Indian couple sitting in cafe Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘I know what you did last summer. It is all there on your laptop hard drive”, said my wife, and I nearly choked on my chicken bun ‘muska’.

“Indian federal agencies have been given access to your computer. If you have anything to hide, better get rid of it now,” she said laughing after looking at my face.

“Never do that to me again,” I said.

I had downloaded everything from my laptop which I thought was ‘critical’, on to a USB drive, but now I couldn’t find the tiny damn thing. (Did I give the flash drive to a friend to watch a movie that I had downloaded, I wondered. OMG, hope he does not wander into the folder marked friends and benefits).

“Why would the government want to snoop around in my computer,” I said puzzled.

“Move,” said my wife, pushing me aside and pulling the laptop towards her. “My students taught me this. You just go to system restore on Windows to check the deleted history or locate the cookies on the browser,” she said, as I stared at her with my mouth open.

“Who is this WOMAN?” said my wife after restoring my online history.

“What? Who” I said. “Oh, that’s Rakhi Sawant, she is a model-activist. I was following the good work she is doing for men who are lonely and depressed.”

“Won’t she catch a chill wearing that?” said my wife.

“What? Not one agency. But 10 federal agencies have been given the green signal to spy on me,” I said, looking at the report in a newspaper about a circular from the Indian Home Secretary.

The report said that earlier only the home ministry could scan calls and emails of people. Now everyone and his uncle can peer into your PC; from the Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, to the Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam).

Sad stories

“The only person missing in this list is you,” I told my wife. “WIFE: Where Intel is Free and Eternal. Imagine the traffic in my computer while I am trying to write a humour column,” I said. “Maybe I should make fun of these agencies in my column.”

“Don’t. These guys have no sense of humour,” said my wife. “You will be put in prison with Mallya and Nirav Modi and you will have to hear sad stories about change in fortunes and every fortnight I will have to bring ‘nan’ and ‘palak paneer’ for you.

“To think that I gave up Facebook, as it was selling my information to everyone, and have my own government spy on me,” I said shaking my head from side to side.

Scene at the 8th floor of an intel office: “Sir, please look at this. We have hacked into his PC.”

“Ha-ha. That’s impossible, nobody has zero balance in the bank nowadays. He’s surely hiding the money somewhere. Must be in an account in the Cayman Islands. Book me a flight there next week. What’s his name?” “Sa-berry.”

“Give me his phone number. Let’s first scare him a little. I just love my job.”

Meanwhile, my wife said the best way to stop someone snooping in your computer is to set up a firewall. Change passwords frequently. Don’t share personal information online, don’t post a lot on Facebook and Twitter and never connect to a public WIFI.

It doesn’t work that way. I told my wife. If the authorities want your hard drive, may be you just hand it over.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.