One in a Million

2 Nov

As we discussed in class, televised game shows are popular all over the world. People love to see someone completely change their lives overnight, winning against all odds. “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” is arguably one of the most popular game shows in the world, playing in more than 70 countries.  In the U.S., there have been 11 winners of the show . India’s version,” “Kaun Banega Crorepati” has never had a winner.

Up until last week.

Last Thursday, Sushil Kumar, a poor Indian government clerk , became the first contestant to win the equivalent of $1 million dollars on the show.

Kumar is a 27-year-old computer operator who made about $120 dollars a month and relied on his neighbor’s television to watch the show he would eventually win the grand prize for. He is the son of farmer in a country with a per capita income of $1,265, according to a Reuters article. He and his wife of four months lived in a broken-down house with unpaid loans hovering over them. To help make ends meet, Kumar was working as a private tutor.”If it hadn’t been for this money, I would have gotten old before I sorted out my life,” the article quotes him saying.

According to The Guardian:

“Bihar is one of the poorest states of India and its remoter areas, such as Motihari [where Kumar is from], have been largely untouched by India’s phenomenal recent economic growth. Social indicators in much of Bihar are on a par with sub-Saharan Africa or worse.”

It was his neighbors who finally convinced him to try out for the show after Kumar kept getting the right answers. He said the trip to the Mumbai studio was his first ride in a plane and his first visit to a big city, according to a Newsday article.

He wants to use some of his winnings to pay for a preparatory course so he can take India’s difficult civil service exam, which could lead to a stable an esteemed job.

Kumar wants to buy a new home for himself and his wife, pay his parents debts and give his four brothers some money so they can set up their own small businesses. He also plans to to build a library in his village so that children can have access to “the books and knowledge he so desperately craved”.

Kumar’s experience is a genuine agains-all-odds story. His win transformed him into a role model for millions of young Indians looking to escape lives of poverty. His story has close resemblances to the movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” in which a poor boy from Mumbai, India overcomes his poverty and wins the grand prize on the game show. My favorite part is that even though he has enough money to never have to work again, Kumar wants to use his winnings to work hard and earn a respectable job. I’d be really interested in finding out how Kumar was able to answer all the questions. He graduated from a local college with a degree in psychology, but other than that I found nothing that explained how Kumar had such extensive knowledge of all the trivia.

The question that won him the million dollars?

“Which colonial power ended its involvement in India by selling the rights to the Nicobar Islands to the British on Oct. 16, 1868?”

The answer: Denmark.


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