Monday, May 10, 2010

Photo ID blues

There are two things most people dislike. Posing for photographs and showing photo ID. The first part is traumatic. You sit there aware that maybe you did not comb your hair properly, maybe your skin is too shiny, maybe it is too powdery. Maybe your double chin cannot be hidden. A person beset with doubts is not tranquil; not happy and will definitely not make a good photograph. Which is why nine persons out of 10 end up looking like rabbits caught in headlights. All those instructions from the photographer were a complete waste of time too. His “little chin up; little chin down; not smile pliss,” translated into nothing, nothing like the Mona Lisa.

We will gloss over the cringing horror of going to collect your photo ID card which embarrasses you so much that you forget to check for inaccuracies in the information. The real test of the steel core in you comes when you have to show photo ID when it is demanded. You are dressed well, feeling confident, you march through the security check, or rather you march to the security check and they ask for photo ID and your world crumbles as your trembling fingers reach for that small plastic scrap of your moment of shame.

In a way it is a good thing that Goa being the smallest state of India, we get lumped with all the ‘pilot projects’ involving a lot of door-to-door surveys and people asking the same questions all over again.

I was stopped at Hyderabad’s new International Airport entrance by a severe looking security man who told me a ticket printout was not enough to get me into the spanking new airport. One needed photo identity. I told him I had lot of photo identity cards because I came from Goa and Goans especially from Tiswadi taluka had lots of identity cards.

As usual when I tell people I am from Goa, they give me the red carpet treatment. A broad smile broke his granite face and he said he liked Goa verrrry much Modom, but wokayright, I had to show him some ID, like maybe a driving licence?

I opened my wallet which was full of cards, but the driving licence, still in its glazed paper case, was stuck in its slot. I yanked it this way and that, while the granite came back to the security man’s face. He peered into the wallet and looked at my Social Security card that I was least proud of and said, wokayright yes, that one will do.

I said no, that was not a good one and did not do justice to me. He said it looked exactly like me and waved me on. But the granite came to my face now and I pulled out my newspaper ID card taken at around the same time where I looked much better, a slightly amused smile, a twinkle in the eye and wonderfully neat hair. I insisted that he check that one. He looked at it and said severely that that was not wokay since it had already expired.

So I pulled out my PAN card, my gymkhana card, two voter ID cards, two bank ATM cards, my IFFI identity cards for the first two IFFIs and finally my Multi-Purpose Card. What is this card, he wanted to know. I said, oh, that was a pilot project for Tiswadi taluka of Goa only and we had these cards done. I said it was even more recent than the Social Security card that was done nearly 10 years ago and that it looked better. He said there was no need to carry all these cards with me, only one was needed. Maybe two. A voter’s id or a passport. I said it was risky carrying a passport all over the country, and I looked like a deranged serial killer in my Voter’s ID. I told him firmly that I would only show IDs where I looked halfway decent.

He said wokayright and waved me in hurriedly and I noticed in all the arguments of which card had a better photograph¬¬ - he forgot to check my name and details against those on my plane ticket.

I looked at all the photographs on all the cards. For some reason, the web cams that are used by the agencies who get the tender to take photographs for ID cards of all sorts are just no good at taking pictures. I have to accept that I am not a good poser for pictures, I either get a death-rictus grimace or look like a bull-dog that has lost the will to live.

And once again ... There’s the census man who came around, took all sorts of details, beginning with what caste I belonged to, to where my children were staying. Then he left a slip of paper and said the dreaded words, “Take this with you when you will be called for taking photo, madam.”

A day later one learned that Goa had also been selected as one of the first states for the introduction of the UID or Unique Identification card. Yet another photo session … And the unpleasantness lives on.

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