A moustache is nothing to be sneezed at in Rajasthan as the excitement over the recently launched Rajasthan Tourism campaign logo has proved.
Men take great pride in their moustache, like the first pair of long pants a moustache is a sign of masculinity more it is the fountain hood of maleness.
A man without a moustache in Rajasthan is a rare sight indeed; they sprout in all shapes and sizes on the top lip of every man.
There are the discrete top lip moustaches, the moustaches that curl at the ends, often perched atop a pair of bewitching dimples, there are moustaches that grow like bushes covering cheeks and extending into ears and there are the glossy, jaunty Rajasthan moustache fashioned by the Maharajah Singh so many hundreds of years ago.
To a Rajasthani man, his moustache is a mark of his virility. To stress his honor, a man will swear on his mustache.
One popular feature of rural fairs in Rajasthan is the Moustache Competition. Turbaned men sporting wild and weird mustaches compete for the honor of having the best arrangement of facial hair in the state if not the world.
A few years back now, I happened to meet a Moustachioed Raja of Rajasthan when he passed me in the market one day.
I recognized his face from the newspaper and called him over to share chai.
Seems the young man had been growing his mustache since puberty and it now extended two feet on either side of his face.
It reminded me of a nonsense tale told to me when I was a child. My aunt swore she had had to rescue an old man whose moustache was so long that it kept getting caught up in overhead wires one day when she was late to collect me.
This guy was safe from overhead wires and my aunt’s scissors. and good on him. Indians are the most successful small businessmen I have ever come across, the tiniest areas imaginable can be turned into a shop. Setting up a business on your top lip though, has to take the prize for the smallest trading area in the world.
Recently mustachioed men of Rajasthan are threatening to shave off their mustaches and boycott the Bikaner Camel Fair.
They want a fair price for their mustaches, beginning with the prize money from last years fair that has not been forthcoming for twelve months. The total amount owed to them is five hundred rupees, an amount so small it must have slipped into the organizers pockets, oops I mean slipped their minds.
The Marwari people of Rajasthan are a mix of traders and warrior people so shaving of their mustache (or threatening to) is akin to throwing down the gauntlet, or threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue. They won’t do it of course but it has caught the attention of the media and now the organizers are assuring everyone that the mustaches of Rajasthan will remain on the firmly fixed on these bewitching Marwari faces.
It made me think that there is a shrinking world for people prepared to get themselves into the Guinness Book of Records with only small talk and chai stops along the way.