Moustaches have always fascinated me; since I was a boy, I had dreamt of wearing one! Therefore, I was thrilled to be told while undergoing training at the Indian Military Academy that I was being commissioned into the Madras Sappers. Apart from being an elite group in the Indian Army, they were also known to sport the most impressive moustaches!
Historically, moustaches have been worn by military men and the number of nations, regiments and ranks are equalled only by the number of styles and variations. So in April 1976, I decided to sport a full-grown moustache, not a truncated one, little realising what heavy maintenance and care this hobby would entail every day. But then as in life, so in pleasure—no pain, no gain.
So what goes into the upkeep of these long twirls? Well, I spend three hours daily, washing, drying and arranging my curls; often, oiling them too. I have never used artificial gels, styling aids, gadgets, hair clips, snood (hair net) or hair bands. All I have ever used since it all began is a pair of scissors and thatta (cloth band). At times, a magnifying glass helps ensure that a bit of the nose or cheek is not snipped off!
I first won a moustache competition at the Desert Festival in Nagore, Rajasthan, in 2001. In 2005, I participated in the ‘3rd World Beard and Moustache Competition’ in Berlin, lasting 12 continuous hours, where 243 participants from across the world pitted their deadly facial locks against one another. I was the sole competitor from Asia. I returned home with a medal and a certificate in the freestyle goatee category. I was a Brigadier then.
My locks have got me into many awkward and even hilarious situations, not least of which was this experience on an early morning Indian Airlines flight from Hyderabad to Delhi. I was late boarding the aircraft, and as soon as I entered, every single passenger looked up at me with great bewilderment. I smiled, took my seat and picked up the newspaper the airlines would keep on each seat those days. To my surprise, the front page headline read, “Notorious Bandit Veerappan Gunned Down in Karnataka Forest”. Every Indian was aware of the bandit’s enviable moustache and hence the amused look on the passengers’ faces!
When I was in service, everyone used to recognise me from the front. After retirement in 2009, I started sporting a Goldilocks-type hairstyle. Now I am recognised from behind too! I am blessed to have such luxuriant hair.
—Maj Gen (retd) Naozar B Patel, Hyderabad