Indian man and his moustache

Ever wondered why does a man grow a moustache? Perhaps to look older; as a status symbol; to look more majestic; as a sign of bravery; to showcase virility and manhood amongst peers, etc. The list of reasons is endless.

Traditionally in India, a mooch (moustache) was an indicator of high caste, whereas in some families, it is still customary for a man to wear a moustache as long as his father is alive – only once he's passed away is the son allowed to shave his moustache.

According to a recent survey and research done by AC Nielson, men in South India are still keen on luxuriant, twirled moustaches, while men in the northern cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad are increasingly shaving them off for reasons of cleanliness, hygiene, aesthetics and vanity (a clean-shaven face looks younger). Expatriate or Indian immigrants living in the West tend to realize over time that, while they may see a thick, lustrous growth as an indicator of great personality, power and virility, a stand-alone moustache is often seen as somewhat creepy in the West.

A most recent incident that occurred in the Middle East was indeed shocking as a Dubai-based security firm categorically asked all the South Indian employees to shave off their moustaches or face losing their jobs as security guards patrolling the Emirate's gleaming shopping malls. While some complied, six of the security guards refused to succumb to such frivolous pressures and opted to lose their jobs, rather than relenting. One of the employees Babu who was terminated on this ground told the newspaper - "…the company informed everyone they should remove their moustaches…. Since I come from a traditional South Indian family, I told them that I cannot do it. The company has now terminated my employment…" It's a strange case to arise in a Muslim country, where facial hair is not only acceptable but also encouraged. In the traditions of Islam, men are supposed to keep their beards and "trim" their moustaches. In India, the handlebar moustache has long been a part of its culture regardless of religion.

Moustache is the Pride and ego of a person in most communities in India. It is considered as important as pagdi (turban) on the head for most people, especially the Sikhs and the Rajputs. A moustache is even objectified to a profound level where people swear by it and the loser is forced to shave off the same, much to the dismay of his family and race. This way the loser feels ashamed and threatened of being ostracized by the family and society, hence losing a moustache is a big punishment in such communities.

Veerapan, the famous Sandalwood smuggler and elephant poacher of South India had his name synonymous with his distinct and prominent moustache. So much so that people feared him almost equally because of his moustache as they feared him for his illegal activities being a hardcore member of the underworld mafia. He was well known for being a heartless murderer and bandit having taken almost 200 lives on his own.

A man from Jaipur, Rajasthan named Ram Singh Chauhan holds the Guinness World Record for the longest moustache in the world that measures 14 feet (4.30m) as measured in 2013. He cultivated his crop of whiskers in 32 years…and still continuing….indeed a penance!

Moustaches are also considered a major fashion statement in different parts of the globe. People like flaunting different styles of moustaches - English, Americana, Villian, Mexican, Horse shoe, Dali, Chinese, Fu Manchu, Imperial, Handle bar, Tooth Brush, and Mouth brow to name a few. Every shape and style has its uniqueness and offers a distinct feel and repertoire within different sects of society worldwide.

All said and done having a moustache is definitely considered as a part of growing up in age, maturity, status symbol, and fashion.

Here's raising a toast to the famous line of Amitabh Bachchan from his Bollywood blockbuster movie "Sharaabi', wherein he used to invariably praise the bushy mustachioed actor Mukri in the role of Nathulal -

'Moochein ho to Nathulal ji jaisi…varna na ho!!!!!'…Cheers!