Sometime back, S and I wanted to make minor changes to our passports. I was thinking that it would simply involve dropping off the passports and picking them up a few hours later with the changes incorporated.
Turned out it was not so simple. Due to new rules, we would be issue *new* passports with the information. This would involve going through a bunch of steps at the local passport office in Chennai.
My heart sank: Indian passport offices are hardly hives of efficiency and I could see visions of myself slowly going mad running around in circles around the passport office, unable to meet all the arcane requirements needed to complete the process.
Which was when S happily said that there was a new passport office in Tambaram which apparently was the epitome of efficiency and that getting things done there was a breeze. That was where we would go. Really? Skeptic me was unconvinced but hey, what choice did I have?
Anyway, on the day of the appointment (which, wonders of wonders, had been made online), we decided to have an early start so that we could be first in line and get things done faster. I woke up around 4am or so, looking more like a zombie than anything human. BA who, back then, was a teeny-tiny baby, had had an "active" night which translated to minimal sleep for both S and me (note though, in such scenarios, S mostly continues to look like a fresh daisy while I usually look like a tired racoon that the cat dragged in from a dump).
I got ready in a daze and pulled on the first set of clothes my hands touched in the closet. Then I swept back my hair into a band, not even bothering to comb through properly. I was ready to go.
We reached the passport office and there was barely any crowd. I was stunned to note the clean building and the spacious waiting rooms. Upstairs, more wonders awaited us. There were a whole bunch of counters manned by enthusiastic persons. Were we really in a government office?
One of the enthusiastic persons called my token number (each of us got a number). He typed out all my info, verified it with me and then said, "Look straight ahead". And before I knew what was happening - *click*. Yup, he had taken a picture of me, in all my dishevelled glory. At this point, I detected some movement out of the corner of my eye.
I turned around to see S laughing hard. So hard that he was clutching his stomach and beginning to gasp for breath. I was wondering what that was all about when the efficient counter person handed over a folder with all my documents. The topmost one was a doc with the picture of me that had just been clicked.
I think it was. I am no Miss. Universe, but I usually at least look human. The face in the picture could have cracked mirrors. Scared screaming babies into silence. Killed someone due to causing too much laughter. Which was when I realized what exactly had had S gasping for breath.
As I took my documents and sat near him, he said, "Oh my God, the preview of your face looked so funny - I have no idea how they managed to get such a terrible picture of you. And the top is a bit too shabby, you should probably retire it.". Aaaaargh you joker, wouldn't it have been more useful had you warned me to at least tuck in the stray strands of hair hanging around my head?
As it always happens, the person at the counter S went to told him that he was going to take a pic of S and did S want to straighten himself up before that (this - to S who, as I mentioned earlier, was already looking daisy fresh). For good measure, the person then checked with S to make sure that he was indeed happy with the picture taken. All. My.Time.
So yeah, it turned out that that wonderful picture was what was going to go on my new passport as well. I thought, oh well, at least there are only 5 more years to go. But no, the passport office had renewed it for 10 years. Yaay me!
So, for the next 10 years, I can have the pleasure of showing that beautiful mug of mine to complete strangers whenever I travel out of the country. All. My. Time.
My mom of course had a good life lesson for me to take away from this experience (how do moms manage to do that?): That's why you should always look presentable whenever you go out. Gee, thanks mom!