Dukan ji: The Moustache Dancer

Jagrata, my wife and I went on an ultra-short road-trip to Prayagraj and Varanasi recently. It was mainly to visit our ailing Guruji in Varanasi. My in-laws stay in Prayagraj, which is around 120 km away, so we visited there too.

One of the major places in Prayagraj that always attracts me is the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Two of the biggest rivers of India are meeting here and you can clearly see the two different colours—the darker waters of Yamuna and the lighter waters of Ganga.

During these winter months of the year, the Sangam area has regular visitors—Siberian Gulls. Boating on the river with the Siberian Gulls flocking the boat for the feeds that every boat feeds them. We also bought a few packets to feed them. We reached the real confluence line, had a few dips in the water. Hindus treat the dip at this confluence as a pious act. I enjoy the dips, anyway.

On our return to the ghat (river bank), we stopped at one of the kiosks for tea and pakoras. It was around 10 AM then. We have our known boatman at the Sangam, who takes us on the boat ride on the Sangam generally. His name is Rishi Kumar. Rishi pointed out to a man sitting a short distance away and he is the Guinness Book of World Records holder, Rajendra Kumar Tiwari—popularly known as Dukan ji. He is an internationally renowned moustache dancer.

I went to meet him. He gave me his card. His name is imprinted in the Guinness Book of World Records, the Limca Book of Records, and the India Book of Records for an act, the very thought of which can make our facial muscles twitch. He seduces burning candles to sway to any tune on his moustache merely through controlled facial movements.

No moustache had ever achieved comparable celebrity or been put to greater public purpose. Dukan Ji’s moustache dance involved candles, four of them nestled symmetrically in his great black beard together with an equal number of unlit objects that resembled chopsticks. He could make the candles jump around in time to music, one at a time, in pairs, all four in unison.

He is a jovial man and we entered into conversation. I ordered another cup of tea for me and him to enjoy our conversation. He hails from the Daraganj locality of Prayagraj. He was a standard black sheep in his youth, indifferent to academics but with a flair for unusual art. He started drawing his first audience early while keeping his father’s little bookshop. The cartoons he drew had his signature: Dukan ji; it became a favourite among the customers, who gave him his now-famous nickname.

However, one fateful Diwali night, he tried something new. “The power was out; it was pitch dark. Out of sheer fun, I placed a burning candle on my moustache. Strangely, I liked it.” One move led to another and within eight years he emerged as the undisputed “mooch nritya samrat of Sangam”.

He is a vibrant personality. He drives through the city on a scooter, painted in various colours with his face painted on the front. 

But Dukan ji is not all frivolity. He is also a social activist who leads from the front in any public awareness campaign, be it for AIDS, cancer, Save Ganga campaign, donating blood and eyes or body donation for medical research.

He informed me that he was going to Mumbai soon as he would feature in the “India Got Talent” show. While talking to me, I forgot when our tea was finished. I had to visit a few more relatives in Prayagraj so took his leave and returned to my planned schedule.

Selfie with Dukan ji

It was a pleasant accidental encounter for me as I did not think that I would meet a Guinness World Record holder just like that sitting at the Sangam ghat while sipping tea from a kulhar or an earthen cup.

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