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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Officials fear the death toll will continue to climb after two Russian missiles hit the Armstor shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kramenchuk. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, more than 1,000 people were inside the mall Monday at the time of the attack.
For the moment, the death toll is at 18 with 36 people missing and at least 59 injured, reported a regional official on Tuesday. The search and rescue operations continue under the rubble.
According to Ukrainian officials, the mall was hit by a Russian KH-22 missile. The KH-22 can carry an explosive warhead weighing up to 1 ton (2,240 pounds).
"The dismantling of damaged building structures is ongoing with the help of heavy engineering equipment and small machines," reported Dmytro Lunin, head of the Poltava region military administration."More than a thousand people worked all night — rescuers, police, medics and volunteers," he said.
Zelensky Calls Mall Attack “Terrorist Act”
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During a video address posted on Monday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the attack on the mall in the city of Kremenchuk “one of the most daring terrorist acts in European history.”
He added, “only wholly reckless terrorists, who have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object.” The Ukrainian president said doctors had been dispatched from Kyiv to help treat the wounded and sent his condolences to the families of those who had died.
On Telegram, alongside a video, Zelensky said the site had “no danger to the Russian army. No strategic value. Only the attempt of people to live a normal life.”
World Leaders React To Kremenchuk Mall Attack
\u201c#G7 Leaders Statement: We solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in #Kremenchuk. We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine. #G7GER\u201d— G7 GER (@G7 GER) 1656362293
Already gathered together in Germany, G7 leaders condemned the attack in a joint statement on Monday evening: “We, the Leaders of the G7, solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.”
In a tweet, U.S. President Joe Biden wrote,“Russia’s attack on civilians at a shopping mall is cruel. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. As demonstrated at the G7 Summit, the U.S. along with our allies and partners will continue to hold Russia accountable for such atrocities and support Ukraine’s defense.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “this appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink," according to UK’s PA Media. "Once again our thoughts are with the families of innocent victims in Ukraine. Putin must realize that his behavior will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of the Ukraine and every other G7 country to stand by the Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the British Prime Minister added.
French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned the missile strike. In a tweet, where he posted a video of the attack in Kremenchuk, Macron said the Russian people must “see the truth,” as for most Russians, television is firmly controlled by the Kremlin and spreads war propaganda.
El Correo (Spain)
Le Soir (Belgium)
The New York Times (U.S.)
Russia Blames Western Weapons For Kremenchuk Mall Deaths
Mall destroyed by Russian missiles
Russia’s ministry of defense has claimed that the fire in the shopping mall in Kremenchuk was caused by “the detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons,” without citing any evidence. In its daily operation briefing, the ministry said: “As a result of a high-precision strike, the detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping center located next to the plant.”
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of the Madrid NATO summit. "One should wait for what our Ministry of Defense will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already," Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
World Leaders Wrap G7, Head To Madrid For NATO Summit As Russia Sends Warning
G7 summit at Elmau Castle 2022
Vladimir Putin and Ukraine were top of world leaders’ agenda on the final day of the G7 summit in Germany, as the stage shifted to Madrid for the upcoming NATO gathering.
In the latest attempt to mitigate the effects of Russia’s invasion,G7 leaders announced $5 billion to shore up global food security. Half of the promised funds will come from the United States. The move comes as the White House warned that Russia’s war will push 40 million people into poverty in 2022.
World leaders will have no break as they head straight to Madrid for a NATO summit. The meeting takes place against the backdrop of a strong warning from Dmitry Medvedev. The former Russian President warned that any encroachment by NATO into Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, would be the start of World War III. "For us, Crimea is a part of Russia. And that means forever. Any attempt to encroach on Crimea is a declaration of war against our country,"Medvedev said.
Meanwhile, the E.U. announced it will supply Ukraine with $12 million worth of equipment to protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) attacks.
Belarus Beware: How Putin Is Piling Pressure on Lukashenko To Attack
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in front of tanks
Belarus has been conducting military exercises on the border with Ukraine since early June, writes Ukrainian newspaper Novoye Vremya. The Belarusian authorities announced on June 22 that they had been conducting "mobilization exercises" near the border with Ukraine, which should last until July 1.
Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, said that Belarus was placing wooden models of tanks in areas close to Ukraine and was continuing to check the combat readiness of its armed forces. Belarusian activist Anton Motolko reported that the military was also digging trenches near the borders with Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania.
However, it remains to be seen whether Belarusians have an appetite for war. A poll by Chatham House among the urban population shows that only 3% of Belarusians are ready to support the participation of their country’s army in the war against Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been ambivalent about joining the war as it risks stoking internal resistance.
However, Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, is still making monthly visits to Moscow, warning about the threats that Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania pose to Russia and Belarus. Putin has been piling pressure on Lukashenko to enter the war, but Ukrainian officials have seemed less worried about a possible Belarusian invasion.