I recently participated in a survey that, among others, asked the question: ‘Which is the one thing that worries you the most about India’s future?’ There were three choices in the form of 1) The erosion in the credibility of the political class and democratic institutions 2) The civic mess that most of our cities find themselves in 3) The seemingly never-ending economic crisis. I, of course, went with the ungiven fourth option, writing out that the biggest crisis staring the nation in its face is the alarming decline in the number of moustachioed men.
No, I was not being facetious. Quiz yourself as to on which metric has India been a consistent global leader. Well, India is the world-topper in having fully automatic street signals completely operated by traffic constables. While this is true, the fact of the matter is India owes its high position in this category to the fact that it is the only country where such a thing may be happening. So that leaves us with the only other facet in which India is the undoubted chart-buster: It tops the list of moustache-dense nations by quite a margin.
But it is a position that is, I am afraid, now under threat, as I see many young men in India going for an androgynous look, probably inspired by many clean-shaven
Bollywood heroes (In the Hind film world, the total percentage of facial hair as follows: All heroes put together: 1.7%, Anil Kapoor: 98.3 %*) (*Figures unavailable for Anil Kapoor’s bad hair days.)
But Bollywood stars in Mumbai, or North Indian film heroes as we say here, are wrong examples. In matters of moustache, our model should be our own MGR. The legendary hero did not let the minor matter that in its natural state his moustache was as well grown as an anaemic centipede bother him overly. And in the later stages of his career, when that moustache itself shriveled out, he did what a macho star would do in the circumstance: He appeared on screen with a highly italicised moustache presumably drawn using an eyeliner pencil. It was Photoshopping in reality.
Anyway, in the evolution process, it is not without reason that men ended up as the ones to have the moustache. I mean nature did not want women to sport it because 1) It is impossible for moustache to stay even. 2) It will be impossible for a woman to set out of the house unless it is perfectly balanced (on either side of the face).
If women indeed had moustache, such a scene would not be uncommon:
‘Don’t you think the left-side needs to be trimmed a bit?’ the wife, sitting before the dressing mirror, would say (in the general direction of the husband) three days before function they are supposed to attend. And four days later, long after the function that they were supposed to have attended must have ended, she would be still sitting in front of the mirror with a small scissors in her hand and with an angled face, ‘I think I went overboard. I think I need to snip a bit this side now.’ The husband would have passed out face-first on the couch.
The point is women are endowed an eyesight that can spot, and completely feel downcast thereafter, even half a strand of recalcitrant hair. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be out of place for a man to stride out feeling fully comfortable and confident that his tache is oozing irresistible sex appeal when in reality it (tache) may be looking no better than a hungover tarantula.
Don’t think that I am indulging in sexist stereotyping. For I have seen women being distraught beyond belief over some assumed shortcoming in eyebrow waxing. As a man, I just don’t understand why women need to wax their eyebrows. If the intention is to impress men, women you have got it all wrong. A man’s gaze never falls that high.
When Leonardo da Vinci drew his masterpiece Mona Lisa without the eyebrows, it was not as if he was trying to convey some abstract artistic idea. It was just that the legendary artist, like all men, had not noticed that women have eyebrows. I am pretty sure that it was a woman who first found that Mona Lisa did not have eyebrows.
Coming back to moustaches, at a time when they are facing Gillette-edged guillotine everywhere, I am very happy Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan, who respectively emerged as the highest wicket-taker and run-scorer in the Champions Trophy, have become cult heroes of our times as much for their exploits on the field as for their twirled taches. Their rugged moustache is such a strong symbol for supreme manliness. I just hope, in true masculine spirit of naturalness, they thread, tweak, wax and shampoo it regularly.