Just like Gen Z has their ‘emo hours’ between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., the Boomer generation considers 5.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. their ‘WhatsApp hours.’ During this precious time, they share awkwardly photoshopped pictures of flowers, sunrises and cups of tea with good morning messages. It’s also their time to read and forward dangerously unverified news and medical cures. The pings are coming in so fast and for so long, it sounds like one continuous whine. I wake up, amazed that my mother is lightly snoring through this auditory storm.
‘That horse with wings from Greek mythology?’ I respond as my mother.
‘Arre, Rajkumariji, it’s a software used to track terrorists’ phones.’
‘Oh god! If this is available in the market, then why haven’t we caught all the terrorists yet?’ I-as-mum type furiously.
‘Varmaji, I heard it was installed on the phones of some Indian activists, lawyers, journalists, politicians, and businessmen,’ pings Mehra Uncle, who is probably nursing a cold cup of tea, hiding behind the newspaper so he doesn’t have to help with the morning chores.
‘Arre, why are they tracking all these people and not actual terrorists?’ I ask as Rajkumari.
‘This is definitely a foreign conspiracy,’ Mehra Uncle pings urgently.
Varma Uncle clarifies, ‘Rajkumariji, he probably does not have a phone. He has a fakir mentality, you see.’
‘Ohh, that’s probably why he’s not been able to do a press conference for the past seven years,’ I-as-mother opine.
Malkani Uncle is awake now, probably in front of his TV switching news channels, searching for the Pegasus story. ‘There’s nothing on the TV, Varmaji. All these internetwaali stories are just people crying some nonsense tears about their privacy being violated. All this privacy-shrivacy is a western idea. Arre, how do the poor people keep having children when all live in the same room? In our country, we have everything out in the open!’‘Except the PM Cares Fund money, that’s closed information,’ I type as Rajkumari.
Varma Uncle, who had now become the voice of reason responded, ‘But Malkaniji, they are saying that this is dangerous because the people who are tracking these phones can even plant information in the phone of a person to frame them.’
‘Or plant yet another recipe of kadha that will cause severe acidity. All falsely planted information can be malicious and harmful,’ I lament as my mother-.Malkani Uncles’ next message continues as if I had not responded, ‘If you have nothing to hide, why should you be scared of being tracked?’ I spat-coughed into my phone on reading that. I had ‘cleaned’ Malkani Uncle’s phone twice in the past three years, and on both occasions, he had clarified, ‘I don’t watch all these types of videos! It must have come from the cloud!’
The landline rings in the next room. My mother stirs, mutters at me to go make tea, and walks over to answer it. I am just about to head out to the kitchen when she storms back into the room.
‘What are you doing on my phone?’ she asks me darkly.
I give her the look of a person who has nothing to hide.
‘That Varmaji is asking me if my WhatsApp has been hacked,’ she tells me. ‘He’s saying someone is sending nonsensical messages from my phone!’
She snatches her phone from my hands. ‘You please talk rubbish from your own phone. God knows what kind of trouble you’ll get me into! Varmaji is right. Your generation doesn’t understand the concept of privacy!’