He was dressed like a clown and his antics lived up to his choice of wardrobe. Until the motorcycle stunt display got over, he was referred to as ‘the Joker’ by the cadets at the Officers Training Academy, who were commentating the event.
There were about 36 army men, mostly in the ranks of sepoys and naiks apart from two officers, performing dare-devil stunts. But every time the joker whizzed past the audience on his 350cc Royal Enfield, the audience were in splits. That his stunts were the riskiest of them all became oblivious.
On civilian roads, what the joker — 40-year-old Naik M Sasi Raja, did might have even got him arrested. But on Friday, he was the pick of the Tornadoes — the motorcycle display team of Army Service Corps (ASC) team from Bengaluru. The seasoned campaigner recently entered the Guinness Book of World Records. “I completed a distance of 19km in 18.40 minutes by standing on the bike without holding the handle bar,” Sasi Raja told City Express.
Three other soldiers and the two-team display by the Tornadoes too entered the Guinness book in November last year. Sasi Raja was part of the team display too. The joker, according to Sasi Raja, is usually the most experienced member of the team and had mastered varying degrees of stunts done by the unit. He chose to join the ASC Tornado team within a year after his commission into the army in 1995. “I have completed two decades now. While other performers concentrate on the stunts, the joker has to ensure that the audience is entertained too.”
True to his words, the man from Arcot in Vellore district entertained the crowd, especially the kids. From reading newspapers to riding from the top of a ladder placed on a bike to clownish antics while riding, he did them all. But his act of breaking into a dance standing on the bike with his hips gyrating like a belly dancer was the icing on the cake.
Sasi Raja’s first tutor was his father, (late) Naik Murugesan who was also part of the Tornado team for five years. “Both my children have seen him perform. They’re proud of what I do but they’re scared for me too. It takes 5-6 years to master all the stunts,” shrugged Raja.
The one show which is close to Raja’s heart was the Republic Day parade in New Delhi a decade ago. “The president personally congratulated our team for our skills. That was most memorable,” he recalled.