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Friday, September 10, 2004

bearding the lion

A beard imparts an identity of its own to its owner.
Glittering examples are Lenin, Abraham Lincoln, Zakir Hussein, I K Gujral and Prannoy Roy! Amitabh Bachhan, the big ‘B’, lent a certain amount of glamour to the sixty plus beard and ‘Bal’ Thackery has emulated him to reinforce the point that trends in fashion can be set even by septuagenarians!! Reasons for starting to keep a beard are of no consequence. It is a fact that beards are coming back in fashion – the backlash will have to, obviously, be faced by all those FMCG-wallahs who market umpteen and one types of product associated with shaving. ‘Sat-a-sat’ shaves has become a rage of sorts smashing the myth of generation gap.
When the first traces of beard make their appearance on the chin of a boy, he realizes that he is growing up.
Every passing day and every new strand brings enormous joy to him. He is elated and experiences an unexplainable feeling of ownership. By the time he passes out of school, he more or less sports an even growth of soft silky hair on his cheeks and chin. If he had lived in the 14th century, he would have had no option but to allow the growth to continue. Shaving was probably not practiced in those days. (It would be interesting to find out just when people started shaving!)
If one belongs to the Sikh community, one never shaves. If one wants to become a poet like Tagore, he also would not shave. There are others who possess growth restricted to the chin only. Such beards are called ‘goatee’s since there is a striking resemblance to similar growth on goats!! Sailors grow beards because it is difficult to shave when the ship is in motion or the boat rolls or when the sea is rough. You cannot think of pirates without beards! Sideburns were very popular in the fashions of the West. In India also, our Maharajas used to sport enviable sideburns. Unfortunately, the blitzkrieg of ads on TV relating to shaving blades, after shave lotions, shaving creams and safety razors do not encourage growing of beards. When a fair damsel gently strokes the freshly shaven cheeks of a young man, he automatically surrenders to the charm – of both hers as well as the shaving cream’s or after shave lotion’s or the shaving blade’s or whatever is being advertised!
Beards are also a convenient means of disguising – especially in Indian films. When the hero wants to meet his lady love without anyone being the wiser, he resorts to putting on a beard. In this way, he is able to conceal his identity and, at first, his lady love also fails to recognize him. Ridiculous, no doubt, but the public loves it, the film earns applauses and the producer laughs all the way to the bank.


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