My friend Vijay Yadav and I were discussing world records. Inevitably, the topic turned to Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt and his extraordinary feat of smashing the 100m record thrice in 15 months: a quick man in a hurry.
“I wish I could do the same,” said Vijay, a wistful look on this face.
I gasped. Vijay is built on the lines of a medium-sized wardrobe and leads a life of pleasant languor, which includes eating well and playing golf. He may be able to run 100 metres, but not all continuously on the same day.
He clarified that he was not hung up on sprinting. “I want a world record in anything. Just one world record — that’s all I ask.”
Ah, the glamour of fame, the glitter of stardom, the glow of limelight: those were the things he was after.
“Why don’t you try for a Guinness World Record?” I said, “There are many categories to choose from, some right up your street. For example, you’re fond of hot dogs, right?”
Vijay nodded. He is fond of most things edible.
“Can you eat seven hot dogs...”
“Yes!” He interrupted me but I hadn’t finished my sentence.
“… in three minutes? Then you’ll overtake the Japanese eating legend Takeru Kobayashi, who, by the way, has also eaten 64 tacos in 15 minutes, 83 dumplings in eight minutes, 100 pork buns in 12 minutes, 17.7 pounds…”
“My God” said Vijay, “He can out-eat a bear.”
“Actually he cannot. He lost to a 1089-pound Kodiak bear in an eating competition. In the time the bear gobbled 50 hot dogs, Kobayashi could only manage 31. They say he was very upset with the loss and went on an eating spree to vent out his frustration.”
“I need a less formidable foe, nearer home,” said Vijay, “Any eating record by an Indian?”
“Yes! Can you hold 58 seedless grapes in your mouth? You’d snatch the record from Shobhit Saxena Keshvdass.”
“Ok, then swallow 201 worms (each 10 cm long) in 30 seconds and trounce C Manoharan ‘Snake’ Manu.”
“Forget it. How about drinking? Like beer?”
I could vouch for Vijay’s beer-guzzling skill, acquired in college and honed over the years. But, rather ironically, Guinness World Records, named after its brewery sponsor, no longer recognises alcohol consumption prowess.
“The closest to drinking is to eat a drinking glass in 86 seconds and destroy Patesh Talukdar’s record.”
Vijay preferred not to eat glass. He was a difficult man to please. I offered him other Guinness World Records waiting to be broken — like eating 212 cold tinned peas in three minutes using a cocktail stick, husking a coconut with his teeth in 28.05 seconds and training his dog to unwind a non-electric car window in 11.33 seconds — but he refused them all and walked away, dejected.
But when he called me a few weeks later, he was excited.
“Check out today’s newspaper!” he cried and gave me the page number.
“Sorry,” I said a few moments later, “I only see an article about some beauty company…”
“That’s the one! Do you see the picture?”
I could see a mass of masks: hundreds of people wearing white facial contraptions of the type — if you believe the hype — that cleanses the pores, moisturises the skin, strips out acne, peels away wrinkles and removes excess fat from the waist.
“I’m in the first row,” cried Vijay, “fourth from the left!”
“I’ll take your word for it. And is your face more beautiful?”
“I wasn’t there for beauty treatment but to break a world record.”
Apparently the beauty company had organised the extravaganza, collecting 859 people to form the largest group applying facial masks assembled at any one time on the planet.
“I’m a Guinness World Record holder now,” Vijay said proudly.
I didn’t want to dampen his spirits by pointing out that the record would not carry his name, only the beauty company’s.
“The next time you visit, I’ll show you the T-shirt from the event, stating the record very clearly. In fact, since you’re a close friend,” he added with an air of magnanimity, “I’ll even allow you to take a picture alongside me wearing the T-shirt.”
Obviously I was thrilled.