Mann Ki Baat: Why I wish I could grow a beard and why I cannot
A long beard could make me look saintly. I could pass off as Santa Claus in Kerala, Tagore in Bengal and a Fakir elsewhere. But I cannot because being a Muslim, a long beard would make me a terrorist
One of our professors strongly disapproved of students growing a beard, long or short. The professor who taught English in heavily accented Bhojpuri would say that men grew beard either because of ‘phrastation’ due to ‘phailed romance’ or because of a ‘dejire’ to become a ‘Rangdar’.
Former union minister Yashwant Sinha’s college teacher, similarly influenced by Bhojpuri, had translated ‘Et tu Brutus’ in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar into Bhojpuri as ‘To ho Brutus’. It had remained in my subconscious and I had nightmarish visions of me in a long beard and my English teacher wagging his finger in disapproval and accusing me by saying, ‘Tu ho Brutus?’
In the nightmare I had, I feebly tried to justify my long beard by saying that it made me look divine and people credited me with superhuman powers and believed in my miracles such as converting farts as fuel to save on LPG.
The beard, I argued, would also enable me to determine which way the wind was blowing and whether cloud cover would move away in a certain direction. That would enable me to advise the army and the air force to either hold fire or to alert them when the planes could dodge enemy radars.
This country, I told the Professors, has reverence for beard, which is taken to be synonymous with wisdom. Just look at the followers of Asaram Bapu, Sadhguru, Sri Sri and Baba Ramdev, I said. Their wisdom surely has much to do with the long beard that they have. True, they have to be groomed; true that it takes time in grooming but surely it will all be worth it.
The Professor laughed at what he clearly thought were laboured justificaions. “You phool”, he hissed in derision, “you will be sheen as a terrorist” and anti-national Muslim. I realized to my shock that the Professor was right. Being a Muslim, growing a long beard was fraught with risks. People might see me as a Fakir but the NIA and the police would certainly see me with suspicion.
The beard, I realized with a heavy heart, was unlikely to resolve a moderate Muslim’s dilemma, best reflected in the Urdu couplet
Zahid e tang nazar ne mujhe kafir jana
Aur kafir ye samajhta hai ke musalman hoon main
(The narrow-minded seller of faith damned me as a hell bound non believer while non-believers deemed me to be a Muslim.)
Bak raha hoon junoon mein kya kya yarab
Kuchh na samjhe khuda kare koi
(I do not know the stupid things that I have said in my ‘phrastashion’. May God ensure nobody pays any heed to them)
(The writer is a commentator and satirist. Views are personal)
Published: 04 Apr 2021, 8:51 PM