At a jam-packed conference on stalking and snooping held here today, unreliable sources claimed that the National Security Agency, the US spying outfit, is planning to send a team of agents to Gujarat to learn shadowing techniques. “We’ve been terribly impressed with the arrangements made by intelligence agents, anti-terrorist gents and state police to protect just one precious citizen in Gujarat,” said a shady chap wearing a raincoat with a turned-up collar, hat and dark glasses, who claimed to be the cook of an NSA operative.
A schizophrenic who alleged he was being hounded by his dog was underwhelmed. “How can you respect the NSA when they let that rogue Snowden get away, when they could easily have arranged a fake encounter” he said. “The American agent we really want to meet is a gentleman called Snoop Dogg, who’s obviously an ace sleuth” he explained.
“Hi,” said a bandmaster-cum-stalker, “I’m Amit Sting and my band’s called The Ahmedabad Police. Let me sing our new anthem for you.
‘Every breath you take/Every move you make/Every bond you break/Every step you take/I’ll be stalking you’.”
A TV sociologist claimed stalking was democratic. “Everybody can do it — dirty old men, dirty young men, policemen, judges, editors” he said. But a senior cop pooh-poohed these claims. “We are professionals,” he said. Meanwhile, fathers/uncles/ mothers-in-law/suspicious husbands/khap panchayats all wanted their daughters/nieces/daughters-in-law/wives/potential honour killing victims respectively to be watched by secret agents. A lady sobbed she had been stalking all her life for Mr Right.
Stalkers demanded a Right to Stalk law. Security experts moaned that we had a leaker for every snooper. A guy asked whether he wasn’t good enough to be stalked. “At least stalk me on Facebook,” he pleaded. A TV anchor said the nation demanded to know why it wasn’t being stalked.
Policemen from other states have been jealous of the attention given to their Gujarat colleagues. “We’ve been bugging people’s phones for ages,’ said a veteran bugger from Delhi. “Everyone seems to have forgotten our cyber snooping activities,” he lamented. But another spook said their methods were different. “We firmly believe in secular surveillance,” he declared.
Stalkers complained they were overworked. “It’s very tiring shadowing some of these ladies while they’re shopping,” said a cop, demanding a stalking allowance. “Alternatively”, he said, “the task should be left to married men, who are used to suffering.” An editor concurred. “It takes blood, toil, sweat and tears to stalk,” he said, claiming he had been lacerated by his stalkings. A lady said she had the same trouble with her stockings. Policemen grumbled their surveillance work left them with little time for other duties like collecting hafta. “Politicians are not the only folks with protection rackets,” pointed out one of them.
Some mothers said they were happy. “My kids have been terrified by these stories of stalking, snooping and what not,” said a mum from Surat, adding, “whenever they are naughty, all I have to say is ‘Beware, Saheb is stalking you’ for them to curl up in fright.” But a mother from Delhi said it didn’t work. “I strung up a banner in my house saying, ‘Beware, MMS is watching you’, with his picture. But the kids roll around laughing whenever they see it,” she sighed.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal