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2014 elections

Young leader of ancient Ajmer dargah wants people to vote for development

As one of the custodians of Ajmer's Dargah Sharif, Syed Salman Chisthy gets a ringside view of the increasing polarisation of the electorate — and he blames both sides for it.

Syed Salman Chishty is a diplomatic man.

He has to be too, since he speaks not just for himself but as the inheritor of an 800-year-old legacy at Ajmer’s Dargah Sharif. Chisthy is a Gaddi Nishan (heir apparent), a custodian of the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, one of the most important pilgrimage spots for South Asian Islam. This means that along with the rest of those who watch over the keys of the Dargah, Chishty is in a position to influence the millions of worshippers who visit the shrine and may look to its leadership for guidance.

Which is why he can’t necessarily name names. “Our approach has always been to be open to all political leadership. There has never been a particular inclination,” the 32-year-old custodian said. “Before Independence, the British built structures within the complex. After Independence, the Nehru-Gandhi family was always attached to the dargah. And under the NDA, Atal Bihari Vajpayee always sent a chaadar for the shrine. So we’re open to all comers.”

But that doesn’t mean Chisthy, as a young Muslim in an election where the "minority question" seems to have been as central as ever, doesn’t have political views. It would be hard not to.

Aside from the overarching question of Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s approach to Muslims, the matter is also of interest closer to home. The Congress party, led by former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, was routed in state elections late last year — a result that was widely attributed to the regime’s inability to keep Muslims on its side because of a series of communal incidents.

“There has been violence and many such incidents, and it is a dangerous trend,” Chishty said. “Because, as a result of it, extremism is growing. You now have to be conscious what you say, and who you’re talking to. The youth are no longer open.”

As a Muslim leader who regularly meets youngsters both in his role at the dargah and as director of the Chishty Foundation, Chisthy is acutely aware of the effects polarisation is having on Indian society — and he won’t just blame it on party, or even on one community.

“It works for some of these organisations, whether they are youth groups or religious ones or political parties," he said. "They want to add to the trouble for their own good, and the result will be sad for the rest of India.”

That points to the BJP, a party not known for its tolerant outlook, but applies equally to the Congress or outfits like the Samajwadi Party, who benefit from this approach. Chisthy is no fan of politicians’ desires to be seen around Imams come election time. “You can’t turn up in front of a religious leader just before the elections and assume an entire community will back you,” he said. “And what about those religious leaders? What have they done for the community?”

It might be easier for Chishty, as someone associated with the more liberal Sufi strain of Islam, to pin the blame on the more orthodox set, but it is still unusual for a prominent Muslim to point to parties like the Congress and the SP as being as much part of the problem.

“This is what happens in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar," he said. "Look at all the Muslims there, see how low the proportion of education is in those communities. This is deliberately done so that they’ll look up to certain groups as their saviours. No one wants to give the community a chance to be self-reliant. Different political parties are just taking Muslims for a ride.”

And if the BJP is sincere about being a development-focused alternative, shedding its Hindutva leanings, he would be all for it. “They have a promising manifesto, mostly, and if they fulfill it that can only be encouraged. In fact, if they can go beyond Gujarat — where they only focus on the rich — and help the middle-class and lower middle-class, that would be a welcome step,” he said. “But if it’s just false promises, as it usually is, it will be a disaster for the country and for the stability of the population.”

Does Modi need to put on the topi then, as everyone on Twitter seems to be demanding? “It might not mean much, he can still fool us after, but not putting it on — when you can wear all sorts of other headgear — send a message about his intentions. If you’re defense is you don’t want to fool us, were you trying to fool all those other communities?”

At home, though, Chishty says his vote will not be given as a Muslim or a minority, but as someone who appreciates development — which in this case is not a euphemism for Modi. “[Congress’] Sachin Pilot has transformed the place, he’s brought an airport, a central university, speed post," Chishty said. "If you have to vote for development, Pilot should win.”

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Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

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Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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