Everywhere You Look, You’ll See Virat Kohli Lookalikes
I’ve never seen them before, but I know their faces – all their faces. Them wearing a dense mop of jet black hair on their crowns, parted to the right. Them having the sides of their heads shaved, trimmed or tapered. Them sporting beards, carefully manicured and bracketed with sharp edges. Them Virats of New Delhi.
I’m at a south Delhi pub to watch the cricket, and I’m surrounded by Virats. Short Virats, stout Virats, sober Virats and plastered Virats. The Virats are in this bar, and they’re also at the metro stations. They’re outside colleges and inside corporate offices and around parking lots. I’ve seen them pedalling cycle rickshaws and driving SUVs. I’ve seen them everywhere. I learn some of their names. Preet, Bhandari, Ashu and Pavan — the prints at the back of their identical India jerseys inform me so. They’ve arrived at the pub, together, well in time for the first ball, but all the seats and barstools are occupied, so they wait by the big screen. And while they wait, two of them reaffirm the parting on their heads with their hands, sometimes using both palms at once.
The manager places four chairs in a row, just ahead of my table, and the four Virats squeeze in. They are talking tattoos. Bhandari (if my memory serves me right) has his left forearm inked, and says he’s considering inking his right forearm as well. “Never do that,” says Pavan. “Get all your tattoos on the same arm. Look at the Premier League footballers, see how all of them cover one arm in tattoos and leave the other arm completely bare. That’s the look you should be going for.” The others nod.
The match is about to begin and the Virats rise for the national anthem. On the big screen and in the row of Indian cricketers, there are plenty of Virats too. The camera captures their singing faces. Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Pawan Negi. Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and the real one. The usually sober Ajinkya Rahane and the usually clean-shaven Suresh Raina have also joined the circus. In the second innings, one commentator will go on to confuse Pandya for Jadeja and Jadeja for Virat, and excuse himself by saying, “I’m sorry, but they all look the same.” Touché.
I scan the anthem-chanting Indian squad for unique styles, and only Shikhar Dhawan, with his twirled ‘stache and plaited tuft, stands out. I strike up a conversation with the Virat seated closest to me and try and figure why Dhawan’s ‘do never caught on. “It’s not a pigtail, dude,” he says, hardly stifling a laugh. “It’s a rat-tail. And ratties are out of fashion.”
Short Virats, stout Virats, sober Virats and plastered Virats. The Virats are in this bar, and they’re also at the metro stations
The following day, to find out a little more about what’s in fashion, I swing into a hole-in-the-wall barber shop, ground zero for manufacturing Virats, in central Delhi. “Some want to look like Badshah, others like Ranveer Singh,” says Nadeem, owner of the saloon. “But daily I create between 6-10 Virat Kohlis.” On cue, a freshly-branded Virat rises from one of the seats and pays Nadeem Rs 140 for his services. The barber then ushers me towards the seat. My overgrown hair and unkempt beard haven’t met a razor or a pair of scissors in months, and all this talk of style has made me cave in with a warning: “Only the split ends, please.”
“Just a few years ago, men used to come into this shop with a photograph in hand and ask me to copy it,” Nadeem says, while snipping his scissors in the air. “Today, they just tell me the name of the person. If I don’t know who they are talking about, they show me an image on Google.” Technically speaking, I ask him, is there anything special about the Virat? “Yes. The razored sides are ideal for Delhi’s summer, and the crop on top can be moulded into several styles,” he says. “But you know why everyone wants it? They want it because of Virat and only because of him, they are everywhere.” Yes, everywhere. I see Virats in the malls and I see Virats in the markets. And because I don’t want to see Virats in the mirror as well, I beg the barber to stop.