“The Moustache” is a very interesting story about the deep-rooted tradition of Punjab namely moustache growing which guarantees manliness of a man. Moustache is a common enough idea; but the way Tariq Rahman treats it makes it every more interesting in its tragic and comic scope. The Moustache tells of a Punjab village, where a luxuriant moustache is considered such a symbol of pride and honor.
A myth develops and Dadu’s moustache earned the envy and wrath of the local Chaudhary. A generation later, Dadu’s nephew Shafqat who sports an equally enviable moustache, leaves his home for a job, where his family discovers that neither his height, nor strength nor a moustache, is of any consequence at all.
The story is very gripping and tells the theme that surfaces are not important in actual realities of life; what matters is the real quality to be possessed by an individual. The appearances are no consequences.
Summary of Moustache
No body talked about moustache and turbans as enthusiastically as in the narrator’s family. Moustaches and turbans were taken to be the pride and honor of a man. Great myths were all about those people whose moustaches were large and twisted upwards.
The piece of the land they cultivated became smaller and smaller and uncultivated, so they had to rest upon the animals. The animals produced less than they ate and instead of working as laborers in their lands where they were owners, they put their gear on the cart and went to another village where they were welcomed openly by Chaudhary.
For some years, there was little talk of moustache and food was the topic that was mostly touched upon. When the narrator was twelve, his cousin Allah Dad who was twenty-two and had beaten every one in the way, had grown moustaches. He drank two big glasses of buttermilk and laughed for no reason while walking through the village and looking at the girls washing clothes in the groves of the village trees. The narrator’s father was happy that at least one man of the family had moustaches and he thanked Allah because he believed that it was because Allah had restored the family’s honor through Dadu; that was his pet name.
Those were the peaceful days and the family members talked about the good moments and there was a gathering of reciting of Heer Waris Shah. But days are never the same. Dadu’s moustaches were debated by one of the uncles. The narrator’s father used foul language and told every body that Dadu’s moustache should not be cut down because they were not mean workers. They too were Chaudhary. It was actually Jaggu whose face was clean-shaven who was envious of Dadu’s moustache. Jaggu predicted that Dadu’s moustaches would be soon parted. Back at home, Dadu’s mother invoked the blessings of saints on her son. The meeting was over; but the burning jealousy was there.
One day, Dadu took the narrator to a place where he had killed a cobra and suddenly some persons came there and asked Dadu his name and started abusing him and finally beat him and the narrator and cut his moustache and filled his mouth with it. The narrator couldn’t bear the ultra-foul language they were using although he was used to such language. Dadu was on the ground; mercilessly beaten with his moustache gone. Before the men went away, they called them dust and cheap people of the village were not allowed to grow moustache.
Later that day, no body talked about the moustaches. Dadu did not die of that extreme beating; but he did not speak a word until he died after ten years. Then the narrator was sent to school to get education and he became a clerk. He moved out of the village and came to the city where his son was born from Dadu’s sister – the narrator’s cousin. She did not remember when Dadu was beaten; but she remembered the dashing moustache of her brother and the pride associated with it and she told stories of Uncle Dadu to the narrator’s son, Shafqat.
The real Dadu was petty and weak and the mythical Dadu was magnanimous. The narrator never tried to erase the image of Dadu from his son’s mind. When they went to the village, again there was talk of Dadu’s moustache and some even then praised and it and said that Dadu used to apply pure butter on it so it was so healthy. Shafqat wanted to be a soldier and he told the village boys that they could not grow moustache as long as Chaudhary was there in the village.
Shafqat grew in no time and he became muscular and strong with each passing day. He had no moustache or beard and then he joined the college and got recruited with the army. Small wisps of hair starting sprouting on his lips and his mother called him the heir of Dadu due to the moustache. There were luddos and sweets to celebrate his coming of age and army recruitment. When he would wear the uniform, he looked more like a real man and muscular giant equaling Hercules; with his head towering his uncles and father. No body talked about the moustache; although his cousins were impressed by his moustaches.
After graduation when he came back home from army, he had grown fully upright grown moustaches which impressed every one. He was hailed hero in the village and hero-like worshipped.
He looked like a lion in the army and the news of his great moustache spread to other parts as well. One day his uncle came and asked the narrator to send his son, Shafqat to see Patwari about the issue of a land. Only his moustache will do the job. So they went to meet Shafqat, the soldier told them that he was at the bungalow, when they reached the officer’s bungalow, they found Shafqat working in rooms washing clothes and being abused by a woman. His moustache was barely visible when he was working. The officer who was not as tall as Shafqat and neither had impressive moustache, was ordering around Shafqat; the heir of Legendry, Dadu. Seeing this, they came back home.
Moustache: Critical appreciation
Introduction and Title
Moustache is a short story about the distant past cast by memories. The narrator narrates his experiences as a child and as a grown-up adult regarding village traditions and growing moustache. The growing and lifting up of the moustache is a deep-rooted tradition especially in the realm of Punjab where the absence of which negates the manliness of man. The story is comic and tragic at the same time. the title of the story is apt as moustache is the central issue in the story and is a symbol of pride and honor.
