In­dia’s Ab­dul Aziz amuses scores of people ev­ery day with­out bat­ting an eye­lid. Meet the statue man.

Ab­dul Aziz’s job is to stand stock-still for up to six hours at a time. Known as In­dia’s statue man, the 54-year-old is a huge draw at an amuse­ment park in Tamil Nadu

Friday - - Contents -

What led you to be­come a statue man? I ac­tu­ally started my ca­reer as a se­cu­rity guard at VGP Golden Beach Re­sort in Chen­nai, way back in 1984. The park owner, while on a visit to the UK, saw the royal guards out­side Buckingham Palace and wanted to do some­thing sim­i­lar here. So he chose around 10 people to train to be­come statue men. I was one of them. Ini­tially, I didn’t like the idea, but I didn’t have the courage to say no to my em­ployer as I didn’t want to be with­out a job. That’s how I landed this job. What was the train­ing ses­sion like? Dur­ing the three-month train­ing in 1985, we were made to stand still in a par­tic­u­lar pose for about four hours with­out mov­ing. We were not sup­posed to blink our eyes, sip wa­ter or eat food dur­ing those duty hours. We could not smile, talk or even shoo away a fly if it both­ered us. How do you keep your­self from break­ing into a chuckle or smile when people pose for self­ies with you? It is very tough but my train­ing has been good. In the ini­tial days of my ca­reer, it was very dif­fi­cult to stay still if some­body tried to make me laugh by do­ing silly an­tics in front of me or by telling a joke. I guess I’m very good be­cause the man­age­ment an­nounced a cash re­ward of Rs10,000 (Dh567) to any­one who spots me flinch­ing. It’s been 31 years now and to date thou­sands of people have wit­nessed me as a statue but have never been able to see me move. So the cash re­ward re­mains un­claimed. A lot of people must have tried their luck to get the award. Oh yes, sev­eral. Sev­eral celebri­ties and co­me­di­ans from the Tamil film in­dus­try, too, have tried their luck.

Tamil film ac­tors such as Vy­jayan­thi­mala Bali, Shivaji Ganesan, Ar­jun and Saroja have tried to make me laugh and move. A cou­ple of years ago, well-known stunt di­rec­tor Kanal Kan­nan tried to make me move by do­ing var­i­ous an­tics and when he failed he dec­o­rated me with a gar­land of cur­rency notes as a mark of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Some­times, women vis­i­tors kiss me on my cheeks to dis­tract me and break my still­ness. Some have even said I’m not a hu­man but a robot.

Oc­ca­sion­ally pesky kids try to poke and prod me to make me move. In cases such as these there are se­cu­rity guards who come to my aid. You must prac­tise re­ally hard to stay im­mo­bile... Yes, I do. Many people ask me what my se­cret is to re­main im­mo­bile for hours and how I man­age to do all this with­out tak­ing a rest. My an­swer is yoga. I prac­tise power yoga ev­ery day. That makes me strong enough to per­form my du­ties with ease.

I’ve been told that no one in the world can stand like a statue for six hours at a stretch. Even the world-fa­mous guards at Buckingham Palace change shifts ev­ery two hours. I also go for a long walk ev­ery morn­ing and try to re­main very ac­tive when not play­ing statue man.

I eat only home-cooked food and avoid junk food. I think the body is a tem­ple; if you don’t pol­lute it with un­nec­es­sary ad­di­tions and temp­ta­tions, you can achieve what­ever you de­sire. Has be­ing a statue man taken a toll on your body? Stand­ing like a statue for hours might look easy, but it is a very dif­fi­cult and de­mand­ing job. The park owner trained three people; I am the only one who is still in the job. I’ve trained four to five people, of which only one man­aged to learn the skills. Now, I am teach­ing him the nu­ances of the job to take over once I re­tire.

When I started the job, I was full of vigour and en­ergy. But now, over the years, I have come to know the stress in­volved, which is af­fect­ing my health. Stand­ing still for hours has started to af­fect my blood cir­cu­la­tion. How­ever my yoga ex­er­cises are help­ing me a bit. I might have a few healthre­lated prob­lems, maybe be­cause of the na­ture of the job or sim­ply be­cause of age, but I owe heav­ily to this pro­fes­sion that has made me a celebrity of sorts.

Now, wher­ever I go people come to me, talk to me and take self­ies with me. But de­spite all the hard­ship and health prob­lems, I love my job and I am thank­ful to people for the love and re­spect they have show­ered on me. Is this a well-pay­ing pro­fes­sion? I earn around Rs10,000 a month. It is tough to sup­port my fam­ily – I am mar­ried and have three sons.

I have re­cently started door-to-door de­liv­ery of milk to earn some ex­tra bucks. How long do you think you would like to work as a statue man? Thanks to this job, I’ve be­come fa­mous – not only in In­dia, but also in coun­tries such as Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia. Tourists from there have gone back af­ter tak­ing self­ies with me. I’m 54 now and plan to re­tire soon. But be­fore I do that I need to find a re­place­ment and train him to be the next statute man. As far as my chil­dren are con­cerned, they are not go­ing to take up this pro­fes­sion as it is a tax­ing job with lit­tle pay.

When the time comes, I want to die play­ing a statue.

Ab­dul has be­come fa­mous – not only in In­dia, but also in coun­tries such as Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia.

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