Mr and we have to be content

Mr Dutta: (the dawn of understanding lighting up his face) Oh, I see!—That’s why he applied for a one-month holiday. Must be something to do with the house.

Mr Batra: To think that we earn so much more than him! How come he can build his own house and we have to be content with buying our flats in instalments?

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Mr Dutta: The answer’s simple, my friend. Whatever they might say, honesty is not the best policy. In fact, it’s the worst policy. The best proof of that is right in front of your eyes!

Mr Batra: (looking perplexed) Sorry I couldn’t get you—what are you hinting at?

Mr Dutta: With Swaminathan’s salary, he won’t even be able to buy a one-room flat in instalments! Where do you think all his money is coming from?

Mr Batra: (with a glint in his eyes) You mean…?

Mr Dutta: Exactly!—He’s been taking bribes, and very fat ones at that! He’s got just that kind of a job.

Mr Batra: (snapping his fingers with an air of discovery) You’re right!—Why didn’t I think of it before?

The dialogue that you just read has all the elements of gossip: loose talk about someone else, the phenomenon called ‘jumping to conclusions’, and sensationalism.

The word ‘gossip’, in time with its dictionary meaning, implies ‘idle talk’, ‘tittle-tattle’, ‘scandalous rumours’, ‘someone who goes about telling and hearing news or idle, malicious and scandalous tales’ etc.

You will have noted also that the characters in the dialogue are men, not women. It is often alleged that it is women who love to gossip, but studies show that men love to gossip no less than women; and though highbrows publicly look down on gossip as something that is beneath their dignity, secretly, among their own sort, they gossip as much as anyone else.

I don’t know if any psychologist has yet identified ‘gossip’ as a basic human need, but to me that is what it seems to be. Maybe psychologists belong to that highbrow category who theoretically sneer at gossip, and therefore will not give it the recognition it deserves!

Gossip has a valid role to play in human life, though this should be of a secondary nature. It is one way of letting our hair down, of relaxing between times when we are forced to be stiff and formal. Like it or not, we all need these lighter moments, but even while letting go, we must take care not to be malicious. Envious gossip and gossip inspired by hatred or fear have caused untold misery to others and given gossip its bad name, when it can be just an innocent and pleasant pastime. Gossip should be clean, and then it can add some spice to life without degrading it.

Celebrities have sometimes manufactured gossip about themselves and had them clandestinely circulated in an effort to remain prominent in the public eye. While such practices cannot be condoned, they will undoubtedly be continued to be employed by people hungry for fame or recognition. Hopefully, if we ourselves happen to become celebrities one day, we will steer clear of such desperate gimmicks.