Saturday, December 29, 2012

Down with the moustache

The Husband was standing in front of the mirror, admiring his moustache and three-day-old stubble. La Niña, all of three years old then, and I looked at each other helplessly. We had just finished impressing upon him the need to shave off his moustache.


The Husband refused to do away with the moustache. He named some random people, strangers to me, who had admired his facial hair. We grasped the opportunity to remind him that we were the most important women in his life and that that fact gave our vote considerably more weight. But he only chuckled in our faces and said, “Pran jaaye par chehre ki shaan na jaaye (Gobbledygook about how the moustache should be cared for more than life itself).”

The corners of our mouths twitched downwards. But there was nothing we could do. Right then, of course. But the fight was far from over. He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day, one practice sentence in my Wren and Martin had proclaimed ages ago. I recalled it, applied it to my situation and bided my time.

It had all started in April 2011, when I returned home from the hospital, after giving birth to El Niño. Tired and exhausted as only the mother of a newborn can be, it was some days before I noticed that there was more hair on the Husband’s face than there ought to have been. He began by denying it. Mind you, he sought to deny the very existence of the moustache and stubble, even though it was clearly visible even to my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes.

After some days of denial, he proceeded to the next stage. He said, there was hair on his upper lip and cheeks of course, but it was nothing. After all, I wasn’t the only one who was sleep-deprived. Did I think he snored each time El Niño kept the neighbourhood awake in the middle of the night? Wasn’t I aware how hard new fatherhood could be? Or was I selfish enough to think only motherhood was the tough job? Surely I didn’t expect him to waste his time on grooming himself when all his instincts called him to be useful around the house?

I cowered back, ashamed of myself for having sought to sling mud on a hero who was obviously so perfect. And he exulted, thrilled with my shamefacedness.

For a few more weeks, I willed myself not to nag him about his whiskers. Cut him some slack, I told myself. If he is honest, he will mow the lawn on his face. If not, the attack may resume.

“Tomorrow I will shave it off,” he began to insist to each of my entreaties that he take off the unwanted foliage. But as Wren and Martin always warned us in the section on Tenses, Tomorrow never comes.

Or more importantly, hundreds of Tomorrows came and went, and the illegal encroachments continued to thrive.

Once I decided to use some force. Off to the bathroom you go, I commanded, and the next time I set eyes upon your face, it should be clean shaven. To my surprise, he actually got up and walked towards the bathroom, the picture of meek obedience. La Niña and I high-fived each other.

A few minutes later, when I peeked into the bathroom to see what was taking him so long, I was horrified to see him trimming, with a tiny pair of scissors, the fuzz below his nose. If you sent off your most trusted lieutenant to demolish some unauthorized slums that had sprung up in your neighbourhood, and you caught him issuing ration cards and voter identity cards to them, how would you feel? The Husband was actually cultivating a relationship with his moustache. I was aghast.

The worst thing was that my repeated threats that I would use the one trump card I had didn’t work at all. Twirling the ends of his moustache to a sharp swirl, not unlike a Hindi film villain of the ‘60s and ‘70s, he said, “You can do what you like. The moustache is going to stay.” And then, with a wink in his eye, he added, “And your threats mean nothing to me. I’m the one with the moustache. I call the shots here. My wish is your command.”

“Only if wishes were horses,” I said, resorting to good old Wren and Martin again.

But I knew that argument had not gone the way I wanted it to. If you were to seek to intimidate your opponent with your trump card, and he were to make off with it, how would you feel?

Sadly this is all the fault of Indian traditions. In India, a moustache, and/or beard, is seen as a symbol of virility and power. No wonder that for the longest time the Guinness title for the world’s longest moustache was held by an Indian. I bet no other nationality even tried to compete in the category.

While my mind dwelt on these thoughts, I was still clueless about why the Husband was letting this undergrowth thrive. And then I got to know the real reason. I got it from C who got it from B who got it from A who got it from the Husband, (Talk about stale news and Chinese whispers). Apparently, someone told the Husband that he looked too young to be the father of two children. So the mooch was a hasty attempt to earn some credibility for himself as a mature person, who could be responsible for the well being of two brand new people.

The motive brought a smile to my face, but my mind was made up. The facial shrubbery had to go. Earlier I had thought it would be wrong on my part to involve La Niña in this quarrel. But then I remembered what Winston Churchill had once said during the World War. “We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills.”

If Churchill, with all the armies and ammunition at his disposal, could still look for allies and mount a multi-pronged attack on the enemy, why was it wrong if I involved her in the fight against the fuzz?

La Niña dutifully obliged. She refused to let Dadda Dearest kiss her or hug her or hold her tight, complaining that his moustache hurt her soft skin. I played my part.

Did he lunge for the nearest shaver?

And give up his symbolic power? No way.

But one fine day, La Niña and I returned home from a trip to the park and found him clean shaven. He said he had been trying to shave around his moustache and had ended up shaving a little too much.

Sure. If that’s how you want to put it.


This post is a part of the 'Shave or Crave' movement in association with


  1. hahahaha!!! and they call women 'vain'... am here for the first time, Cynthia.... but I follow what you write for Parentous.... good post.


  2. Hi Meena,
    You are absolutely right. Men are as vain as women, if not more. And they certainly enjoy their me-time with the mirror. I'm so glad you liked my post. Here's wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year 2013.

  3. Hilarious.
    "If you sent off your most trusted lieutenant to demolish some unauthorized slums that had sprung up in your neighbourhood, and you caught him issuing ration cards and voter identity cards to them, how would you feel?"
    Rotflol. That was too good.



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