Life hacks from Agony Akka Opinion

Of sugar and spies

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Dear Agony Akka,

I am 18 years old and studying for a B.Sc. in Botany from a Chennai college. My parents are getting on my nerves. Always nervous about their precious daughter, they have now started spying on me. They take turns to snoop into my phone and read my WhatsApp chats and they comment on what I should say and who I should talk to. My father is even talking of hiring a driver so that I can always be supervised when college reopens. How to bunk class and go for a movie? Or hang out with buddies peacefully? When I objected, he said ‘I am only worried about your safety kanna.’ I want to scream. Don’t I have a right to any private life?

— Severe Privacy Yearner

Dear SPY,

As is the wont of all youth, you are being foolish and impulsive. Parents are only worried about your well-being, and it is their god-given right to spy on you. They might not read your extensive notes on Parthenocissus quinquefolia, but they will surely read the notes you write to the handsome bloke in second year B.Com. It is all for your own good. And what is all this privacy-shrivacy you’re talking about? The very word ‘privacy’ comes from the old French word privauté, which means that it is a foreign concept and has nothing to do with sanskari Indians. Anyway, you must be taking public transport all your life and talking to conductors and auto drivers, so why bother if mother-father are reading your private messages, you foolish girl? Don’t you trust your own paavam parents? After all those nappies they changed?

Last month, when I went to the corner shop to buy some Kurkure and potato chips for my evening snacks, Mani, the shopkeeper, looked very upset. Apparently, he has a new neighbour called Omit Pasha. Omit advised him to install security cameras in his shop and house and told him he would personally monitor them and keep Mani safe from robbers and intruders. A grateful Mani agreed. One month later, hey presto, Omit Pasha had started a kirana store and taken away all of Mani’s customers. What is worse, he also seduced Mani’s wife and is now married happily to her.

Mani was most distraught, but I calmed him down. ‘Why are you only thinking of your business and wife, Mani?’ I asked. ‘Remember, Pasha has given you 3-4 brand new security cameras. Nobody can rob you ever again. At any rate, you will be able to see them robbing you. Isn’t that important?’ Mani thought for a while and then he realised the wisdom of my words. Last heard, Mani worships the cameras each morning before opening his shop.

Like that, you must also learn to embrace the new normal. No need to get all excited because your parents and maternal uncle and paternal aunt-in-law know everything from your teenage crush to your best friend’s marks in Plant Cell Mixology. Information age does not mean that you voluntarily share information. It means that all and sundry can voluntarily snoop on your information.

My friend Alu Tikki tells me that Indians are getting this ancient principle straight from Chanakya. In order to keep his king’s throne safe, the sly seer spied on everyone from minstrels and ministers to courtiers and crown princes. They didn’t have mobile phones then, so Chanakya probably hacked their palm leaves or whatever. The Mauryan citizens were reportedly very grateful for this daily supervision of their lives. Now, if Chanakya can do it, why not your parents?

— AA

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 12:34:31 AM |

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