54-year-old Abdul Aziz has a very peculiar job. He has been working as a living statue for over three decades, standing perfectly still for six hours a day and resisting people’s attempts to make him move, smile or pretty much flinch a muscle, anything that proves he is a living person. Nobody has ever been able to do it.
Aziz, fondly known as “India’s Statue Man”, has been performing his daily routine ever since 1985, soon after getting a job as a security guard at the VGP Golden Beach Resort in Chennai, India. His boss had recently traveled to the UK, where he was so impressed by the statue-like members of the Royal Guard outside Buckingham Palace that he wanted to do something similar back home. So he had his security guards undergo three months of training, where they would sit perfectly still for around four hours. They weren’t allowed to talk or smile, eat, drink, or even shoo away a fly if it sat on their faces. In the end, Abdul proved the best of the group, so he got the strange job.
“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,” the Statue Man told Friday Magazine. So he agreed to work as a living statue for six hours a day, resisting the resort visitors’ attempts to make him smile or move. And he’s been doing it for 32 years now, with great success.
Abdul Aziz isn’t the only person in the world posing as a living statue, but what makes him special is the fact that he can do it for as long as six hours without even blinking an eyelid, despite people’s constant attempts to make him reveal his humanity. They make faces in front of him, tell all kinds of jokes or try to scare him to get the smallest reaction, but so far no one has been able to do it.
At one point, the VGP Golden Beach Resort became so confident in Abdul’s ability to pose as a living statue that they put up a 10,000 rupee ($155) prize for anyone who can make him move a muscle. That made his job a lot more difficult, as to some Indians $155 is a monthly salary, but try as they might, no one has ever succeeded in getting the smallest reaction from the Statue Man. Some kids will sometimes try to poke and prod him to make him move, but, luckily, he has security guards nearby who come to his aid.
“Standing like a statue for hours might look easy, but it is a very difficult and demanding job,” Abdul says. “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.”
Even the famous Royal Guards at Buckingham Palace change shifts every two hours, but he spends six hour every day sitting perfectly still, so he has to compensate somehow. He tries to move about as much as he can in his spare time, and only eats healthy home-cooked food, to keep his body in shape. But he claims yoga has been the biggest help, both as a physical exercise and as a way of maintaining his focus when he goes into statue mode.
In the 32 years since he became Statue Man, Abdul Aziz has become a celebrity of sorts, not only in India, but also in other Asian countries like Singapore or Malaysia. Many Bollywood celebrities have come to Chennai to witness his routine firsthand and try to finally make him move, but none have succeeded.
So how does posing as a statue pay? Not very well, it turns out. Aziz earns about 10,000 rupees a month, which is enough to support his family, but definitely not enough to encourage his children to follow in his footsteps. It’s just too stressful and taxing on the body.
The 54-year-old is thinking of retiring soon, and he has already started training someone to take his place. Out of 5 candidates, only one has proven to have what it takes to succeed the world’s best living statue, and he is now learning the nuances of the job.
“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,” the Statue Man says. “When the time comes, I want to die playing a statue.”