Farm suicide widow wins Rs. 6.40 lakh on KBC
“I knew the answer was Sant Tukaram but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to lose the money I had already earned,” says Aparna Malikar whose husband Sanjay, a farmer in Vidarbha, committed suicide in 2008.
Aparna, 27, never imagined that one day she would be answering questions in a quiz contest with the host being none other than Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan who was moved enough to give her an additional Rs. 50,000 so that she could pay off her loans. Talking to The Hindu on the phone from her village Vara Kawtha in Yavatmal district, on Monday, she said she and another young woman were selected for the quiz contest Kaun Banega Crorepati and they were in Mumbai last weekend to shoot for the episode. She won Rs. 6.40 lakh after answering three questions correctly and also used three lifelines permitted to ask her friends and the audience for help with the answers. The episode will be aired later this month.
Blogging after the shoot, Mr. Bachchan wrote early Sunday, “I did not have words to be able to express my anguish and grief at this State. But there it was. Stark, brutal and honest.”
“I would have won Rs. 12 lakh had I got the last question I was asked correct but I didn’t take a chance,’’ Aparna said. She will use the money for the education of her two daughters aged seven and three. Educated upto the tenth standard, Aparna has been supported by well wishers and by Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. Mr. Tiwari said that the television company got in touch with him to identify some women who could appear on the show to highlight the issue of suicides in Vidarbha.
This was the first time Aparna visited Mumbai and she flew from Nagpur along with Manjusha Ambarwar who was invited to be in the audience. “I come from a very small village and the city was all new to me,” Aparna said. She had to summon all her courage to speak about her life in the village and she did not allow all the glitz of show biz to unsettle her. “I spoke on the suicides, on the need for sustainable farming and the need to help widows in distress. There are others like me who are not so fortunate, they should be helped too so that we can all have a good future,” she said.
Twenty-year-old Manjusha Ambarwar is a journalism student in Nagpur and at least two of her dreams came true after her visit to Mumbai.” I still cannot believe that I was part of the show hosted by Amitabh Bachchan,” she said. “I was not in the hot seat but was asked a question on farmers and so I spoke about the poor quality of seeds, the terrible impact on farming and the high cost of production,” she said. Already a graduate, when she completes her media course she plans to highlight agrarian distress in her work. “I want to tell farmers not to commit suicide,” she said.
Manjusha was very keen on being selected to answer questions but that was not to be. “Since I was small, I always dreamt of coming to Mumbai and staying here and I wanted to meet Salman Khan too. But I met Amitabh Bachchan,” she giggled. She comes from a small village Telang Takali, which is close to Aparna’s. “I expect that such TV shows should reach a lot of people and even Mr. Bachchan wants to help us. We should have access to good seeds not the spurious Bt cotton that is available now,” she added. Manjusha’s father Ramdas committed suicide in 1999.
Mr. Tiwari said that his organisation was helping the widows but there were 12 to 13,000 women who have been demanding a pension to support their families. The issue is highlighted sporadically when something like this happens. There is no sustained approach, he lamented.
Writing about his guest on his blog, Mr. Bachchan was struck by the fact that Aparna still wore a mangalsutra. He said, “Aparna now is left all alone. She was not even aware that her husband had taken a loan. She has gathered herself together somehow, and works on the fields in farming and making ends meet. She still keeps her ‘mangalsutra’ on her neck — the necklace worn by Indian women signifying her married status, because she fears harassment from other men, who trouble her with threats and envious motives. But she is resolved. She does not want to give up. She will fight her way through she says, bring up her children, earn her living through the hard work on the fields, build a concrete house, for the present one is weak and old and made of mud and broken tiles and give half of what she earns to the other widows in India, who she says are suffering with similar conditions … just incredible !!”