Call them what you will. Incurable oddballs. Desperate attention-seekers. Reckless souls. But their tribe is increasing. A small but growing segment of the city’s population does weird and scary stuff to gain notice. Prince Frederick on some who have given him goose-bumps
M. K. Hemachandran can make anyone retch in revulsion. He wolfs down squirming masses of earthworms in seconds — an ability recognised by the India Book of Records (IBR). He makes an announcement before performing this act: “I am ingesting protein that is full of life.” This 21-year-old also makes people fear for his safety. He inserts five-inch nails deep into his nostrils and manages not to sneeze for five minutes, slips five two-rupee coins under each of his eyebrows, puts his tongue out and stops a spinning fan, inserts a long screw driver into his throat and has it lodged in his food pipe for 30 seconds, lifts an empty gas cylinder or a bucket of water by a cord that is manipulated through his nose and mouth and deals quick-fire blows to his head with his foot. He has performed a range of other daredevil acts, including a 16.5 bike ride on the bypass road from Maduravoyal to Tambaram, sitting with his back turned towards the handlebar. He did this for Acham Thavir, a programme on Makkal TV, he is associated with. Some of Hemachandran’s feats are recognised by IBR and the Tamil Nadu Book of Records (TBR).
C. Arun has been watching his diet for an unusual reason — to be able to squeeze himself into tight spaces. Maintaining his weight at around 52 kg, this 26-year-old can slip through a 7 by 10-inch iron rectangular frame, stay curled up in a transparent 22 x 18 x 13 inches box for around 35 minutes, insert a new one-rupee coin under each eyebrow and do paper designs non-stop for four hours, break 105 eggs with the rear side of his thumb in around eight minutes and clap 360 times in a minute with just one hand, hitting the fingers against the palm. Arun, who serves Moon TV as a programme director, was inspired to attempt such incredible feats by a programme on AXN, seven years ago. “Can’t Indians do such feats? – I asked myself the question then,” says Arun. Today, he is the answer. He has made it to Asia Book of Records (ABR), IBR, TBR, Assist World Records and Elite World Records.
A fisherman from Oddaikuppam and a former boxer, Suresh Kumar says, “I have a neck of bronze and hands of iron. However, his biggest strength lies in his teeth. From an early age, I have relied on my teeth to de-husk coconuts,” says Suresh. Watching a programme on TV gave him the idea that this ability could be put to bigger use. His achievements include de-husking 10 coconuts with his teeth in around four minutes on a television show (he later did the same in over 6 minutes and entered a few record books), breaking 50 coconuts in one minute with blows of a hand, and tearing apart automobile clutch and brake wires with his teeth.
His feats are featured in ABR, IBR and TBR. Not content, the 35-year-old fisherman is practising how to break coconuts with his forehead super-quick.
People keen on setting unusual records often function in groups — not only in the city but also around the State. To cite an instance, Miracle Boys, a loosely formed and ever-expanding group of achievers, gets together for out-of-the-ordinary projects. Founded by T.J. Gokularaj, a teacher from Tiruttani who holds the records for a marathon 24-hour talk show and a 11-hour-11-minute-11-second mimicry show, the group recently did something that made it to the India Book of Records (IBR). They took photos of 221 temples in four districts — Tiruvallur, Kanchipuram, Vellore and Chitoor (A.P.) — and presented their print-outs in 12 hours and 45 minutes.
“A sense of community is building up among super achievers of this kind. During the preparations for a festival of records, conducted in Abirami Mega Mall in June this year, we noticed a group from Namakkal that practised together and goaded one another into making and breaking records. It’s one of many such clusters around the State,” says Vivek Raja, adjudicator for IBR and Asia Book of Records. “With record-chronicling organisations establishing a local presence, these achievers realise there is an opportunity for all and are motivated to help one another.”
Tamil Nadu Book of Records — a sister group of IBR — was set up in June this year to meet the spurt in applications from the State. The Assist World Records from Puducherry is another example of the trend.