Prachi Raturi Misra
Mohit Singh, popular as Monty Stunts in the biking circle, is considered a legend of sorts in freestyle stunt riding. Following his passion for 17 years, he takes the credit for being the first rider in India to do a Snake Stoppie. His Kangaroo Stoppie has its share of fans, too. But what is Monty like, behind this macho man image, beyond the spotlight as someone who has done over 2500 stunt shows, worked in two Bollywood movies, been the winner of MTV Extreme 2014, bagged the second position in XDL Championship at BFI 2014, and has a huge fan following? What is life like for this adrenaline fiend when he is not doing these daredevil stunts? Currently recovering from a surgery and taking some much-needed time out, Mohit Singh, in a conversation with The Mind Diaries, spoke about men’s mental health, their vulnerability and more. Excerpts from the interview:
You speak about the importance of mental health often. Why do you think good mental health is important for everyone?
We are all dealing with some stress and depression because of our unhealthy modern lifestyles. Being a pro stunt rider, I need to have extreme focus and strength for the ride at hand, and for that I try to eat healthy, get a good eight- hour sleep, work out every day. To unwind mentally, I watch my favourite shows on screen and try to find joy in little things. I am lucky that my passion is my career and that keeps me fit, both mentally and physically. If your mental health is good, it will help you to stay focussed so that you can put in extra effort at work.
It is said that men do not like to talk about their problems. If that is the case, do you think it would be more difficult and more challenging for them when it comes to seeking help?
Yeah, that’s normal. Most men don’t want to talk about their problems. I also don’t like to talk about them. I think that’s because I grew up with a warrior’s mindset. But not talking about things that bother you puts men in really bad situations because they hate asking for help. Their male ego gets in the way of admitting that they can’t do it on their own. This mindset needs to change for the sake of mental health and to prevent lives from becoming so tough that you feel the urge to not live anymore.
You are recovering from a surgery following an injury. I am sure it is not an easy situation to be in, for a stunt rider. How do you deal with such lows?
I had a crash in February 2022, and tore my right knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The year had just started and I was ready to do big things.And then all of a sudden, this crash happened.
It took me to the dark places deep inside me and I was heartbroken – this is the worst injury for an athlete and might end one’s sports career. I hardly rested and after two or three days, I decided to ride again. I thought I could do so simply by being mentally strong. So, I worked the entire year – did two Bollywood projects, many live performances, made a world record, travelled a lot and didn’t miss any gym session. I’m writing my answers to this interview from the hospital bed and my knee surgery has been scheduled for this month (February 2023). I tortured myself because I thought didn’t have any other option. I will never suggest to anyone to do the same.
Of course, it feels bad to be injured. Not doing much is what stresses me the most. But something I learnt from my mother was to use time well. She had once told me that I should learn to play the guitar because it will add to my personality. So that is what I plan to do in the few months that I need to rest.
You got into a profession that is quite unusual. It must have been all the more challenging 17 years ago. What made you do it?
Bike stunt riding is an action sport and it’s a part of the western culture. I started in 2006, when it was hard to even explain to people what I was doing. People would laugh and make fun of me during my days of struggle, but I was sure of what I wanted to do and felt proud about my goal. My mom was my inspiration and motivation, and I didn’t care what the world had to say. Since childhood I was a passionate and hardworking person. My mom taught me to believe in myself and to never give up. I guess that is the biggest reason behind my strong character and a successful stunt career.
I was a hyperactive child and it was my mother who saw that my energies needed to be used well. She is the real superstar of my life. You are in a profession that is considered highly “macho”.
Do you feel you have to live up to this image in your personal life as well? How stressful is it to maintain this image?
Thankfully, I’m not an actor or celebrity so I don’t have to maintain any image.Stunt riding is a sport played out on the streets and you can’t portray a fake image. I’m the only stunt athlete who believes in fitness and looks kind of like an action hero. That’s a part of me because I grew up watching Hollywood action movies and heroes, and always wanted to look like them and feel like them. So no, it doesn’t stress me. In fact it keeps me going. When younger boys and men come to me seeking fitness advice, when people draw inspiration from my struggle, it feels nice. I feel it puts me in a responsible position.
How easy or tough do you find it to show your emotions? Or do you bottle up your feelings because you feel it goes against your image?
I don’t show my emotions to any and everyone. Like I said, I have a warrior mindset and keep my emotions to myself. You can probably say that doing that would go against the image I have of myself; I only express my emotions to those who I am extremely close to.
Have you achieved what you set out to?
One of my idols, Mohammad Ali once said if your aspirations at 50 are the same as when you were 20, you are not growing.
In my neighbourhood, or right after my shows, people love to get photographed with me and appreciate my struggle and hard work. My childhood goal was to be a people’s champion and a role model for young boys around me.
I love to motivate others in what they want to do. That’s why I keep myself humble and work hard to be better than what I was yesterday.
But I have a long way to go. There are so many things, I have to learn, so many things that I have to do.
What are your thoughts on someone seeking help from mental health professionals?
Everyone has some degree of anxiety, frustration, feeling low, sometimes depressive moments. In my experience lack of a schedule and discipline only makes the problem worse. So, try having a schedule, be disciplined, exercise.
But if all this doesn’t help, please get help from a mental health professional.These things only get worse with time if not treated. Every day, every hour is crucial.