Spelling the word ‘Hippopotomonstrosesquipe-daliophobia’ could stump many, but not 25-year-old Guinness Book record holder Shishir Hathwar, who can not only do it without batting an eyelid but in the reverse order as well.It is not just this word (which means fear of long words) but a number of others including ‘grotesqueness’ which he can rattle off.
Bangalore-based Hatwar, an electronics engineer in BHEL, clinched the world record this week for the “fastest backwards spelling of 50 words” in one minute 22.53 seconds, beating the record of Job Pottas from Kerala who clocked one minute 40.14 seconds in March 2010. The earlier record was held by Deborah Prebble from UK (two min 21 seconds).Shishir won by a comfortable margin of over 17 seconds when he spelt 50 randomly chosen words, including 20 six letter word, 15-seven letter words and 15-eight letter words.The time included that taken by a person to read out the words and spell it backward. “I took just 1.6 seconds per word including the time taken to read out the word”, said Shishir, who was asked to spell out words chosen from a variety of fields, including literature, arts and science.
The words he spelt out backwards during the event included ‘desolate’, ‘lavish’, ‘pharynx’, ‘excavate’ and ‘fragrant.’ A voracious reader, Shishir attributes his success to the environment provided by his parents, his reading habit and out of the box thinking.
“Honing visualisation techniques to an extreme degree also aided in training his mind to achieve the goal. Asked how he felt about the record, he said “Exultant, considering that English is not my mother tongue”.
Shishir can also read and write Kannada, Hindi and Sanskrit and speak Tulu. It was a You Tube clip of Pottas breaking the record that got him started on the idea he could attempt a similar feat. Shishir says he also reads books by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Bertrand Russell.
Apart from reading, he revels in outdoor activities like trekking and swimming. He in fact completed the 21.1 km half marathon in December 2005 in 98 minutes.
He disapproves the current SMS lingo and short spellings, saying, “It is mutilating the sublime beauty of language.”
Ask him about the most mis-spelt words, Shishir says, “It is words where ‘i’ is contiguous with ‘e’ like shriek, receive”.
Shishir’s advice to the young who struggle with spellings is “Take to reading instead of video gaming”. Shishir said he was aware of his talent to spell backwards at a young age and held several speechless when he spelt words backward as well as six word sentences.
Not content with the laurels won, the spelling champion is now out to conquer new records like speaking three syllable words backward and being able to spell the maximum number of words backward in a minute.
The son of Dr Ramamurthy, a senior scientist of Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, DRDO, he says spellings have never flummoxed him and there is no spelling which can leave him tongue tied.
He spells words incredibly and rattles off the 45 lettered longest word ‘Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosisin’ in the English dictionary in a jiffy.”Words like Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (35) and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34) are those I am capable of spelling or pronouncing either in the forward or backward direction,” he said. His amazing ability comes to the fore when he says “Where are you from?” – pronounced backwards as “Morf uoy era erehw”. “What is your name?” is again rattled off as “Eman ruoy si tahw”. His plans to break another record backward would be a quite a skill test, he said.”The record for the most words spoken backwards in one minute is 71 and was achieved by Nada Bojkovic (Sweden) at Nordstan Shopping Mall in Gothenburg, Sweden on Nov 24, 2007.He then proceeded to read the entire above paragraph backwards.