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Ram Singh's Guinness World Record mustache
Ram Singh's Guinness World Record mustache
Jasvinder Sehgal

JAIPUR — Having a full-bodied moustache has long been a symbol of masculinity for Indian men and once was also an indicator of caste status. So-called untouchables, excluded from India's caste system altogether, were not allowed to have a moustache at all, while lower castes had to grow theirs with the ends drooped down. Even now in modern India, there are annual competitions to judge who sports the best facial hair.

For the last hour, 61-year-old Ram Singh Chauhan has been massaging his moustache, which is how he spends at least two hours each day. "I use mustard oil, coconut oil, native butter and almond oil to massage it," he says. "Often I use olive oil too. The secret of such a long moustache is that I have never used soap to wash it. Instead I use mud."

He says his moustache is his prized possession. "I started growing my moustache when I was at school. I have never trimmed it."

In 2010, he was awarded a Guinness World Record for having the world's longest mustache. "At that time, it was 14 feet, or 4.29 meters, long," he says. "Today it's even longer, over 18 feet long." That's 5 and a half meters.

Ram's wife Asha Chauhan wanted him to cut it in the early years of their marriage, but now she shares his pride. "My husband's moustache has made me and my family famous," she says. "My children and I help him to maintain it. I help him massage wash it once a week. It is too long, so one of us has to hold the ends."

Ram's facial hair has even given him roles in both U.S. and Bollywood films — in the James Bond movie Octopussy, for example.

Today the couple is headed to an over-50 local competition to support other moustache lovers, an event in the city of Kota that's part of the Hindu Dussehra festival.

One of festival attendees is 58-year-old Prakash Ram, who has traveled more than 100 miles to compete. "I want to show people the strength of my moustache," he says, adding that he doesn't use any oil on it. "Today I will demonstrate it by lifting my 15-kilogram granddaughter with my moustache."

But today’s winner is instead 58-year-old Dev Karan Gurjar, whose moustache was judged superior apparently because of its thickness and dark color.

Despite these kinds of events, mustaches are actually less popular in India than they've traditionally been, in part because women increasingly prefer their men with clean-shaven upper lips. Bollywood stars have sported stubble rather than handlebar moustaches.

Dev Karan says he hopes that the next generation is equally passionate about moustaches, which he believes are a sign of well-being. "I always tell everyone to consult me for free to get advice for good health."

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Geopolitics

Is Soft Power Dead?

With an activist Supreme Court creating a gap between democratic rhetoric and reality in the U.S., and Russia and China eager to flex military muscle, the full-force return to hard power looks bound for dominance.

U.S. flag and Chinese flag

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, tensions are erupting in the South China Sea and now abortion rights are being stripped away in the U.S.: Looking around the world, we have to ask: what is left of the notion of soft power?

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How can we talk about the power to convince when the power to coerce is increasingly the norm? And when there is such a gap between rhetoric and reality in the U.S. and in Russia and China, hard power almost seems to have become part of soft power?

“We will lead the world not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Joe Biden said the day after his election. But what kind of example was he talking about? That of the Supreme Court’s judges, whose decision promises a terrible future to women and to all those who still wanted to believe in an enlightened and liberal America?

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