Radhika Nair: Three Questions, Three Answers

Radhika with Meghna and Rahul

Radhika with Meghna and Rahul

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the city of Trivandrum, a relatively small city (only 3.3 million people) in Kerala, a state in the southwestern corner of India. It’s hard to describe Kerala and my memory is an unreliable source. It is endlessly sunny, except when it is about to rain - the skies are low and dark and it is too wet to leave the house. It is lush green, and crisscrossed by rivers, streams, and shallow canals. There are coconut trees everywhere, and the streets are filled with people. There is also the oppressive humidity, and a Kerala tendency to view industry and efficiency with skepticism.

Kerala has been the focus of a lot of public policy research. Researchers have tried to understand how a state with very low per capita income (less than $1,000 in annual income) has achieved high life expectancy (~75 years), high literacy rates (100%), low infant mortality (6 per 1,000 births), and low fertility rates (1.6). Kerala stands in contrast with the rest of the country and is comparable to richer, more developed economies like those of the U.S. and Singapore. What can be at work in this corner of the world? The answer is not likely to surprise you.   

2. What is your favorite thing about the PNW?

Did I mention low dark skies when it is about to rain, lots of water, and lush green vegetation? I know you can never go back home, but then maybe, you can.

3. What are you reading?

I am reading Evicted, a BERK book club selection from many months ago. The book connects the lack of housing to poverty in a powerful way, interweaving eight stories from Milwaukee. It describes the role of housing in creating poverty, the conditions that lead to evictions, and the problems that snowball from it. A sizeable proportion of my daily reading these days also includes children’s books. A recent favorite is Junot Diaz’s Islandborn.