For 12 years, Dinesh Shivnath Upadhyaya tried to create a world record and failed. Rejection letters, lack of sponsors, and a disapproving family were just some of the stumbling blocks he encountered along the way. "But my stubbornness paid off", Upadhyaya smiles. This unassuming private tutor now has 176 records, including 43 from Guinness and 24 from Limca, to his credit. His are the kind of records that can best be described as unusual. That's because an overwhelming number of them involve mouth stuffing -- a category which, incidentally, witnesses some fierce competition. His success in this domain has earned him the moniker 'Maximouth'.
The thick stacks of certificates outlining his achievements cram his home in Goregaon. But Upadhyaya isn't done yet. Just recently, he broke his own Guinness record of the 'most number of grapes eaten in one minute' (73). He also maintains a diary of all the records he intends setting and breaking throughout the course of his life. It's a list that grows every day.
"I want to make my mark in speed eating now," he says while sharing photographs of his attempts over the years. Upadhyaya reveals how possessive people can be about their records. "Naturally so," he pauses, before continuing, "but some get aggressive, abusive, even racist. Indians aren't liked much in this community."
It was the TV show Ripley's Believe It Or Not that sparked his obsession with records. He remembers how he'd stay transfixed to the screen, watching people like Ashrita Furman outdo both themselves and others in the quest for lasting fame. Furman, who has set the maximum number of Guinness Records in the world - 513 at last count- is Upadhyaya's inspiration. Like Furman, Upadhyaya devotes all his time and energy to staying omnipresent in record books. He spends at least 13-14 hours trawling through the Challengers Community on the Guinness World Records site and honing new techniques to better himself. For Upadhyaya, there's always a record, however ludicrous, to be set. This is more than a mission to him. It's his raison d'etre.
So determined is Upadhyaya about becoming India's most prolific record holder that even Vijaya Ghosh, editor of Limca Book of Records, requested him to slow down. "She asked me to submit only six records a year so that others get a chance to be featured," he grins.
Ghosh, he continues, has been at the helm of India's foremost records compendium for 24 years and is a tough nut to crack. Of the 19 records he submitted for approval in 2013, only eight were accepted by her. But nothing tops the stringent criteria set by Guinness World Records. "They have extremely high standards for things like video resolution. Getting through to Guinness is a huge deal."
'Maximouth' may be obsessed with world records, but he insists that he's a man of varied interests. One of his hobbies includes maintaining a collection of autographs and handwritten letters by personalities ranging from Mahasweta Devi and Majrooh Sultanpuri to Baba Amte and Sunderlal Bahuguna. He is also fond of literature and hopes to write a semi-autobiographical book someday. "I had three dreams as a child: to become an IAS officer, to write a book, and create records. I couldn't achieve the first, but two out of three isn't a bad score," he says.
Upadhyaya is no stranger to people's reservations about what he believes is his true calling. His mother, who passed away earlier this year, remained critical of his choices till her last breath and wanted him to get married. His voice reduces to a whisper when he talks about the early demise of his father and how he had to make ends meet while he was still in college to support a family of six. If record setting and breaking was Upadhyaya's way of escaping into an alternate universe where certain odds could be surmounted or not, he won't say.
What he does admit to, however, is his disregard for a conventional life. He plays a video of himself setting the record for 'maximum number of lit candles in a mouth' before saying, "The only thing which sets me apart from the rest are my priorities."
Maximouth's Big Five
Most straws fit in the mouth
Most number of pencils stuffed in the mouth
Most table tennis balls held in the mouth
Most number of grapes eaten in one minute
Most golf balls stuffed in the mouth