The Family With No Fingerprints

Apu Sarker, 22, lives with his family in a village in the northern district of Rajshahi in Bangladesh. The men in Apu’s family appear to share a genetic mutation so rare that it’s thought to affect only a handful of families in the world: They have no fingerprints. The tiny grooves that swirl around our fingertips — known as dermatoglyphs — have become the world’s most collected biometric data. We use them for everything from passing through airports to opening our smartphones. In 2010, fingerprints became mandatory for passports and driver’s licenses in Bangladesh. Apu, however, has a National ID card with the words “NO FINGERPRINT” stamped across it. He carries with him the license fee payment receipt, but that doesn’t always help him when he gets stopped. Twice he has been fined for not having a license with a fingerprint. Although he showed the police his smooth fingertips, they still refused to waive the fine. A dermatologist has officially diagnosed the family’s condition as congenital palmoplantar keratoderma, but that’s still provides no relief from the day-to-day struggles of navigating the world without fingerprints.