Impressions that last

Impressions that last

How should one look in their obituary photograph? The last impression should be lasting...


My father passed away in January last after a brief hospitalisation. He was 93. He gave us enough preparation time.

But we were unprepared when it actually happened. There were so many things to be done and placing the obit in the local newspapers was the first priority. We couldn’t find a single photograph that did full justice to my Appa. We’d taken one from the family album, another from his Navathi celebrations (showing a very old man), and one from a mobile photo. The result was that V S Mahadevan looked three different persons across six papers.

This experience prompts me now to browse through the obit columns with a critical eye for detail. I have realised that in a majority of the cases, the photos are not even a patch on the departed souls. Taken at various stages, various poses, various occasions, they provide food for thought. I have come across obits and even death anniversary remembrances in which 70-ish women are shown in their wedding fineries, for want of a better photo, I presume. Some appear to be frowning, some scowling, and only very few appear happy and contented.

This has set me thinking and planning for my own ‘future look’. Even now, when they want a photo to be affixed, I can’t find a recent/decent one. Till very recently, my forms used to be very flattering, with a very young me beaming all over. It was something taken at the time of my PhD registration years back. It reached a point when people started asking me whether I had affixed my daughter’s by mistake. I had to change it sheepishly then. The present ‘latest’ passport size photo I unashamedly sport around is 10 years old. But there are many to choose from, in fact, dozens of them: the ones that were taken for visa application (it was used only for that and never a favourite of mine); those photoshopped from groups as stand-alones and even the ones on Aadhar, voter’s card, and the driving license. Of these, like everybody else’s case, the Aadhar and voter’s card don’t look like mine (for that matter, like none’s); neither of them even looks like a woman.

My pick is the one taken for my office ID. But when you have enemies at home, you don’t have to look out for anyone outside. My husband knows I hate the one taken for visa application. For the same reason, whenever and wherever possible, he keeps on asking: Shall I use THAT photo?, when the choice is left to him. I keep telling myself that there is no cure for baldness and jealousy — he has the second malaise and that he is jealous of his much youthful wife.

Now I have two options before me: either destroy all the photos that I don’t like and keep only the most flattering one, thus leaving my people with no option. Or, execute a will, leaving strict, clear instructions as to which image of mine is to be used. Which reminds me of a Malayalam movie in which the journalist hero keeps his obit ready and in the way he wants it, before taking his own life. And also of my mother: after seeing the poor visual result in the case of her husband, Amma has told us that she wants a particular photo to be used when her time comes.

Last impression should be lasting, you know.