Uneasy rests a head that lies under a karakul cap
Official portraits of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, show him wearing it. Like his illustrious father Sheikh, Farooq Abdullah, a former chief minister of India’s Jammu & Kashmir state wears it to hide his shiny pate. V P Singh, a former prime minister of India, got into trouble for wearing it.
We are talking about, of course, the karakul cap. It is made out of the skin of — animal rights advocates are advised that the following lines may affect their sensibilities — new-born karakul lambs, which explains why V P Singh faced ‘decapitation’ for wearing it (Maneka Gandhi, India’s most famous animal rights activist was a minister in his cabinet).
Natwar Singh’s sympathies have never lay with Maneka Gandhi, but even he was not sending any signal to Pakistan when he wore that cap to Islamabad. An eagle-eyed Reuters correspondent picked out a piece of symbolism when there was none. Extemely cold weather in Kabul and northern Pakistan are likely to have caused Natwar Singh to wear the ‘Jinnah cap’. US State Department records show that Natwar Singh wore it when he met Colin Powell in Washington last year.
If the Karakul cap comes to be known as the Jinnah cap, it may not be the first one to end up with a confusing etymology — the cap that Nehru wore almost all his long public life is known as the Gandhi cap.
Here’s a photograph from The Hindu’s photo library that captures these two mistaken caps and their equally mistaken wearers.