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Watching KBC with the man who won Rs 5 crores

Last updated on: November 3, 2011 16:05 IST

Watching KBC with the man who won Rs 5 crores

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Ankur Pathak in Mumbai

Ankur Pathak watched Sushil Kumar win Rs 5 crores on Kaun Banega Crorepati 5 on television, with the winner and his family in their hotel room.

In Room Number 303 of a suburban Mumbai hotel, getting admission isn't the easiest of tasks. The guards frisk me meticulously, the staff wants to know the precise purpose of my visit, and the overall security is tighter.

Inside the room is Sushil Kumar, the latest and most celebrated millionaire in the country. He is covered with blankets and his face bears no particular expression. His wife sits besides him with a smile on her face. In a corner sits a nephew.

All eyes are glued to the television set that is telecasting the momentous episode in the game show Kaun Banega Crorepati 5, which will make history, and change the lives of the three.

When host Amitabh Bachchan asks the question worth Rs 50 lakhs, Sushil Kumar, sitting next to me, seems unaccountably nervous, as if he expects Bachchan to declare his much debated answer incorrect. He seems to be re-living the panic he felt on-screen. And then, relief, when the answer is deemed correct. The nephew can barely contain his excitement, so there is a lot of fist-gripping and slapping of hands.


Image: Sushil Kumar

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Watching KBC with the man who won Rs 5 crores

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The reward for getting the next question right is Rs 1 crore, a sum that Sushil Kumar, who earns Rs 6,000 a month, claims he cannot earn in a lifetime.

As soon as the question is flashed, he is impatient to read and process it. He decides to take the expert advice (Pankaj Pachauri), and without pondering over it too much accepts the assistance. A leap of faith, I now ask him, surprised at how quickly he locked up the answer for a question on which so much depended.

"I have read a lot about Pankajji, and have a lot of faith in him. When he said he remembered reading about Lal Bahadur Shastri accepting a charkha in his marriage as dowry, I instantly decided to go with it," Sushil Kumar replied.

But how did he come to have so much faith? "Because once you have really read something, you don't just forget. Moreover, I trust Pankajji a lot. He is a brilliant journalist," he says.


Image: Sushil Kumar with his wife and Amitabh Bachcan
Photographs: Stringer India/Reuters
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Watching KBC with the man who won Rs 5 crores

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What was his immediate reaction on securing that Rs 1 crore?

"I was moved. It was and still remains a surreal moment. I owe it to Pankajji. I was all the more gratified that he was moved seeing me win."

Didn't he think he should quit after winning one crore rather than risk losing all that, and coming down to Rs 1, 60,000?

"I am not a greedy man. I could have quit. But, sometimes, and this was one of those times, faith plays a far bigger role than anything. And that is what led me too," he says.


Image: Sushil Kumar

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Watching KBC with the man who won Rs 5 crores

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Finally, the question with the gigantic Rs 5 crore reward.

Looking at him sitting there unperturbed, covered in blankets, it looks like he doesn't yet believe that he's walked away with the largest prize in the show's history. It all seems unreal and maybe seeing it on television is believing.

"Italy kabhi aaya nahi... France itne jaldee gaya nahi," (Italy never invaded, France didn't leave so early), he repeats this now, staring at himself pondering the history-based question on the screen. Then, the double-dip lifeline. While the Sushil on-screen is desperate to answer nature's call, much to the amusement of the audience, the one next to me has his hands clasped tight, his eyes refusing to leave the screen.

Once Denmark is green-lit, Room No 303 of a suburban Mumbai hotel remains eerily silent. On screen, Bachchan walks towards the winner. If this were a movie, events would unfold in slow motion.

In the hotel room, there is still a deafening silence. Nobody says a word.

The multi-millionaire next to me won't look away from the screen. It reminds me of Mahinder Singh Dhoni gazing at the final ball till it went beyond boundary, into history, in the World Cup final.


Image: Sushil Kumar

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Watching KBC with the man who won Rs 5 crores

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Then, finally, it seems to have sunk in. A tear-drop trickles down. A computer operator from a nondescript hamlet in a state with the lowest literacy rate in the country has triumphed, shattering innumerable stereotypes en route.

If I were him, I'd shoo away the PROs, and disappear like a shadow. Perhaps he wants to do just that. He is a tad irritated as every television crew wants a byte of him. Some tantrums are acceptable. He has fought his way up. From sneaking inside his neighbour's house to catch the show, to becoming the first one to bag the highest amount in the game.

Today, Sushil Kumar is not only a man winning Rs 5 crores but he is also the new face of hope.


Image: Sushil Kumar

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