Ironically, one of my most vivid memories from our trip to Spain – the one during which Him ultimately proposed to me – is from our hours-long layover in Newark.  I remember absently gazing across the vast international terminal and ultimately settling my eyes on the gate adjacent to ours where cocoa-skinned women in colorful saris and men in white tunics mingled about, awaiting a flight to India. Their destination seemed so exotic – even dangerous — and I wanted to join them.

Three years later, India still holds great allure to Him and me. I know we have romanticized it, gorged on regular trips to our favorite Indian buffet and viewings of movies like “The Darjeeling Limited” and even “Slumdog Millionaire.” As a teen, one of my favorite books was “The Far Pavilions” by M.M. Kaye, a gift from my father who also fell under its spell. (I recently tried re-watching the Ben Cross movie adaption on Netflix Instant but couldn’t get past the poor production quality or odd casting of Amy Irving as an Indian princess.) We know the real India is stunning and mysterious while simultaneously plagued by poverty and poor sanitation. It’s not a ready-made tourist destination for young kids, and so we want to be sure to visit now.

India requires U.S. citizens to apply for and receive entry visas prior to arrival, so Him spent the evening putting ours together with the intention of mailing everything tomorrow. All India visa requests are handled through Travisa Outsourcing, and applicants must mail their paperwork and passports to whichever Travisa processing site is closest (ours happens to be in Houston). India is one of the last countries we plan to visit, but as we don’t know exactly when we’ll arrive there, we decided to apply for six-month visas ($76 each) as near to our U.S. departure date as possible while allowing for ample processing time. Tonight we realized we should have started compiling the paperwork days ago because applicants are required to include additional passport photos. To speed things up, we hastily made our own mugshots.
 DIY Passport Photos:

You’ll need:
-A plain white background (wall, sheet, back of a poster)
-A camera (iPhone will work)
-Ample lighting (we used a shadeless desk lamp)
-Simple photo-editing software
-A color printer
-Photo paper
-A ruler


This is important. To ensure you don’t screw it up, we recommend you stop reading and consult the suits.

But here’s what we did: As all the walls in our house are Benjamin Moore Sea Mist Green and our white sheet was fitted, wrinkled and sporting a hole, we resorted to using the back of a Jimi Hendrix Experience poster from Him’s college dorm days. We took turns standing in front of the poster, straddling the cats’ water bowl while the other juggled a shadeless desk lamp and an iPhone. Our printer happened to be low on color ink, so after Him transferred the images to his laptop and sized them, he copied the edited versions to a USB drive and rushed over to CVS to make a single instant print and haggle with the cashier.

“We normally charge $9.99 each for passport photos,” she said, frowning at the print.

“But this is a 4×6 instant print,” Him argued.

“It’s a 4×6 print with two passport photos on it,” she said.

“I made it myself at home,” he said. “It’s a 4×6 instant print. The content shouldn’t matter.”

Him says this exchange continued for about 10 minutes before the cashier gave up and sold him the print for 31 cents. He hurried home and somehow managed to finish assembling everything in time for dinner. Tomorrow, he’s headed to the post office for a money order and then FedEx for overnight shipping. After that, all we can do is wait and pray Travisa returns our visas – and passports – in time.