Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tapping our phones....

It is obviously not a good feeling to know that someone is listening to your phone conversations, yet I have had my fun moments in Pakistan where our phones are routinely tapped.

Friends and family have learnt to say “namaste” to “bhais” tapping phones and often hold imaginary conversations with them. “Bhai please go easy on her….,” a friend acknowledged Bhai’s presence recently.

Another friend has named "phone-Bhai" – Kabeer. 

“Is he good looking?” she joked one day. Since I said “yes”, she started talking to K-Bhai. “Kabeer, are you listening? Kabeer, I am willing to relocate. Kabeer, I am single and ready to mingle….” she guffawed. 

However, we are not the only ones having fun. Bhais have their moments too. Once when I called my sister from my husband’s mobile phone I heard a man’s voice. “Who are you?” I asked. “You tell me who you are…” K-Bhai was flirting. I passed the phone to my husband.

A friend heard her phone-Bhai laughing really hard because she was trying to gently remind her young daughter that their phone was tapped!

I'd be lying if I'd say that tapping doesn't affect my conversations. Sometimes my talk tends to be coded because it feels odd to spell out everything. “Are the payments done?” I keep checking with my sister. My sister, too, quickly retorts with a “yes” or a “no” and blurts the amount – both foolishly thinking that we have outsmarted Bhai who has never heard of LIC!   

Then there are times when I want people to take hints and codes to work --but no! My aunt loves breaking into a monologue about how unsafe Pakistan is and how she would like to have me back in India and I suddenly become hugely conscious of K-Bhai's presence. Or worse, her favourite query which makes me cringe --- how is your health NOW? She perhaps remembers my typhoid many years ago, but I would seriously love to know what Bhai makes of that.

Every so often I think that having heard all my friends’ and family’s collective problems K-Bhai should offer some solutions. Or at least tell us why a man with a Pashtu accent answers my husband’s number when I call or when my phone rings late into the night why is the display number mine!

It takes a while to get over K-Bhai, but I don't think I can ever check him out of my consciousness. Just one moment of regret though. I wish I hadn’t stopped myself from crying on my mother’s first death anniversary -- because I was so very conscious of K-Bhai! 


  1. Hello there .. I have been following your blogs for more than a year now .. Its amazing how well you have adapted there ... How is the power situation now .. Do you run Generator for most of the day ..? Keep Blogging


  2. Anon, only 5 hour-long cuts in a day, not eight yet! :D

  3. love [understatement] reading your blog whenever i can.

    you must compile these anecdotes & more into a book once you come out of pakistan - sure to be a best seller.

    except for the time you wrote that highly inappropriate & uncalled for glowing eulogy for that degenerate, decadent, debauched vermin, yours is one of the best personal blog, I've come across.

    Stay safe

  4. Hi,

    I follow your blog religiously. I have no idea of how it feels to have no privacy and therefore applaud you for adjusting to this phone tapping. Tell me, is this common? Why are your phones tapped? Does this happen randomly for other people too?

  5. Anon, 2 thanks :) Eulogy!!!???

    Paraphernalia, phones are tapped, emails are read, and we are tailed...that's life for all Indians here!

  6. It is a sad fact of life. You are Indian and you are in Pakistan. You're every movement will be monitored as the Pak government is petrified of Indians, and what they do while in Pak. You will always be judged with suspicion, as 'they' you know who i mean, will always see you and your husband as a spy.

    I am also sure that the phone lines of many people in Pak are also tapped. All this sophistication and technology at their disposal, makes you wonder why they haven't located some of the worlds most wanted men?

    Next time tell your aunty that you are probably more safe than any local in Pakistan, after all its our daily routine that gets bombed everyday and not yours!

    I am aware of the monitoring so theres only so much that i should write here, otherwise you will not be able to publish it.

    Khair, Allah aap ko selamat rakhe aur dehshatgardi ki aag ke angaroN se mehfooz rakhe, Ameen!

    Take care

  7. A, thanks for the good wishes! You stay safe too -- although something tells me you are not in Pakistan! :D

  8. all brothers and sisters in Pakistan must know every individual call here in Pakistan is being recorded for future purposes many friends of mine working here in different cellular companies said that we tapped every call make records of every sms sent or receive by every one whether he is suspected or not thats life brother technology sometimes destroy ur privacy

  9. at least ur acepting it.I read a blog of a Pakistani dilpomat's son and how they r offended by thier stalkers and tappers.And how he would kiss the ground when he reached wagha.And how clean is Pakstan and India is so dirty.
    India s dirty but My dad has been to karachi.As he says 'Not as big as bombay but as dirty as bombay" And yeah he had a good stay too..

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