Sushil Kumar, 26, grew up in one of the poorest states in India. His family was so impoverished that they couldn’t even afford a television set. But today he is a millionaire and television superstar, the first contestant to win $1 million on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”
With the roar of audience applause in the background, tears streamed down Kumar’s face as Indian superstar and host of “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” Amitabh Bachchan, handed him and his wife of five months a check Saturday for 50 million rupees, the equivalent of a little more than $1 million, after he answered all the show’s questions correctly. The moments after his win were captured by Indian news-station NDTV.
Kumar is a tutor and government clerk who lives in a home with his wife, mother and five brothers in the small town of Motihari, in the state of Bihar. Before appearing on the show, he made the equivalent of $120 a month. Growing up, he was a voracious reader and very precocious, tutoring other students to enhance his own mind. When current neighbors saw how he would answer question after question, they persuaded him to try out for the show.
He took the preliminary test in July and received a call Oct. 16 that he would be on the show. He flew to Mumbai three days later for the Saturday taping. It was his first time on a plane and his first visit to a big city.
His rags-to-riches story echoes the plot of the 2008 Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I could do this,” Kumar told BBC News.
Host Bachchan said, “You have created history. Your grit and determination has made you come so far in this show.”
Perhaps because Kumar came from such modest beginnings, his plans for the money are simple as well. As the Associated Press reports, he will buy a bigger home for his family, give his brother some cash to start a small business and will use some of the money to pay for a course to prepare him to take India’s civil service exam, which could provide him a secure job.
And just as he was a child who dreamed of access to books to fuel his fervid desire for knowledge, he plans to build a library in Motihari so other children have access to the books and resources he never had.