There are those who wake up early, go for a brisk walk, and are up and about by the time the newspapers are delivered. They invariably have a healthy appetite, and are more often than not advising others about the benefits of their goodly habits.

Many of these “lark” types also make it a point to have a shave and may, in fact, admit that it is one of the bright spots of their morning.

Some others wake up late, hurriedly do their ablutions and grab a bite. Then they start jogging — more out of compulsion to reach the workplace on time. This group, too, scratches their facial hairs, invariably daily.

Neither the larks nor the owls realise what impact moustaches have had on man’s destiny. Think of Josef Stalin’s heavy growth on the upper lip. None of his contemporaries could match up to it, nor would they have tried to, I suspect. When a tiger sings, you enjoy the music, or at least pretend to. All said, there would be very few who shaped Eastern Europe’s fortunes for so long.

He had formidable competitor next door. This man liked Wagner and touted the superiorities of the ‘Nordics”. But his apology for a moustache was a point of derision and mirth. I reckon he must have spent hours on end before the mirror, and in meanwhile practised standing in attention and hailing the image he saw in the mirrors.

As if by a strange coincidence, Herr Hitler’s confidant Il Duce too was particular about his facial hair, or at least about razing it to the ground as the sun rose. I remember an Italian journalist reminiscing about an encounter with Mussolini. He takes pains to explain in detail that the big man was known to his family. One day the dictator caught him with one-day stubble and pulled him up, “Junior, why have not you shaved in the morning?” We don’t know how the story ended, but can pretty much imagine it.

Why do we look only at the West for inspiration? The Fu Manchu moustache runs down from the upper lip, past the lips and the jaw line, coming to a pointed end. This decoration of the lips is said to have come from China’s Mongol invaders. Prior to that invasion, the Chinese were all said to be clean-shaven, a style to which they reverted after Chairman Mao put them on the straight and narrow path. Either way, Genghis Khan or the beloved Chairman must have held sway over at least a third of humankind.

How on earth did a few white men rule the multitudes in our subcontinent for well over 150 years? Divide and rule, did you say? Bluff and bluster, some others would aver. But does it have anything to do with the “mutton-chop” whiskers our erstwhile rulers sported on the rather large piece of real estate starting at the temple and going down to the jaw-line? Have you ever wondered why it was the ruthless colonial administrator and the haughty soldier who went around with this adornment rather than the innovators, or for that matter the mild mannered linguists who straightened out the grammar and script in many of our languages? Although they are well and truly gone, this is still worth pondering about.

I am neither lark nor owl, and it is never a regular pattern in any case. I dare not spend too much time on my facial hair. I wish to remain an “aam admi”: was never cut out to be a leader.

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