Although the story has been overshadowed by memories, it has a clear-cut plot involving experiences of the village and those of the city. Moustache is the central issue. Dadu whose healthy moustache earns the reputation throughout the village is envied by the Chaudhary of the village who in turn has him severely beaten and his moustache cut. With the moustache gone, the pride and power of the family seems to fall away. For years there is no talk of moustache; but when the narrator’s son, Shafqat grows up into a man and has moustache enjoys the same reputation as did Dadu and then the disillusion follows. The story moves very smoothly and effectively from start to the end and the events and memories are tightly connected.
The main theme in the story is that moustache is traditional associated with pride and honor; but pride and honor do not simply arise from physical appearances or outer outlook, there has to be a merit within man. The merit is what actually carries weight in society and not some traditional habit of wearing turban or growing moustache. The quality or status of a person is not to be judged by these measures. One has to go beyond to understand the nature of things.
Symbolic elements in the story
The story is highly symbolic in which moustache symbolizes pride and honor and conventional views about facts of life. The narrator himself and his family give due importance to moustache and it is a heated subject of most of their discussions. We understand that it is due to moustache that Chaudhary punishes Dadu for his up-twisted moustache. Therefore, moustache is a symbol of a typical Pakistani mindset. It also symbolizes tradition and conventional views.
Irony in Moustache is the very heart of the story. Irony is also linked with the theme of appearance and disillusionment in Moustache. Apparently, it is a good idea to grow moustache and be proud of it in the village but this is not the same case in the city where power and status are judged not by moustache, but by the measures of wealth and status. This is evident in the character of Shafqat. When he is introduced in the beginning and also in prime, he is the crown of the family, but towards the end, he is found to be washing dishes like a mean worker in the house of an officer. This disillusions him and his family. Therefore, the pride of moustache which brings honor and glory in the village brings devastation in the city. Ironically, moustache, which entails many legendary traits, fails to achieve results in the city because the people of city are modern.
Tariq Rahman has created a legendary character of Dadu in the story who commands our full attention and that of Shafqat who is no less than the latter. The story shows a typical trait of Tariq Rahman as a writer that he has the knack of creating grand characters and equally well the quality to degenerate them as in the case of Dadu and Shafqat. It is the mythical stature of Dadu which keeps the story gripping. Again here like Bingo, the main themes are not to be sought for in the narrative; but the characters and their descriptions.
Style and Technique
Tariq Rahman’s style in Moustache very enjoying. He has employed simple diction with appropriate phrases to convey the idea. Tariq Rahman has used flashback technique to enhance the impact of distant past and its effects. The character of Dadu has been superimposed throughout the story although he is dead.
In short, Moustache is a very interesting story with the conventional and modern view of village and city respectively. Moustache enjoys an important place in the selection Work and Other Stories. The story catches the spirit of the Pakistani culture and the mindset of it people. They are still fascinated by the idea of turbans, moustache and Ajrak in the 20thc. It is no bad to substantiate our cultural patterns, but we must pace with time. Moustache and Turban do enjoy pride and honor but they do not work in line with the facts of life.
Main Characters – Dadu and Shafqat
Moustache has two main characters that cannot be studied in isolation because they are tightly linked to each other. The mention of one causes the mention of the other. Both the characters start with grander and end with despair. They have a magnificent beginning; but a despairing end. Of the two, Shafqat, is the most impressive and more realistic and Dadu is more legendary and ideal.
Dadu is the first main character to appear in the story. It is due to his moustache that he becomes so prominent and important in the village. He is a strong man with large muscles. He is only twenty-two while he becomes the cock of the village. He speaks casually. He drank two big glasses of buttermilk and laughed for no reason while walking through the village and looking at the girls washing clothes in the groves of the village trees. The narrator’s father was happy that at least one man of the family had moustaches and he thanked Allah because he believed that it was because Allah had restored the family’s honor through Dadu; that was his pet name. The grandness of Dadu is improved when he takes the narrator to the place where he killed a large cobra, but ironically, his grandness is shattered at the same time when the mercenaries of the Village Chaudhary come cut his moustache off after giving him a sever beating. Dadu is no more; he comes silent but remains a legendary character throughout the village history and the narrator’s family.
Shafqat is another important character in the story Moustache. He is fully individualized but is still overshadowed by the qualities of legendary Dadu in some respects. Nonetheless, he is full functional character who has, in turn, also overshadowed Dadu in some respects in the story. He is the second prodigy to bring glory and fame and honor to the family. He studies and joins army and becomes a lion-statured man. His fame reaches as far as his village. People also envy him for qualities as a person and moustache. His greatness is shattered when he is found to be working in the officer’s house and the illusion created by moustache is disillusioned.
Both Dadu and Shafqat are the two manifestations of one personality in two different situations. Both are tragic figures and fall from high to low. Tariq Rahman has delineated these characters very superbly; especially the character of Dadu is a memorable one from our own culture and tradition. Both the characters are important as far as the theme of the story is concerned because the theme is expressed through them; not the narrative.