On March 1, 2012, Keshab Swain from Dharakote block in Ganjam district of Odisha, was officially declared the fastest green coconut breaker in the world by officials of the Guinness Book of World Records. To achieve this, Keshab was given a target of breaking 50 green coconuts in sixty seconds, but he broke 85 of them within 52.7 seconds. Earlier he had recorded his name in the Limca Book of Records in 2011 by breaking 250 green coconuts within 8 minutes and
Unlike most people, who use various implements like hammer, sickle or a large stone to get to the inner fleshy part of a coconut, Swain deploys nothing but his elbows, knees and head to crack them open. Swain had first set a record in January 27, 2007, by breaking 135 coconuts in 7.26 minutes with his elbow and followed it up in May 8, 2008, by cracking 170 coconuts in 6.22 minutes.
Breaking the coconuts with hands or legs or peeling them off with his teeth is not easy. Keshab says these stunts require immense practice, physical power and concentration, otherwise it might prove fatal.
“I practise every day, breaking coconuts and offering them to God. I have to spend around Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 each day on green vegetables and milk; but with limited income it becomes difficult to manage.”
As a teenager, Keshab had run away from home and gone to Goa. With no money, the hungry lad picked green coconuts from the trees near the beach and tried to break them but he could not. He saw some martial art training given near the beach and applied this technique on the coconuts, which ultimately led him to break them with his hands. Later, he trained himself to break coconuts on his head. Word about his maverick ability went around, and Keshab became popular. Though Keshab’s stunts amuse many, he finds it difficult to continue with them. He earns a living as a fight director in Odia films, but does not earn enough.
“I first came to know of these stunts of his after our marriage, but I don’t feel afraid because I know that he knows what he is doing,” Keshab’s wife, Pratima says.
Keshab is also a braveheart, who rescued a bus load of passengers, when it caught fire in January 2008. For this, he was given Government of Odisha’s Biju Patnaik Award for Bravery in 2011.
His family, which consists of his 92-year-old father, wife and two school-going children, eke out a precarious living in rented accommodation. But he does not have any fixed source of income and faces enormous problems in meeting day to
day expenses for his father’s treatment, children’s education and the house rent.
But Keshab has a word of caution for the others—never try this at home because it took him 16 long years to master the stunt.
By Anil Dhir from Dharakote