Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Salute to Rahat Taslim

Nothing gladdens one's heart more than a story of one woman's courage and determination to make it despite all odds. Rahat Taslim's winning the 1,00,00,000 (Rs. 1 crore!) grand prize in the 4th season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire") is one such story. With her win, she's catapulted herself into the history books. She's the first and only woman to win the grand prize in all of KBC's four seasons. And thus far, the only winner in KBC4.

And her story makes one leap for joy! Rahat is from a very small town called Giridih in Jharkhand, one of the most backward and destitute states in India. Her mom thought her to be unlucky because she was born a girl. In spite of being very intelligent and smart and with grand ambitions, being from a Muslim family, she was married off at 18 and had two children in quick succession. She still graduated with honors with a BA after her marriage, while juggling house and kids and a side-business. With a fire still inside her, she studied for two government exams which she was prevented from appearing for because her husband did not want a working wife. She settled for being a housewife but still ran a tailoring school business which supplemented her husband's meager ₹8000 a month salary. Her husband worked in Kochi while she and kids lived in Giridih. They were barely scraping by running two houses and bringing up kids on his salary and the small income from her business. But Rahat had bigger dreams. On an off-chance, just as the lines were about to close, when she happened to have ₹3 worth of talktime on her phone, she decided to call up KBC to try her luck. She was quite confident she would know the answer and when asked a question about Hindu mythology, she made it in and was asked to come for an audition in Mumbai. All contestants were told they had to have a bank account and a PAN card to participate. Rahat had never had a bank account nor did she have a PAN card (a taxpayer ID card in India) and the first thing Rahat had to do when she got back from Mumbai was to open a bank account in her own name and file for a PAN card. The rest is history. On the show, filmed on November 8th and aired on the 18th, she made it to the hot seat in the nick of time before the week ended, struggled in the beginning, but made it after using her lifelines very intelligently. And beyond the ₹3.2 lakh mark, she breezed through the questions. Asked later, she said she really knew all the answers as she'd studied hard and was up-to-date on current affairs. With a final answer on who was the first African woman president, she won the big prize of ₹1 crore, catapulting herself into the history books and immediately becoming a nationwide celebrity.


Watching her on the show and afterwards, one senses a humble, genial and very straightforward woman who has become the toast of the Nation, a symbol for Indian women, a path for economic movement for the underprivileged, a lesson in how life should be lived and a heartening story for the New India establishing intelligence, smarts and merit as the path to success. Madhuri Dixit, appearing on this Tuesday's KBC, said the first thing she wanted on the show was to meet the woman who has made all Indian women beam with pride. Rahat doesn't appear to have realized (it probably hasn't sunk in yet) just what she has achieved, the full significance of what she has done and why she is now a household name and a celebrity in India. One wishes her the most success for her future plans to use the ₹67 lakh (post-tax) wisely to open a clothes boutique as a designer, and her wish to spend the money on giving her kids a good education. One hopes her husband will support her and not prevent her from the grand things she's envisioning for herself and their family.

Rahat Taslim, I salute you!

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