The Blog

To Shave or Not to Shave: Brown and Bearded in Britain

I am an Indian living in Britain. I hate shaving. Having never been a creature of habit, I detest the sheer routine of tepid water and lacerated skin. This persistent sanding down of pebbledash on my face; what for? I am content with a bit of beard. Leave me be.

To shave, or not to shave, that is the question:

Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Stares and Jeers of outrageous Prejudice,

Or to take a Blade against a Sea of hair,

And by opposing end them: to shave, to conform

I am an Indian living in Britain. I hate shaving. Having never been a creature of habit, I detest the sheer routine of tepid water and lacerated skin. This persistent sanding down of pebbledash on my face; what for? I am content with a bit of beard. Leave me be.

Since I am all too predictably poor to afford a car, and much too unnerved from the times I have had a beard and boarded a bus, I walk to work and run back. All five miles of it. I have seen my share of bearded fellow dusky denizens from the sub-continent on the bus. We all go upstairs on the double-deckers and choose non-offending seats. You know; the ones at the back.

This means a rucksack crammed with work clothes. I slap on a non-threatening expression, a Union Jack sticker on my Lycra, say tata to my bemused colleagues at the end of the day and hey presto. As I tear down the pavements of Edinburgh in my ensemble, I am Moses parting the sea. There was once a well heeled lady in a sharp city pant-suit who upon seeing me cried in unashamed alarm and ran to take cover in a bus shelter. Mothers freeze. Men stumble. Cyclists wobble. I do not relish terrorising people. On the contrary, I am placid; bovine even.

Once a little girl broke into tears. That was the watershed moment. She was no more than a weeping mass of lace and frock and golden curls. Something broke. I shaved.

I had dreams you know. I had imagined a studious beard; a bouffant on the chin. Twisted curls like a young hasids' would have rained down over my ears and I would have had round rimmed spectacles pinching my sideburns.

I would have swaggered past the sans beard sans gravitas crowd in my weathered and frayed tweeds. Heads would have turned as they saw a magnificently turned out academic with books slung under his arm. And that beard! Why girls would have swooned and grandmas murmured appreciatively. Mothers would have nudged their sprouts to take lessons for the future. I would have been a messiah.

Alas 'twas not to be. I have sheared. I have sheared my mane for peace. My face is nude and all there is to show for it is a bulbous nose and an anonymous chin.

Thank you Britain.