24-Nov-2008

Smile please

I have never looked good in a passport size photo so far. There are of course, basic factors that work against me. Such as the fact that people would be hard pressed to say I resemble Aishwarya Rai and the fact that I photograph quite badly. But add to that the fact that no human being in the recorded history of the earth has been known to look good in passport size photos and you know the picture is bleak

Yet, my parents persist.

I am due for a passport renewal. My dad mailed me a checklist he had made for mom earlier. My mom called me

Mom: Did you get the list?

Me: Yes

Not that she was worried that the list had been lost in cyberspace, since it had been sent to both my personal i.ds and my office i.d. It was merely a prelude to the next topic

Mom: Are you going to take a passport snap?

Me: Yes

Mom: Ok. Then please remember to put on some make up. Don’t smile too much. Don’t smile too little. Don’t look sad. Comb your hair.

Me: Yes

It is touching how parents believe that their progeny will look closer to Aishwarya Rai with just a little make up and the right facial expression.

I must admit that by the time I went to the photo shop, even I was slightly nervous. While never brilliant, my passport snaps had hit a new low with my new office ID. I looked like Eve in Beta version before God released her and it had shaken my confidence a bit. And given that a passport is something that you carry around for another ten years, you did not want immigration officers across the world visibly recoiling at the snap.

My plan was to dash across to the studio opposite my office at lunch hour and be done with it. Ten minutes before schedule, I was in the office washroom, armed with a huge make up pouch. I emerged after a while, the world already looking slightly better. Partly because it was hidden by my lashes, now thick with Mac Zoom Factor mascara.

The photo studio was not a large affair. It had a counter and a small place off the counter where patrons could smile and pose. The guys at the counter took your money and order and then quickly swung into the role of photographers. I tried not to look sad, or smile too much or smile too little. Infact, I went so far as not to blink or frown either. Especially when one of the guys at the counter hovered into the line of sight of the photographer, casting a shadow in my direction.

The snap was taken. I released my breath.
When I went back for the snaps, I was pleased to note that it was not too bad. Infact, the creases from my eyes to my mouth, curving around my cheeks had been gently erased. Clearly, the days of the skillful photographer were gone. It was the rule of the skillful Photoshop editor.

I don’t think they will meet my mom-standards. After all, the image she has of how I look could be a tad different from the opinion of the casual observer. I, however, do think that airport officials shall not take a quiet moment off their busy schedules to chuckle at my passport.

Not a bad deal at all.

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