Even though he had a hard time finding a wife, has trouble holding down a job, and hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in decades, 77-year-old Shridar Chillal has achieved his dream — earning the Guinness World Record for the World’s Longest Fingernails.
Cumulatively, Shridar’s fingernails on his left hand are almost 30 feet long, the Huffington Post reported. The longest by far is his thumbnail, which stretches to six-and-a-half feet.
His record specifically recognizes that the Indian man has the “World’s Longest Fingernails on a Single Hand Ever.” And he couldn’t be prouder, he told the Daily Mail.
“I can tell everyone now with pride about my record. When I am on my travels, people will recognise me as a Guinness World Records title holder.”
The journey to earning this unusual — if not a little disgusting — record began 62 years ago when he was a schoolboy. Growing out his fingernails became a challenge for him and his friends after they broke a fingernail their teacher had chosen to grow out.
As punishment, the teacher beat Chillal and his friend, saying that they would never understand his anger until they grew out their own. So they “took it as a challenge.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) October 1, 2015
The decision to grow what would become the world’s longest fingernails started trouble in the young man’s life immediately, the record holder said.
“First our family members opposed, then teachers were opposed but I decided from that point on that I would never cut my nails again. Initially, difficulties appeared everywhere in my daily life. My family really didn’t like it, no one would wash my clothes and I had to wash them by hand. Finding a job was also difficult, as no one was ready to employ me.”
And the ladies — nor their parents — were a fan of the look. When he grew older and decided it was time to marry, he said he courted a dozen girls. Every now and then, one was interested, but “her parents would say I would strangle their daughter’s neck and refuse. If the parents agreed, the girl would say she would not marry such a dirty person.”
Shridar did find love in the end, however, marrying his brother’s sister-in-law when he was 29. So someone liked long fingernails.
With only his left hand preoccupied with long claws, his right was free for hobbies, including a passion for photography, which he briefly pursued as a career. But a full night’s sleep still evades him: he has to wake up every half hour to adjust his hand.
Now he will go down in Guinness’ history books as the man with the world’s longest fingernails, which means it’s time for Chillal to let his fingernails go and get some much-needed rest.
Though he’s keeping the date a secret, he’s plans to cut (or saw) his nails off and put them in a museum. At his age, the unusual specimens have become more delicate and in need of permanent preservation.
With the world now exposed to the man with the longest fingernails in history, Live Science is answering some questions about them that you may not have thought of. For instance — why do people have them to begin with?
The pervading theory among scientists is that they somehow helped early primates make better use of their fingers; we don’t have claws like other mammals, but instead have handy fingertips meant for grasping. These useful tools have been around for 55.8 million years.
And they grow “like toothpaste squirting out of a tube,” Live Science added. Cells that form at the base of the nail grow outward, pushing older cells toward the finger’s tip. When they meet up with the rest of the nail, they flatten and stretch out, then harden into the protein keratin.
Another strange factoid: they grow at different rates. And some guy actually spent 35 years studying his own nails and wrote a series of papers about their growth. That man’s name was Dr. William Bean, and he started watching his fingernails when he was 32. The speediest grower? His middle finger.
[Photo Courtesy Charles B. Ming Onn / Shutterstock]