By: Vivek Mohan
While visiting Jakhoo Hanuman Temple, the highest point of Shimla, I was observing the many antics of man versus animals (monkeys). I remembered vividly the Jataka tale of how copycat monkeys perched on the tree tops and threw their stolen caps on the ground after the owner/trader threw his cap to recover his snatched goods in the Amar Chitra Katha during school days.
Men following their ascendants cannot be left behind…. Upon entering Paris via Charles de Gaulle Airport, you see the French police in the de Gaulle hats. Young India loves to adorn the American base ball caps if not the game – which their religion forbids – cricket!
Caps which cover and uncover the political gamut are typical of the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. As the parties change hands to form the government, every five years, the colours of the Himachali caps (has a flap on the out side covered by a coloured muslin) too changes from maroon to green and vice-versa.
The green is symbolic by the descendants of erstwhile rulers of Rampur Bushehar Estate in upper Shimla and the maroon by the lower Sirmour area near Shimla. The former is a Congress rule colour and the latter is BJP! The janta on the fashionable Mall Road and the Ridge follow suit like their politicians, and at official functions the partyu inpower’s cap is gifted. Lost in the politics of two colour caps is the more vibrant, colourful and designer Kullu cap – popular in the rest of India as Himachali cap. Recently during a not-so-peak tourist season, I over-heard a salesman in Himachal Emporium on the Mall reasoning why there were more green caps in the showroom than the maroon? The reason was – Not because they were in great demand; but they were not selling, as last year elections brought back BJP (read maroon) back to power!
“Throwing” of the caps felt like throwing the gauntlet (an iron glove of armour in medieval Europe) to take up the challenges. Do these politicians really do so or is it a mere visual symbol of intra- regional one-up-man-ship, I wondered!
Coming down to Ridge from Jakhoo I saw a lot of maroon caps of locals and also greens of hard core Congress supporters including folks from the nearby Kinnaur District whose local attire demands the green coloured caps. At the end of the Ridge is the statute of Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) walking tall and above that is a porch from where the leaders from all the parties yell their future plans as and when they visit the State capital. Incidentally, Gandhiji is bald, and without any cap. Green or maroon doesn’t matter much. Or even the Gandhi cap, which the politicians elsewhere in the country wear!
At the other end, is the statute of founder of Himachal Pradesh, Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar (1906-1981). He too stands without any maroon or green. May be they paid more attention to the development of the nation and state than what they wore. Gandhiji wore only a dhoti (loin cloth).
Hopefully, present leaders will want to throw their ‘gauntlets’ (read caps) and pickup the real challenges facing the nation and the state. This earthquake of change is not only felt but also seen every five years whether maroon or green.