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One of my worst foibles is my inability to recognise faces. Or the failure to connect a familiar face to its identity. And this shortcoming in my persona manifests in two forms- misrecognition and non-recognition. While the former often landed me in a mess, the latter earned me the title of a pompous ass. Let me explain the ‘hows” and ‘whys” of it all:
Non-recognition Syndrome: It is not uncommon to see an acquaintance of mine raise his hand to greet me and, having seen no glint of recognition in my eyes, pretend that he was just driving away a mosquito to save his face. And my truant debtors brazenly walk past me secure in the knowledge that I can’t recognise them.
Misrecognition Syndrome: At a chance encounter with a bloke, I asked him, after initial ‘hi-howdies”, if his drunken clientele brawled frequently. At which he cringed. And as I asked if mutton was normally served at his place, he growled and stomped off. As it turned out, he was a temple priest whom I had misrecognised as a bartender I knew
The misrecognition Syndrome always gives me the jitters. What if I ask, say, a policeman in civvies, mistaking him for a steward of my favourite hotel, if he earns good tips from his clientele? Or mistaking a mafia don for a politician, tell him that the time to decimate the underworld? I shudder to think of the consequences.
While on the subject of face recognition, let me recount an incident: Way back in the seventies when a dreaded child-killer of Delhi was reportedly holed up in Mumbai, Delhi crime branch had sent six mugshots of the same killer showing him in different disguises to help nab the criminal. A week later, Mumbai cops reported to Delhi ‘Eliminated five of them. On the lookout for the sixth.”

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