10 hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds. That’s the amount of time Inspector Awadhesh Kumar Singh, Team Captain, BSF Motorcycle Team, Janbaz, stood without a break on a 16-feet-5-inch pole while riding his Royal Enfield Bullet in April 2018. It was a new world record. Accompanying him on a ladder of similar height on another bike was a team member, Head Constable Durvesh Kumar, who rode his bike for a similar time and made another record. In 2018, the BSF Janbaz team created 12 world records on their Bullets, which was a record in itself–a 13th one. The story of that year is one of poignant tales, failures, and extreme heroics.
But first, one needs to understand why these records happened in 2018, and not earlier or later. In 2017, the BSF was busy with its new, all-women motorcycle display and stunt team, which was to perform at the 2018 Republic Day Parade. After this remarkable performance by the first such all-women team in the world, media and public attention focused on it. The men’s team, which was used to such admiration, had nothing to do. “I sensed demoralisation, a feeling that the riders didn’t know what to do,” says Satish Kumar Mishra, Second-in-Command, CSMT, BSF, and Training and Officer Team-in-Charge, Janbaz.
To lift the morale, Mishra urged the team to go for records. But it wasn’t easy. When Awadhesh tried the pole stunt, he failed, fell and broke a few bones, including two ribs. “I tried it in April 2018. But it was a windy day with strong gusts. After a few hours on the pole, a breeze came from a new direction. I adjusted my bike. Then a sudden gust took me over the divider. As I tried to balance the bike, the handle turned left and was locked. I fell down from that height,” he explains as he poses before his favourite bike, a more than 10-year-old Royal Enfield, which he got from the previous team captain.
Awadhesh refused to be admitted in a hospital, as this would deem him unfit and unable to try the feat again for weeks. He went to a private hospital, and extracted a bargain that he will continue to practice daily for two hours each in the mornings and evenings. “What bothered me were comments that I will not be able to ride again,” says Awadhesh. “When I met him at the hospital, he was emotional. To keep his spirits up, I asked him to try again,” adds Mishra. As a precaution, he asked the meteorological department to tell him about a day when the wind speed would be steady.
The Met office said that a few days later, during the night, the wind speed would be a stable 8 km/hour. Apart from it, no other date was likely until July due to the monsoons. And this day of stable breeze was only during the night for about 12-13 hours. So, within a few days, with all his fractures, Awadhesh tried again. “This time, I had asked Durvesh to practice for a similar record, but on a ladder of the same height. This way, there would be both competition and comradeship between the two. It would encourage Awadhesh,” explains Mishra.
Armed with small water bottles, bottles filled with lentil soup, and adult diapers, the Inspector and Head-Constable started their rides at 9 pm. Team members lined up the riding area to encourage the duo. To prevent them from sleeping, or catching a wink in the night, they spoke on the mobiles to their family members and friends. For the next more than 10 hours, they remained perched on their respective pole and ladder. “We could have gone on for a few more hours, but we were apprehensive about the fuel in our tanks,” says a smiling Awadhesh. Mishra says they stopped also because “we ran out of recording material”.
In April 2018, when the Janbaz tried for its first record–πhuman pyramid of 36 people on three bikes to cover 1 km in less than a minute–they were in for a shock. Three days before the event, it learnt that the runway of Delhi’s Safdarjung Airport was unavailable due to security reasons. Since it was an attempt at the first record, the team didn’t wish to postpone it, and lose the momentum. There was a search for a new location, a road with two km of free run. “We decided to do it on a state highway near Nazafgarh. I convinced the local police to keep the highway free for an hour or so,” says Mishra.
Despite the difficulties–make the formation on one side of the highway, and post people to prevent animals from rushing on to the road–a new record was made. This led to enhanced enthusiasm. For example, for a world record of a rider standing on a bike and facing backwards, the team was told that it was enough to ride for two km. However, Constable Ravinder Munde rode his Bullet in this position for 4 hours and 17 minutes, and covered more than 106 km. This represented the janbaz spirit of the team.