So, I decided to investigate the beard's new-found stardom.
Okay, let me rephrase that: the beard's hero-worship on the interweb. I'm talking about the kind of devotion that has made headlines like 'these men will make you pregnant without touching you' seem completely believable and scientific.
It is in common knowledge that since the beginning of time, also known as the advent of Instagram, internet's hormones just listen to two things - one is the beard. The other is Benedict Cumberbatch, duh!
But unlike Benedict Cumberbatch, who attacked many ovaries and testes so inclined as recently as 2010, the beard didn't exactly make a lunge for us one muggy evening from our laptop screens. It was always there, staring right back at us, kind of like death and calories.
Now how, suddenly, it has ascended the ranks of virtual orgasm-initiators baffled me. But first a clarification: you won't usually hear me make alien sounds at the mere utterance of the word 'beard'. (Don't deny you haven't heard the sounds I am talking about. They range from shrill 'eeeee-s' to a strange mix of a groan and a sigh.) Unless of course, you specify that the beard comes with Ranveer Singh attached to it.
So, I set myself up for hours of gruelling research. My first subject was my friend and colleague A. A, who has found several soulmates in the past couple of days - in toddlers weeping hysterically on videos when their daddies shaved their beards off. At any given point of time, A's Facebook timeline will have a bearded man staring back at you. It's a bit of a ritual among friends and colleagues to pass on bubble wraps and freshly unearthed pictures of bearded men to her first.
So what exactly do beards of the internet mean to her? After a long, somewhat difficult deliberation, she says, "It's like staring at a piece of art." Guess it helps that this sort of art is available on demand and travels with you along with your smartphone.
While A struggled to put a finger on why internet is a better place with beards, I suddenly discover a great new use for it - as the peacemaker. Next time A and I fight over the importance of Bobby Deol's curls, I know a fix. It's just a 'hot beards' google search away.
I then move on to a friend I have known for over a decade. I can't seem to remember without help from Facebook, what his face looked like without a beard. And I am thinking, his beard probably dates back to the birth of Grindr, and therefore, isn't set to go away anytime soon. And now he has publicly vowed to never clean his face up - not when Frida Kahlo has endangered her politics to be seen with Cinderella to protest the brutality of shaving a beard.
Internet notwithstanding, imagine the perpetual anxiety beard lovers live in. That one day you wake up and someone near you has shaved his beard off. It's like how New York lives in Hollywood - always in fear of aliens swooping down on it.
The piece of propaganda displayed above and shared generously on Facebook, therefore, helps such victims of anxiety stave off the beginning of an apocalypse.
"What's the big deal about a beard?" I ask this friend. "Right. What you going to ask next? What's the big deal about Nutella? About Wifi? OXYGEN?" he snaps. This beard is equal to oxygen vibe, I have been getting for a while. So I decide to check for myself.
First on my list of understanding the stardom of the beard is Tinder, apparently. I have been asked analyse my chequered history of matches. Apart from a common dislike for Vodka and the new dialect represented by 'bae', I have been, umm, slightly partial to facial hair. The only man I have swiped right, despite his ultra-gelled hair sitting like McDonald's soft serve on his head, is one with a fairly pleasing variety of beard.
Next up, is a Monday mood test. I am supposed to go through the usual chores of the day, beginning with waking up. Then pointing out the essential difference between chicken swimming in gravy and chicken swimming in oil, to my cook. Then telling the Uber driver some 500 times which left turn to take from the main road. Then swallowing curses as Delhi drivers, well, drive like Delhi drivers in peak hour traffic. Only, I have been asked to check out an Instagram handle very functionally titled beardsandtats in between. Oh my, did I just make it through the morning and my hour-long commute without wishing a power-cut upon any fellow human?
Beards on men cooking, beards on men swimming, beards on men staring at nothing, beards on men cuddling kittens, beards on men washing cars, beards on men ordering coffee, beards on men doing dishes, beards on men taking pictures of their beards, beards on men looking intently at their own shoes, beards on men looking very upset, beards on men looking doped, beards on men making Angry Bird faces, beards on men making that 'life sucks' face for supposedly intense photos - I could totally trade kittens of internet for beards. I have been told, a good beard can make you forgive bad spellings. I can see where that comes from.
Here's how I think beard pictures work: by expertly consuming your attention. So that very little is left to worry about cranky landlords or be pissed at serial GoT spoiler providers.
A's somewhat right. A beard a day, does keep the doctor away.