Apu Sarker from Bangladesh has smooth surfaces on his fingertips.
The men in his family share a genetic mutation so rare it is thought to affect only a small handful of families in the world: they have no fingerprints.
Back in the day of Apu’s grandfather, having no fingerprints was no big deal. But the tiny grooves swirling around our fingertips are now the world’s most collected biometric data. We use them to pass through airports to voting and opening our smartphones.
In 2008, Bangladesh introduced National ID cards for all adults, and the database required a thumbprint. Baffled officials did not know how to issue a card to Apu’s father. Finally, he received a card with “NO FINGERPRINT” stamped on it.
In 2010, fingerprints became mandatory for passports and driver’s licenses. After several attempts, Amal was able to obtain a passport by showing a certificate from a medical board. But he has never used as he fears the problems he may face at the airport.