When grown men put their best face forward to win hair-raising event | Mumbai News – Times of India


The Beard and Moustache Championship will be held in Gurgaon on Saturday

Nallasopara-based BPO employee Vishal Trivedi, who has not shaved since the day his mother died in 2017, takes no offence when strangers scream ‘Baba Ramdev’ in his general direction. “Thanks,” the 27-year-old commerce graduate says, smiling back at his hecklers through an 18-inch-long handlebar moustache and a 10-inch-long beard. “Ramdev Baba has a turnover of crores.”
The swagger served him well two years ago, when his luscious facial hair not only won him a prolonged stare from his future wife as he boarded a late-night train at Nallasopara station, but also a coveted trophy at a pageant in a Delhi mall, where award categories ranged from ‘Black and Grey Beard’ to ‘Great Indian Moustache’.
On that testosterone-fuelled ramp in 2019, a dhoti-and-blazer-sporting Trivedi had taken home the prize for the longest moustache after impressing the jury with a measured answer: “A man isn’t defined by his looks but by his deeds.” Today, apart from next year’s UPSC exams, Trivedi—whose Dilip Kumar-idolising grandmother has excused his non-gentlemanly beard ever since it was featured on a TV show—is preparing to defend his title at the Beard and Moustache championship as it returns to Gurgaon on November 27, after a break in 2020.
Beard is a sign of maturity, not masculinity, says BBC founder
The brainchild of Bharat Beard Club (BBC)—a Bangalore-headquartered fellowship of 2,000-odd beard enthusiasts bound by the facebook motto of “uniting bearded men of all religion, race and creed”—this championship was born in 2016, out of Mumbai-bred BBC founder Vishal Singh’s urge to showcase the diversity of male facial hair.
“Indian men have fashion and fitness contests, but there was no platform for displaying facial hair grooming,” says Singh, an exhotelier who believes he looked like a generic “Guptaji” before he started growing and grooming his beard. The hair gave him instant social media cred and many joined the six-member club. “Our religions encourage the growth of hair but Indian men don’t know much about grooming,” says Singh, who uses a beard wash once a day, oils his beard twice a day and goes to a beard spa once every quarter.
While his club only accepts beard growers who can add value to the cause of men’s health, the event is open to all and sees roughly 300 participants spanning from rustic pharmacists from Rajasthan to urban vintage bike aficionados from Kerala who quietly raze each other’s notions about hotter regions being less conducive to the “beard-passionate”.
Among the crowd-pleasing curiosities is Delhi’s Suresh “Sherdil” Chopra, an octogenarian who has often claimed that his grey beard was praised by late Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto during his tenure as “a former spy and diplomat”.
Over the years, even as the male grooming industry flourished and strands of masculinity shifted, Singh— who wants to send a winner to the World Beard and Moustache Championships someday—shaved off old categories such as ‘Comb Stache’ (“Shatrugan Sinha-style moustache”) for lack of participants, and added new ones such as ‘Funky Beard’—an accommodative title that attracted jewellery-studded and weirdly shaped beards, including a rare, unnative curly stubble in 2019.
“I like to say I have three children,” says Bhilwara-based pharmacist Mohammed Ishaak, a father of two who nurtures his prize-winning Olympic-logo-reminiscent “funky beard” with desi ghee, aloe vera paste and other homegrown products. The 41-year-old says the selfies his “third child” causes at events such as the Pushkar fair and Kota’s Dussehra Mela, make up for the times he is subjected to screams of ‘Baba Ram Rahim’. “Like my beard,” he says, “I want to sculpt my body too.”
Held every year in the month that marks both International Men’s Day on the 19th and a global movement called #NoShaving, the contest, Singh says, is an extension of BBC’s other efforts, including Beardathon that raises awareness about men’s mental health issues and diseases such as prostate cancer. One Beardathon in Mumbai saw over 2,000 men-—with and without facial hair-—running the length of road “from SRK’s house to Salman’s”.
The club also plans to introduce therapy clinics for men in the face of rising cases of depression and suicide among young male role models, says Singh, whose contest is sponsored by a male grooming products manufacturer and supported by a men’s rights NGO.
If nothing, the pageant sprouts networking opportunities. Delhi’s Manuj Sawhney was hired as a “beard model” for digital ads and music videos after winning the ‘Black and Grey Beard’ title in 2019. As part of a collective called the Delhi Beard Club, he also serves as a “beard mentor” to kids who throw him off by asking things like how to rid their beards of dandruff.
Even as Singh, who sees many women in the audience and receives eager messages from women who want their boyfriends and husbands to participate, dismisses the popular myth that women don’t like men with beards, Sawhney clarifies: “A beard isn’t a sign of masculinity but of maturity.”
Trivedi, who owes his threemonth-old marriage to his beard, couldn’t agree more. “To me, a man is someone who is responsible and takes care of loved ones,” says the 27-year-old, adding that he does not understand why society won’t let men cry. The UPSC aspirant says he is certain he would have lost a depressed friend, a father of three, to suicide had he not given him a keen ear when the friend confessed his personal problems recently. To tend to his own mental health, Trivedi, a WFH employee, plays a multiplayer video game called DOTA 2. His nickname in the virtual game? Baba.

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