25 Sep

Issue 179 - Editorial

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Issue 179 - Editorial


Gossip is interesting—well.. to gossip about. Gossip is often a light informal conversation for social occasions. The subject matter is usually a juicy titbit or even a malicious report about the behaviour of other people. For most of us it is only a time pass activity.


One classification of gossip is (i) Private and (ii) Public. When it is a private gossip the person in possession of a juicy information or story will build suspense by cautioning the listener that the information was a secret that should not be shared with anyone else. Occasionally the listener will be given a limited freedom to divulge the information without mentioning the source.  The element of secrecy is a ploy for buying in the listener. It will automatically make the listener feel very special and close to the gossiper and he will all be ears. Attention having been assured, the narrator of the gossip will spin his yarn confidently. After all, the narrator is only looking for a credulous victim. Both the story weaver and his victim know that the demand for secrecy by the giver of the gossip and the assurance by the victim not to pass it on have no sanctity. Within minutes or hours the listener will in turn become the narrator and find another victim and the news will be spread effectively by the word of mouth.


A public gossip is one, which has already gone viral. If a private gossip is juicy enough to sustain interest with many victims under its belt, it has the potential to become widespread and ultimately hit one of the social media these days. To achieve this status, it needs a protagonist who is a public figure. For example one popular joke about Marilyn Monroe runs like this. She was asked by a friend whether it was true that she had absolutely nothing on while appearing in a public function and pat came the reply “Of course I had my transistor radio on!” Another related to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. Everyone admired him being fluent in so many languages, but few complimented him on his greater ability to keep silent in all of those languages!


Prime Minister Nehru’s liaison with Lady Mountbatten was a closely guarded secret for long except for occasional gossips in elite circles. The letters exchanged between the two were finally revealed and the truth was out thanks to the Lady’s daughter. Men unfairly blame women for gossips. Till recently, women were mostly confined to their homes. Their only sources of information were their neighbours, house help and friends in social gatherings. This ‘pass the news’ became contaminated and embellished as it travelled by word of mouth. The successive versions, aided by creativity and imagination, naturally became a spicy gossip.


Actually, men have not lagged behind women in gossiping. Big bosses in corporate circles are targeted by their disgruntled subordinates by gossips. The more successful executives also suffer at the hands of their less successful colleagues who plant all types of stories about how their success was achieved by currying favour and not through superior performance.


The celluloid world can take the credit for being the source of many gossips. The public thirsts for juicy stories about the stars and celebratory stars themselves launch gossips about themselves to stay in the instant memory recall of fans just before the release of their films. Page 3 editors, TV media and producers of film glossies seek such stories to stay afloat. Film sector gossip is big business. The normal plot for such stories is pre and post marital clandestine affairs. Cell phones, Facebook and Twitter are today market leaders in multiplying and spreading gossips across the world instantaneously.


In the political world, what was believed to be motivated gossip a few years or months ago has today become a chillingly true story. Reality has been found far worse than the earlier gossips. Look at Coalgate, 2G spectrum, Radia tapes etc.  The latest revelation in Coal-gate is evidence of arm twisting, threats and blackmail of top bureaucrats by ministers under the gaze of PM. 


Here is a sample of a hot gossip. A private limited company with the name of a huge desert has unlawfully gathered an astronomical sum. Its owner adopted the company’s name as his surname. Its strength came from its political connections since many politicians parked their black money with it for high interests.  Suddenly a regulator woke up and challenged it. Being too big and influential, even the Apex court has not been able to discipline it for over a year, since it is playing hide and seek.


Gossip and beverages go together as both are full of froth. The office coffee machine is a real hotbed of gossip. The tea shop in every nook and corner of India is the seat of hot pressed news that is mostly gossip. A cup of tea between neighbours over the fence or in apartment house corridors encourages the exchange of ‘today’s news’!


Where are you at this moment?