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What’s Life Like For The Real-Life Slumdog Millionaire One Year After He Won?
November 1, 2012
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We've all thought about it: what would you do if you won a huge sum of money?

Would you quit your job? Travel? Give cash to your family and friends? Start your own business?

And how would it change your life?

One year ago, Sushil Kumar, India's so-called "real life Slumdog Millionaire," suddenly found himself a million dollars richer when he won India's version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'

His life has definitely changed since then. But maybe not as much as you'd expect.

For one thing, he buys more milk now.

"Before we could only buy half a litre of milk, but now we get two or three litres," Sushil's father told the BBC.

If that sounds like a pretty modest lifestyle adjustment, it is. Sushil lives in a basic, four-room house with his wife, his mother and father, four brothers, two sisters-in-law and one child. That's 11 people altogether.

He's made a few improvements to the house since he won, like buying a $500 generator to keep the electricity running.

"We get power cuts here for as long as four hours every day," he says. "Before I couldn't watch the news and my favourite TV programmes, but now I have this there's no problem."


Before he won, his family couldn't even afford a television set to watch the show, so regular electricity and the small TV it powers are definitely welcome changes.

Sushil also recently invested in a small tablet computer and a scooter to get around, and he has paid off his brother's debts and bought his wife some jewellery.

But he hasn't spent too much on personal items. He even wears many of the same clothes he did before he won the money.

Although he's not splurging on cars or gadgets, Sushil does have plans to set his family up in style: he bought the plot of land next door to his current home, and work has begun on a nine-room house for the whole extended family.


Sushil is a former government office clerk from Binar, one of India's poorest states. He earned about $100 a month at his job, which he decided to quit after winning the big prize.

That means it would have taken him about 800 years to earn the million he got for answering 13 questions correctly on the show.

His next big challenge is fatherhood. His wife Seema, who he married months before appearing on the show, is pregnant with their first child.


For Sushil, winning a million dollars has allowed him to make himself and his family comfortable, but it hasn't led to major changes in his lifestyle.

"I'm the same Sushil Kumar, before I won," he says. "And I want to remain the same Sushil Kumar in future."

But not everyone reacts to winning a large amount of money that way. There's only a little bit of research out there into how winning the lottery, for example, affects people. But it's not always positive.

One British study of people who won up to $200,000 a piece did find improvements in mental well-being two years later. But a 1978 study of 22 major lottery winners found that their happiness levels were the same as people who did not win.

And there are lots of stories out there about lottery winners finding their old lives destroyed after they win. One woman in the U.S. told CNN that she started getting threatening phone calls and found her family had turned against her after she won her State lottery.

But if you do happen to come into money, here's a piece of advice from a 2010 study: spend on experiences, not material possessions. The study was conducted at San Francisco State University, and it found that "experiences make people happier than possessions."

For Sushil, who loves reading and watching documentaries, being close to his family and getting to indulge in his interests seem to be the best outcomes of his newfound wealth.


Anil Kapoor On 'Slumdog Millionaire'

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