suddenly he started crying and jumping and I saw a small snake running away
near his feet.
To my shock, the snake had bitten him.
As we rushed him to a clinic, I said I was
sorry and said I should not have taken his
‘Amma,’ he said, ‘I did not mind the
snake biting me. You would not have
been able to run as fast as I could. And it
would have bitten you again.’
Right from his childhood, he has
shown this kind of caring and compas-
I am not surprised that his compassion
and concern for society is reflected in his
research as an economist.
Early in his school years, he once said a
bit boastfully, “I come first in class.”
I said something like we owe it to God,
and we should not think of success in
He may not be religious, he may not go
to temples as I do, but he shares my
belief that God resides in us and our
good deeds are more important than
going to a temple.
I once asked him, ‘Do you believe in
God?’ He said, ‘Since no one has proved
that there is no God, I might as well
Raj and Sundari Chetty.
Anne Chetty with son Raj.
PHOTOGRAPHS COUR TES Y: RAJ CHE TT Y
believe there is a God.’
He has his own way of making us feel
comfortable in bad situations.
About 10 years ago, on a way to an
event, we lost our way.
I was upset as we were going to be very
I said something like, ‘What are we
going to do? It is going to be so late.’
He smiled and said, ‘Never fear when I
am here, Amma.’
On the day when he heard that he had
won the MacArthur ‘genius’ award we
were in a restaurant enjoying lunch.
MacArthur Genius Raj Chetty readily acknowledges how his wife Sundari motivates him in his research. She is a post-doctoral fellow in stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard and enjoys being part of an academic couple.
Sundari spoke to India Abroad about life with a
Tell us about how you came to marry Raj and
what it means to be married to a researcher while
you too are a researcher in the academic world.
Raj and I were introduced to each other through
his sister whom I knew well from a young age.
While I was growing up in southern Illinois, my
parents often took my siblings and me to many
Dr Anne Chetty is a pediatric pulmo-nologist at the Tufts Medical Center in
Boston. She is currently conducting
research in lung diseases that leads to
asthma in premature babies.
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