Navjot Singh Sidhu learnt the importance of proper dressing from a quadrennial spectacle in world politics, the latest chapter of which took place on September 29 in Cleveland - the US Presidential debate.
Some years ago, Sidhu told this correspondent that when he was in his formative years, his father often spoke to him about the 1960 debates between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy. It was the first time the jousts were televised. Already up against a charismatic adversary, Nixon further ceded ground to Kennedy when, for the first debate, he wrongly thought his appearance wouldn’t matter.
Nixon showed up with a less than perfect shave and in a light-coloured suit that did not stand out on the black-and-white televisions of the era. It was reported he refused make-up as well.
Kennedy captured the imagination of the public with the first debate. Nixon recovered in the subsequent rounds, but it was not enough to stop JFK from taking the White House.
“Impact is achieved by writing,” Sidhu said in the interaction. “Ten times the impact of writing is achieved by oration. Fifty times the impact of oration is achieved by looks. There is no sin in wearing good clothes. It’s an art which not many people have.”
When asked how his turbans and ties or pocket squares matched so well, the former India cricketer credited his local artisan. When Sidhu bought a new tie, he would send it to this craftsman, who would then make a turban that looked like the tie’s twin.
After about a year out of the limelight, Sidhu was back in the news a few days ago when he spoke against the Modi government’s new farm laws. Halfway around the world, in the US, the Presidential debates have started. Looking at its contestants, however, it’s unlikely Sidhu or anyone is going to see any style or substance in them.