Former Chief Fire Officer of Mumbai seems very upset with his successors as the new breed of firemen he thinks are unnecessarily fashionable and over-dependent on technology.
His problem is that they are donning a no-moustache look while moustaches were compulsory for firemen and officers during his times.
In case of large-scale fires, he says, like the Mantralaya one, it is very difficult for firemen who go inside buildings to calculate the extent of fire and its temperature at the spot as their entire body is covered with heavy-weight fireproof dress.
Besides, in some mysterious fires, one cannot see the flames and the temperature is so high that the rods in the building start melting and the structure poses a risk. In such situations, the moustache which is a part of the only exposed part (the face) of a fireman’s body, helps him calculate the temperature of the fire.
As temperature rises above 500 C, from a few feet away itself, the fireman’s moustache hair start burning emitting a foul odour. This according to our officer, is the simplest and most accurate signal indicating that the fire situation has turned worse.
Then the firemen used to stop there and inform seniors, ask for extra help from headquarters.
In the 18th century British Army too, officers used to don thick and big mostaches. Their reason was different. At a tender age, when clean-shaven British officers stood with the Indian soldiers, they looked like high-school boys as the Indians had a sturdy physique. To look older, they were instructed to maintain moustaches. During gatherings and get-togethers, they also held competitions for the best moustache.
Meanwhile, if we ever have such a competition in the city, Governor of Maharashtra Ch Vidyasagar Rao will undoubtedly be the winner for his beautiful moustache!
Published in the Afternoon Dispatch & Courier January 16, 2015