Best Booth Moment: Rajan vs Rajan – The Squash Game that Wasn’t

Our Best Booth Moment Series continues with students sharing their favorite memories of Booth faculty outside of the classroom.

When I arrived at Booth I never expected to pit myself in fierce competition against any professor. Much less Professor Raghuram Rajan, Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and former Chief Economist and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund. And, most importantly, amateur squash player.

But when Professor Rajan offered to play squash with one student as part of the 2018 Booth winter formal charity auction, I couldn’t help but enter the mass of students bidding on the game, hopeful to meet the legend himself and, in my case, win.

For context, the sport of squash has been a longtime passion of mine since childhood. Formerly a top-ranked US junior player and member of the Harvard varsity women’s squash team, I was confident I was ready to take on Professor Rajan.

So I crafted a plan: I emailed everyone I knew and asked them to each chip in $10 to help me bid on the game. I would match the donations with a contribution of my own and everyone was invited to come watch the match, Rajan vs. Rajan.

The auction was held at midnight on the night of the formal. As the hour drew closer I gathered commitments with increasing determination. I finally secured $500 of donations, contributed $500 and bid $1000 total. I was in it to win it.

And yet when the auction results were announced I was in for a shock – I had narrowly lost.

Devastated, I emailed Professor Rajan explaining the situation and asking if we could still play. He graciously accepted, but on one condition: that none of my friends would watch.

“I am not sure I am ready to be pulverized by a squash champion in front of an audience,” Professor Rajan wrote. “However, happy to play sometime without an audience. Maybe I can learn something.”

Alas, injuries, travel, and the job of being a world-renowned economist got in the way of our game but Professor Rajan’s words make me smile to this day. The idea that the former RBI Governor could learn something from me, a first year nobody, seemed laughable – but here he was, the teacher ready to be taught.

Professor Rajan, if you are over your injuries and are still interested in a game, I’m game. I’m humbled by your willingness to get on court with me. And if I could really teach you something it would truly be an honor.

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