Just when we thought that the days of ‘Doordarshan rules’ — long-sleeved blouses made of opaque cloth, etc. — were over, we get news that ‘DD fetish’ has moved to the rulebooks of the domestic national carrier, Indian. Victor Joynath De, a cabin crew member sporting a handlebar moustache since 1968, had been sacked for his upper lip growth. Now, while we champion the right for Sikhs in France to keep their turbans intact, back home, a Mr De of handlebar moustache fame seems to have fallen foul of desi ‘club rules’ propagated by Air India (the mother company of the domestic wing, Indian), which is besotted by colonial power-play that puts a big deal on what is cosmetically right and what is not.
Without making this an overblowing issue about being more ‘Orientalist than western Orientalists’, one would advice the management to rely on one thing only: customer satisfaction. If strands of Mr De’s moustache were creating a flutter on board (say, during meals), that would be something. But add the arbitrary ‘no handlebar moustache’ rule with other ‘no-go’ regulations such as no sideburns and no ankles showing, we have Indians pretending to be Victorians without having the geographic-centric neuroses to rationalise them.
Mr De needs to keep his proud handlebar, more as a salute to the Maharaja logo, than to cock-a-snook at clean-shaven people. If that means writing a heart-felt editorial and (some of us) keeping a handlebar in support, so be it.