Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman entered the spotlight and reached hero status after he ejected and landed on the Pakistani-controlled side of Kashmir last week during heightened cross-border tensions.
Video footage released by Pakistan’s Information Ministry showed the calm and collected pilot sipping tea – solidifying him as a national hero in India and a symbol for peace between the neighboring nations.
Varthaman returned home to India, and fans wanting to pay tribute to the new national hero have started emulating his signature mustache, now aptly known as the “Abhinandan.”
The unique mix of a gunslinger mustache and mutton-chop beard can now be seen on the proud faces of men throughout India, some of whom have taken to social media to share their new-found look.
The Kashmir standoff between the two nuclear-armed nations flared up following a car bombing by Pakistani-based militants that killed over 40 Indian police officers in mid-February.
In response, India launched an airstrike across the Kashmir line of control, saying it killed multiple terrorists that Pakistan had allowed to entrench there. Pakistan denies that any militants were present and even accused India of “environmental terrorism” for destroying trees in a forest reserve.
The air raid has led to several cross-border skirmishes, including the aerial battle in which Varthaman was captured, as well as worldwide wariness as the international community watched the conflict and urged the two sides to show restraint.