I have this peculiar habit of scanning faces, the pretty and the not-so pretty ones too, in public places. Not only looking at the faces, but as to what they are doing, and thinking on what they might be thinking. I assume everyone does that, but instead of generalizing I will say that it is my habit. So at the lunch table in the cafeteria one day when the discussions veered off to how incompetent the project manager is I preferred to look past the table occupants and spotted a face amongst others. I knew I had seen him before somewhere and that too before joining this company, but I was not able to register where. I do boast that I have a good memory of recollecting faces and at the same time I regret that my memory of remembering names is very weak. So I wondered that if I smile at the familiar face either he would recognize me with my name and I would be fumbling remembering his name (which happens most of the times) or I would smile and he would be like why is this guy smiling at me when I don’t know him (which also happens many times). So I did not smile or wave at him, but still was thinking where I had seen that guy. Then while leaving the cafeteria we were about to cross each other and I saw that he was looking at me with a similar where-have-I-seen you look. I smiled weakly and he said, “Sharma?” The face-recollecter narcissist in me poked fun at me again that the guy standing in front not only recognized my face but was also remembering my name. After some small talk we left for our offices. He also was not able to remember where we had met, but later it struck me (by the way he addressed my surname) that we were in the same tuition class 11 years back. Had it been only his voice or full name instead of his face, I don’t think I would have recognized him.
This power of (or dependency on) the face came out strongly in the project I completed recently. We had about 200 team members working from different locations and different companies, over different time zones. Out of these 200 around I had met only 8-10 people who were from the floor opposite to mine. While talking to the remaining ones during the conference calls I used to imagine their faces. I used to associate known faces to these unknown people based on their voices, names, locations and my imagination over the last 10 months. The problem was when the known people used to meet me and I started calling them by the names of the unknown faces since I had mapped their faces to the names I was talking to the entire day. Last week my onshore counterpart sent a few photographs of a party the team there had attended. On the call I asked him where he was standing in the photograph; the picture I had in my head was completely the opposite of him. Now when I talk to him after that day I am not able to co-relate the real face with that voice as I am used to the mental image I had created over these many months. Among the blogger friends I have so far imagined I had told Sayesha that before visiting her travel blog where she had posted her photograph I always thought her to be like the actress Sandhya Mridul. I have still not heard Sayesha’s voice so associating her with the actress is a different story altogether, but even today the first image that comes to my mind when I read her blog is of the actress and then her real face.