Never the one to be a brave, certified ‘gossip girl’, I always look forward to the times when I can catch up with the grapevine. There is no specific time for this kind of fun, but certain favourites prevail: at the end of the lunch hour/after long drawn out conference calls/lazy evenings after a hard home chores day/ after straight 12 hours of non-stop baby watching…
The attraction almost always lies in the mental titillation and ego-boost of being ‘one-up’ others. One-up those who are trying hard to hide something – “…Psst – everyday I see Amanda waiting for Prashanth for an hour till his shift finishes and she’s just got engaged to Rohit…” . “…And Mrs. Baweja, ‘woh Boutique wali’, did you hear how her son was caught driving at 70kmph in the colony?’. ‘Which one? the one with streaked hair?….shhsshh…”
Ah, and the extreme pleasure of being one-up those who are trying hard not to hide something. ” Did you get a look at our boss’s new BMW? He was so cheesed off coz we all gave it the royal ignore!”
So what’s the harm in a little gossip? In this dog eat dog world, it gives some comic relief and some justified venting of frustrations. “Gossip is survival networking man – you need to stay together to know what the top bosses are planning next” says a veteran of corporate power politics. “Gossip is literally my life-line” says a close friend who has to shift base every year thanks to a transferable job. “Whenever I shift, It takes a little time for me to get included, but after that I get to know everything from the do’s and don’t of my social circle, to the best schools and restaurants.”
The verdict is also long out on any gender bias in the tendency to gossip. Men gossip just as much as women and not necessarily on a different set of topics! So what’s the harm in a dash of gossip masala to spice up life?
Simply put, sharing information on issues is fine but talking behind someone’s back is monstrous. Usually we talk the truth, spiked with conversational vodka but it is on behaviour mostly taken out of context. Lest you think me too moral, spare a thought for entire industries which are thriving on gossip. Take leading newspapers for instance. In modern democracies, newspapers have had a historic role to play in nationalistic movements and despite the inroads by Television, stand for the educated, liberal and humane citizen of the world. But the paparazzi in the US and France is well notorious. And in India, many people will remember how a decade ago the TOI revolutionized sales by starting the film based magazine supplement, owing to which an entire generation is growing up in India reading about Sallu’s alleged violent streak, SRK’s ‘tryst with destiny’ and Khalid Mohammed’s take on the Big B’s acting, early in the morning. They are the saints of modern India (no offence to them personally, I like their work).
There is no one harmed, no one deluded in this gossip game except ourselves. For those little moments of high we righteously entertain thoughts of jealousy at someone’s success, feelings of superiority at another’s failure, sorrow for someone’s supposed grief and so on. And we loose precious moments of self-introspection and real peace. And it is well known that ‘those who gossip with you, will gossip of you‘. Sooner or later, in my experience, old gossip circles internalize and fall out with each other.
In conclusion, I would go totally with Albert Einstein who said, “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.”