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Chapter 2: A Pair of Mustachios
There are various kinds of mustachios worn in my country to mark the boundaries between the various classes of people. Outsiders may think it stupid to lay down, or rather to raise, lines of demarcation of this kind, but we are notorious in the whole world for sticking to our queer old conventions, prides and prejudices, even as the Chinese or the Americans or, for that matter, the English… And, at any rate, some people may think it easier and more convenient to wear permanent boundary-lines, like mustachios, which only need a smear of grease to keep them bright and shiny, rather than to wear frock coats, striped trousers and top hats, which constantly need to be laundered and dry-cleaned, and the maintenance of which is already leading to the bankruptcy of the European ruling classes. With them clothes make the man but, to us, mustachios make the man.
So we prefer the various styles of mustachios to mark the differences between the classes. And very unique and poetical symbols they are too. For instance, there is the famous lion moustache, the fearsome upstanding symbol of that great order of resplendent rajas, maharajas, nawabs and English army generals who are so well known for their devotion to the King Emperor.
Then there is the tiger moustache, the uncanny, several-pointed moustache worn by the unbending, unchanging survivals from the ranks of the feudal gentry who have nothing left but pride in their greatness and a few mementoes of past glory, scrolls of honour granted by the former emperors, a few gold trinkets, heirlooms and bits of land.
Next there is the goat moustache—a rather unsure brand, worn by the nouveau riche, the new commercial bourgeoisie and the shopkeeper class who somehow don’t belong—an indifferent, thin little line of a moustache, worn so that its tips can be turned up or down as the occasion demands—a show of power to some coolie or humility to a prosperous client.
There is the Charlie Chaplin moustache worn by the lower middle class, by clerks and professional men, a kind of half-and-half affair, deliberately designed as a compromise between the traditional full moustache and the clean-shaven Curzon cut of the sahibs like them to keep mustachios at all.
There is the sheep moustache of the coolies and the lower orders, the mouse moustache of the peasants, and so on. In fact, there are endless styles of mustachios, all appropriate to the wearers and indicative of the various orders, as rigorously adhered to as if they had all been patented by the Government of India or had been sanctioned by special appointment with His Majesty, the King, or Her Majesty, the Queen.
And any poaching on the style of one class by members of another is resented, and the rising ratio of murders in my country is interpreted by certain authorities as being indicative of the increasing jealousy with which each class is guarding its rights and privileges in regard to the mark of the mustachio.
Of course, the analysis of the expert is rather too abstract and not all the murders can be traced to this cause but, certainly, it is true that the preferences of the people in regard to their mustachios are causing a lot of trouble in our parts.
For instance, there was a rumpus in my own village the other day about a pair of mustachios. It so happened that Seth Ramanand, the grocer and moneylender, who had been doing well out of the recent fall in the price of wheat by buying up whole crops cheap from the hard-pressed peasants and then selling them at higher prices, took it into his head to twist the goat
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 English Chapter 2 A Pair of Mustachios
1. What do you understand of the natures of Ramanand and Azam Khan from the episode described?
Ramanand who is a money lender and a grocer, is cunning and has a servile nature which is apt for his money lending and groceries selling business. He does not get angry but prevails on some customers like Azam Khan with his intelligence and by hurting their pride. Here it is obvious that Ramanand considers his customers as correct in principle. He gives his business the first priority and his pride secondary.
Azam Khan is a victim of pride. He is lost in the glory of his ancestors. He is short sighted, full of anger and arrogant. He is prepared to sell all his property in order to keep Ramanand’s moustaches down as it was suitable to his class. Azam Khan is living in the past. He is short tempered, impractical and does not know what is good for him.
2. Identify instances in the story that show the business acumen of Ramanand.
In this story, Ramanand is considered as a dedicated businessman. His perception of business is obvious from the reality that he concurs to lower his moustache on the request of Azam Khan. However he lowers only one tip of his moustache to provoke Azam Khan in order to bring all his property to mortgage. He does not get angry and retains his business principles on top of his priorities.
3. Both Ramanand and Azam Khan seem to have very fixed views. How does Ramanand score over Azam Khan towards the end of the story?
Both Ramanand and Azam Khan seem to have very fixed views about each other and themselves. They are involved in the social milieu which believes in the differentiation of people based on their moustaches. Khan Sahib was included in tiger class moustache while Ramanand was included in goat class moustache.
Both of them are in harmony with the fact that they should not cross each other’s limits. At the end, Ramanand scores over Khan Sahib by turning up the end of his goat moustache which makes it look like a tiger moustache. Azam Khan gets raged by this action and is tricked to sell all of his property to Ramanand.
NCERT Class 11 English Textbook Chapter 2 With Answer PDF Free Download