04 March 2019, India (BBC)
Indian fighter pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was recently released by Pakistan, has become a national figure, inspiring art, adverts and perhaps even a trend in facial hair fashion.
His distinctive handlebar moustache has become so popular that many Indian men want to sport one just like it.
The pilot became a national hero within hours of his capture after Pakistani forces shot down his fighter jet.
He returned home to a rousing welcome on Friday.
The pilot has since gone viral on social media with many Indians hailing his facial hair as a sign of valour.
Handlebar-style moustaches are not uncommon in India, where they were once identified with flamboyant Bollywood villains, imperious military and police officers and even a notorious smuggler.
But the reputation of the handlebar moustache appears to have been rescued over the past few days as it became synonymous with courage and patriotism.
At least one hair salon in the southern city of Bangalore offered free haircuts and moustache-styling on Monday to anyone who wanted too look like the fighter pilot.
“Abhinandan has done so much for our country. I felt that I should try and make every face look like his,” Nanesh Thakur, the salon owner, told BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi.
To his disappointment – or maybe relief – only three men qualified for the “Abhinandan” moustache.
Tejas Chowdhary, who was one of the lucky ones, said he was doing it for the wing commander, adding: “He has done so much for our country, can’t I do this much?”
Naveen Kumar, an ambulance driver whose moustache also made the cut, said: “Abhinandan is a real hero, so I am getting a moustache like his.”
Several others were interested in the same look but, Mr Tahkur says, their moustaches were not long enough to be fashioned into handlebars – a style that is also known as “gunslinger”. Instead, most men opted for a free crew cut, which is typical of military officers.