Guinness Rishi: The elderly Indian obsessed with breaking records

Har Prakash Rishi’s stunts include holding 496 straws in his mouth and tattooing his body to gulping ketchup in seconds.

Imagine someone removing all of his teeth in order to put 496 straws in his mouth. Or delivering pizza from New Delhi to London and then from London to Washington and San Francisco, all within 27 hours. Or covering his body in tattoos, including hundreds of images of maps and portraits, such as Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama.

Meet Har Prakash Rishi, or “Guinness Rishi”, whose name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records several times.

The 76-year-old’s name was first listed in 1990, when he rode across India for 1,001 hours non-stop on a scooter from April 22 to June 3, covering a distance of 30,965km.

“I travelled around India on my Kinetic 100CC scooter along with my two friends. We covered several states including Maharashtra,” said Rishi in what he calls his museum, where the walls are covered in certificates.

It was after this first world record that people started calling him Mr Guinness.

“I thought, ‘Why shouldn’t I change my name?’ I requested the Guinness Book of World Records publication that I wanted to change my name to Guinness Rishi and they agreed,” he said.

For 10 years, Rishi was the president of the Guinness Records Club of India and, he claims, helped several Indians on their own record-breaking path.

In 2009, he attended an event at the Russian Embassy in New Delhi. He saw some children distributing Russian flags “with pride and joy”.

“I thought, why shouldn’t I bring the entire world together myself?” Rishi recalled.

He soon tattooed his body with 499 flags. The world map is penned on his stomach.

“Whenever I visit any country, people there ask me to locate their flag on my body.”

He also has the words “let us unite against terrorism” in Russian, Greek, German, French, Hebrew and many other languages scrawled permanently on his skin, as well as images of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mahatma Gandhi.

When he tried squeezing straws into his mouth in 2011, he found it challenging.

“The next day, I went to a dentist and had all my teeth removed. Then I tried again and squeezed all the 496 straws in my mouth,” said Rishi, who works as car parts manufacturer.

He also holds records for holding 65 burning candles in his mouth and gulping down a 500-gramme bottle of ketchup in 39 seconds using a straw.

He is currently expecting a certificate for writing the longest will in the world, spanning more than 9,500 pages.

Of his 20 world records, seven are registered with Guinness Book of World Records while others have featured in Limca Book of Records.

“I had broken more than 20 Guinness World Records but unfortunately Guinness people have given me only seven or eight Guinness certificates, and my remaining are about 15 Guinness certificates are pending,” he said.

‘Everyone thinks I’m crazy’

A huge fan of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, a company dealing with bizarre events and items, Rishi plans to donate his body parts to the franchise after his death. He has even requested them to accept his body and exhibit it in a transparent coffin so that visitors can see his tattoos.

“In this old age, I do not wish that someone breaks my record. I want to defend my records as long as possible,” Rishi said.

But keeping up with his passion is not easy. Often, he said, he is bullied by his neighbours and relatives. They castigate him for his tattoos and his world records.

“Everyone thinks I am crazy. People call me a fool, they taunt me and call me names. But I don’t pay any heed.”

Rajat Kumar, who moved to Rishi’s neighbourhood three years ago, said he thought the character had learning difficulties.

“But when I read about him in the news, I was fascinated,” Kumar told Al Jazeera.

Kumar said he does not talk to Rishi much because he finds him short-tempered, but he respects the record breaker’s fervour.

“I hear others in my neighbourhood mock him behind his back. They call him names but I respect him for his passion to do unbelievable things without caring about what others say,” Kumar said. “If I attempted something of this sort, I would be thrown out of my family.”

Rishi’s wife, Bimla, is supportive.

“If it makes him happy, why should it bother me?” Bimla said, adding that Rishi is young at heart.

At times, he said, he is hurt being mocked. But smiling, he showed off his gold medals and said: “If I had listened to these people, I would not have achieved this.”


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