Slumdog Millionaire - JAI HO!

JAI HO! (Illustration) STEM Ancient Places and/or Civilizations History Philosophy Social Studies World History Film

Memory helps Jamal Malik to think about questions put to him in a TV program. He applies the questions to his own experiences, then comes-up with the right answers. As this chart shows, a component of memory is autobiographical, just as it was for Malik. Chart by Bernhard Wenzl; online via Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY SA-3.0


Memory is a powerful tool.  It is essential for those who live in luxury (like India’s Mughal rulers) and for those who endure grinding poverty (like Mumbai’s shanty-town residents). 

Shah Jahan’s memorial to his wife, the Taj Mahal, still tells the world how much he loved her.  Jamal Malik’s memory, in the film Slumdog Millionaire, causes him to prevail against seemingly impossible odds.

Orphaned at a young age, things have happened to Jamal which could have caused him to despair - and give up.  Instead, his memory propels him forward.  Maybe it was luck, he agrees, on the choice of questions put to him in a game show.  But it was memory which gave him the answers:

I didn’t guess those answers. I knew them.

You knew the answers?

Yes. To all the questions.

Then where does luck come into the picture?

Well, wasn’t I lucky that they only asked those questions to which I knew the answers?

Incredulous that all of the game-show questions could have been on topics he knew - just from living life - Jamal’s interrogator (a police officer in the film, a lawyer in the book) presses him further.  The uneducated young man gives a wise answer:

"Do you notice when you breathe? No. You simply know that you are breathing. I did not go to school. I did not read books. But, I tell you, I knew those answers."

"So do I need to know about your entire life to understand the genesis of your answers?"


Smita [the lawyer] nods her head. "I think that is the key. After all, a quiz is not so much a test of knowledge as a test of memory."

The interrogator was wrong about something, however.  Jamal Malik won the contest because he was able to correlate quiz-show questions with real-life events.  He had, in fact, turned memory into knowledge - and prevailed.

Celebrating this ability of humans to transform their lives, and rise above the direst of circumstances, AR Rahman (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) created the award-winning song “Jai Ho!”

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2008

Updated Last Revision: Mar 05, 2015

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"JAI HO!" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2008. Feb 24, 2020.
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