What on earth is going in India? First, someone called up the country’s attorney general pretending to be Sonia Gandhi. The excerpt below is from the Economic Times.

Vahanvati started receiving calls early this month from a person claiming she was calling from Sonia Gandhi’s office. Gandhi was in New York for a medical checkup during that time. She had left for abroad on September 1, according to media reports.

Shortly thereafter, Vahanvati received a call from a woman who, as a senior police officer told ET, sounded “almost exactly like Sonia Gandhi”.

The alleged hoax caller, pretending to be Gandhi, told Vahanvati she was calling from New York – where Gandhi was actually staying at that time – and, as ET has learnt, managed to convincingly sound unhappy over what she said was the A-G’s handling of several crucial and high profile cases, including those related to coal allocations.

The woman pretending to be Gandhi told the attorney-general he should consider “lying low and taking fewer responsibilities”.

The hoax caller strongly suggested, officers inquiring into the case told ET, that she wasn’t happy with Vahanvati’s performance so far. A senior Congress leader said the hoax caller also suggested the A-G should consider resigning.

ET has confirmed with senior Congress leaders that the A-G, convinced it was Gandhi who had called him, contacted and/or met important government and political figures to seek clarity on the matter.   “After all, there’s no precedence ever of Mrs Gandhi calling a law officer directly… she simply doesn’t do such things,” a senior Congress leader told ET. It was only after his meeting with senior establishment figures that Vahanvati learnt Gandhi hadn’t called him, and that there was no question of her calling him on official matters.

I don’t usually read the ‘pink papers’ since they’re supposed to be finance-centric — neither money nor numbers and I have much of a relationship — but when the front page of a paper yells, “Hoax caller imitates Sonia, Govt in a tizzy”, how can you not read? This is the sort of thing I expect to read in The Onion, but no, it’s real news. I think the bit that I liked best in the original newspaper’s article was that the Delhi post was “probing” the matter. Now, how do you probe a hoax call like this? Line up Delhi women and yell, “Italian accent mein bolo”? (“Speak in an Italian accent!”) Order a line-up on the basis of all those who best imitate a woman who was born in Italy and has lived in India for the past 45-odd years?

Whatever it is the process of probing such things, the Delhi Police nabbed a suspect: “The caller was a PSU employee, CBI and Delhi Police officials told ET. In Delhi power circles, some officials and politicians said, she’s known as someone who can imitate the voice of one of India’s most powerful women.” (emphasis mine)

What a reputation to have.

But that’s not the end of it. It’s not just Sonia Gandhi who has an impersonator. Today, I spotted this on Twitter.


The Hindi headline reads, “Now hoax caller threatens using PM’s voice”.

Apparently, there’s a chap who goes around impersonating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and parliamentarians Laloo Prasad Yadav and Shatrughan Sinha. And to whom? To a senior executive of a music company, asking “favours”. I’ve no idea what these favours are. A recording contract? Free copies of the Chennai Express CD? But the hoax caller threatened to shut the music company down if his demands weren’t met. It’s actually quite staggering that this senior executive actually took these calls seriously and that we’re suddenly producing so many talented voice impersonators. Maybe this is what happens when phone calls are cheap and there are a thousand news channels fixated on rubbish news about Indian politics and politicians.

Ah, the media and telecom revolution. You gotta love it.

2 thoughts on “Voice activated

    • Given no one remembers what he sounds like, all you probably have to do is sound a little meek and pained. Bengali has a perfect, untranslateable word for that tonal quality: “meenmeenay”.

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