Meet the Indian woman who proudly flaunts her mustache: ‘I can’t imagine living without it’

Shyja has received countless remarks—both solicited and unsolicited—about her mustache over the past few years. From appreciative comments praising her for confidently flaunting her facial hair to suggestions about the many home remedies that could help her get rid of it, the 35-year-old from the Kannur district in the southern state of Kerala, India, has heard it all.

She has also been on the receiving end of harsh trolling online every time she makes the news. However, Shyja says none of it gets under her skin or has even come close to making her want to get rid of her mustache.

 

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“All I can say is that I just like it. A lot,” Shyja, who uses only one name, told BBC. She explained that like many women, she had wisps of facial hair above her lip for many years while growing up. Then, about five years ago, the mustache started getting thicker and Shyja was thrilled.

Although people started mockingly calling her “meesakkari”—which translates to “woman with a moustache”—rather than get upset, Shyja embraced the title wholeheartedly. “I am in love with my moustache.

 

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I wouldn’t shave it off even if am offered the most precious thing. Lots of people have made fun of me and stare at me,” she told Onmanorama, clarifying that their taunts aren’t what motivate her to keep her facial hair. “The only reason for it is that I really am fond of my mustache.”

“Let it stay there below my nose. I have no problem about it; neither do my husband or family members. So, why do you worry about it,” she asks those who are overly concerned about her pride and joy. “I am proud of my mustache. That is why my Facebook account is called Meesakkari.

I even introduced myself as someone who proudly flaunts my mustache.” Although she does regularly get her eyebrows threaded, Shyja revealed that she has never felt the urge to remove the hair above her upper lip. “I can’t imagine living without it now. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I disliked wearing a mask all the time because it covered my face,” she explained.

“I’ve never felt that I’m not beautiful because I have this or that it’s something I shouldn’t have,” Shyja stated, adding that she isn’t trying to make a statement by sporting a mustache. It’s just part of who she is. “I just do what I like. If I had two lives, maybe I’d live one for others,” she said.

She explained that she embraced this outlook on life after battling several health problems over the years. Shyja has undergone six surgeries over a decade, including one to remove a lump in her breast and another to remove cysts in her ovary. Her last surgery was a hysterectomy five years ago.

“Each time I came out of surgery, I would hope that I never had to go back into an operation theatre again,” Shyja said. As difficult as it was to overcome one health crisis after the other, the journey solidified Shyja’s belief that she should live her life to the fullest in a way that prioritizes her happiness.

Having grown up a shy child in a village where women are rarely seen outside the house after 6 p.m., Shyja enjoyed discovering a new kind of freedom when she moved to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu with her husband. “My husband would go to work and return late.

So I would sit outside the house in the evening, and sometimes I’d walk to the store alone at night if I needed something. No one cared. As I learned to do things on my own, it built my confidence,” she explained.

Contrary to the trolls, both online and offline, who mock her mustache, Shyja’s friends and family have been supportive of her choices. In fact, her teen daughter often tells her the mustache looks good on her. “People make fun of me saying, ‘it’s men who have mustaches, why would a woman have one?'”

Shyja revealed, adding that one individual online even asked her why she can’t pluck the hair strands above her lip when it’s evident that she threads her eyebrows. “But isn’t that about what I like—what to keep and what not to?” Shyja asks.