The Guru family hasn’t earned in crores, but everyone here knows them as the “crorepati” family because three members made it to the television show Kaun Banega Crorepati, winning Rs. 9.6 lakh in all.
The family’s journey mirrors that of many among India’s middle class over the past two decades. Even though the economic boom has largely bypassed this impoverished region, liberalisation has changed other parts of India and opened up opportunities to the Gurus and others like them.
After studying electronics and telecommunications engineering in Bhubaneswar, Pragya Guru, 22, moved back to Balangir as a lecturer in the town’s only engineering college. She earns Rs. 10,000 per month, considered a good salary here. She participated in the latest edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati, telecast last November.
Her classmates work in the outsourcing hubs of Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad.
Her uncle, Ajit Kumar Guru, 44, runs a successful share-trading business. Her late father, Manbhanjan Guru, was a lecturer in a local ayurvedic college. In 2008, the Gurus built a new house, using a bank loan. Pragya studied using a loan. But they now aspire for more.
“Nearby towns, smaller than Balangir, have grown much faster,” says Ajit Guru, Pragya’s uncle. “We have progressed a little. They have progressed a lot.”