Prime ministers usually wear more than one hat. Apart from his ministerial hat, he often has to put on an orator hat, sometimes a party leader hat, maybe an economist hat and even a foreign policy hat. Our prime minister has taken this multiple-hat thing to a whole new dimension.
Besides all of the above, he wears Naga hats, the Assamese japi, the Ladakhi hat, a Manipuri hat with peacock feathers, even a cowboy hat. He has worn all kinds of multi-hued turbans — boat-shaped, tie-and-dye, saucer-shaped, turbans with tassels. He was criticised for not wearing a skull cap, but that is old hat.
His most recent hat-wearing binge was in Nagaland, where the hat he wore was to die for. The rich, unusual colour combinations were deliciously in-your-face.
The bits of bone and boar-tusks added a frisson of danger, while the jaunty feather at the peak gave it that rakish je-ne-sais-quoi so essential to delicately underline the nonchalance at the heart of cool. That’s apart from it being a feather in his cap. The whole effect was tantalisingly otherly, offering an irresistible metaphor for the north-east, baring its soul in an eternally chic fashion statement, a pyramid of desirability.
Here’s another hat tip for him. It’s a brand-new headgear introduced last September at the London fashion week that combines his love for hats with his passion for selfies. Called a selfie-hat, it is a sparkling bright pink sombrero that has an Acer tablet hanging from it, at just the right angle to take a selfie. It is so Lady Gaga. Hats off to the PM if he wears it.
But why does Mr Modi wear hats at the drop of a hat, when the rest of us are mostly hatless? One theory is politicians need hats because they talk through them. Another is that he has a bee in his bonnet about hats. Another says politicos wear hats to signal how much they love the locals.
Another hypothesis says voters are interested in hats for what’s in them. According to this political hat thesis, the voter looked at Modi and thought, ‘Wow, with so many hats, god knows how many rabbits he can pull out of them’; she then looked at Manmohan’s blue turban and thought, ‘Heck, this guy has only one turban, which means a limited supply of rabbits,’ which is how Modi won. I’m sure something’s wrong with that theory, although I can’t quite place my finger on it now.
I think the simple reason is the prime minister likes wearing hats. And why not — that Naga hat is gorgeous. The other reason he wears them is because he wishes to set an example, as he did by taking up a broom for the Clean India campaign. We must follow him.
Our elected leaders could kick off the campaign by wearing hats to parliament. In true inclusive spirit, they could wear, not only the headgear of Indian states, but also panama hats, straw hats, baseball caps, sola topees, monkey caps. Who knows, we may develop a competitive advantage in hats and lay the basis for a hat-based economy. We could choose from Indiana Jones’ fedora, the Jack Sparrow pirate hat, Gandalf’s hat from Lord of the Rings, Darth Vader’s helmet — the list is endless. But for now, with Christmas round the corner, we can start by wearing Santa hats.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal