Call it desperation or delusion, 71-year-old Har Prakash Rishi, of Nirankari Colony in Delhi, is a man addicted to fame. More specifically, to seeing his name in the Guinness Book of World Records, over and over and over again.
And to achieve his goal, he is ready to go to any (absurd) length. The man with 22 Guinness World Record entries to his name thus far wears tattoos of flags of 366 countries and has guzzled a litre of tomato ketchup in 40 seconds among other things.
Gung-ho about his “achievements”, it baffles him that his wife and sons don’t share his enthusiasm for such record-breaking feats.
“My sons do not acknowledge me, my wife refuses to be seen in my company and my neighbours call me a mad man and a joker. But nothing can shake my faith. The records have given me an identity and I will persevere till I am alive,” he declares.
Rishi’s journey began over 30 years ago when his employer – a manufacturer of automobile spare parts – instructed him to travel across the country on a moped to publicise the firm’s products.
“I travelled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Manipur to Gujarat. I had no idea that I was creating a record, but someone told me that it was probably a one-of-its-kind journey. Journalists started visiting me and I was interviewed on television. It was a big high for someone who had been in a mundane job all his life,” he says.
All that attention died down in a year, leaving Rishi stuck in his “boring” routine.
Once his children flew the nest, he decided break records full time.
“I collaborated with two friends to embarke on the world’s longest scooter journey, clocking 1001 hours. We took a road on hire in Pune and finished the feat in 42 days and nights. I was accorded my first entry in the Guinness Book of World Records and it stands unbroken till today,” he beams.
In 1991, he wrote to the Guinness authorities for permission to use their name and changed his name from Har Prakash Rishi to ‘Guinness Rishi.’
Then he set up the Guinness Record Breakers Society of India and made his wife donate a half-inch-by-half-inch plot of land to the society — the world’s smallest gift deed. He gave out the ground and first floor of the building on a billion-year lease — the world’s longest lease agreement and even wrote the world’s longest will at 489 pages.
His list boggles the mind. He has worn 234 T-shirts simultaneously and 99 socks on one foot. He has stuffed the maximum number of straws in his mouth — a feat he repeated for a live audience at Preity Zinta’s TV show, ‘Guinness World Records: Ab India Todega.’
His personal moment of glory came when he got his body tattooed with flags of 366 countries, 185 maps and 2985 characters.
“I have tattoos of Barack Obama and the slogan ‘Let us unite against terrorism’ in eight languages including Hindi, English, Urdu, Russian and Hebrew,” he says proudly.