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The secret formula for a stress-free, long life is now revealed.
In January 2011, I had written a column about making a resolution that I shall not indulge in gossip. In January 2014, I want to slap myself for it. Nasht ho gayi zindagi in teen saal mein, saara mazaa hi chala gaya lifese. Of course, aspiring to have good values was the intent, but I never bargained for turning into Alok Nath! And on top of this self-invited boredom, I also compromised on my longevity, you see. Because as a recent study by the University of Michigan says in its report — which by the way I have framed and light agarbattis before, every morning — people, especially women, who gossip, live longer. Gossiping apparently elevates levels of progesterone; a hormone that reduces stress and makes you feels good.
Kya baat hai, University of Michigan, pehli baar koi interesting teer maara hai. Now, you see, whether I like it or not, I would have to gossip in the interest of science and research. And humanity. And divinity. And while on this trip, my mind has figured out some valid benefits of gossiping. But woh batane se pehle let me break my fast and tell you what I overheard coming from Chaddha ji’s house this morning. His daughter Bansuri was playing, I mean wailing. Not that it’s new, she’s been crying about pretty much everything ever since she turned a teenager. But she was crying out rather loud, so purely out of concern and sympathy (ha,ha), I went out to the balcony and heard this…
Bansuri: Daddy jiii, yeh dress poori nahi aa rahi
Chadda ji: Dress toh wahi hai, tum poori nahi aa rahi hogi
Bansuri: Mummy jiii, daddy ji mazaak udaa rahe hain
Mrs Chaddha: Inse kaho pehle apne shaadi waale suit mein poore aa ke dikhaayein
Chaddha ji: Us manhoos suit ko toh meine 10saal pehle lohri mein jalaa diya thaa
Mrs Chaddha: #$%^&**Y%#@
Phew! Thank God I could tell someone all this. If you have neighbours like the Chaddhas, AND you have the permission from University of Michigan to gossip, why would stress anyway come near you. Haan? So here’s why I think that research would have allowed us this oldest pleasure known to mankind…
1 Law of diminishing hatred: You see, the moment you gossip about someone, pangs of guilt overtake your mind. I’m not referring to the typical readers of this column, but this happens at least with most normal, good people.
That guilt suddenly makes you want to be all nice to the victim of your gossip. So without that person even knowing the reason for it, you go out of your way to be good to him/her. Dekha? The devi of gossip actually enhances goodness and bonding between people. Jai ho.
2 It is social work, in disguise: Gossiping about someone else’s bad behaviour is simply your way of warning everyone else about it. Toh aap toh charity kar rahe ho. Isn’t that supposed to be a noble thing? The other day two girls at work were gossiping about the behaviour of the office Casanova. Since I was Alok Nath at that time, I immediately went up to lecture them about the sanskaar of not gossiping, but before I could say something, a third girl who was overhearing them, also joined in and they realised that Mr Casanova had used the same pick up line on all three, pretending to be only interested in them. Bas! Girls safe and happy, Alok Nath ji chup.
3 Six degrees of separation: Whether you like it or not, gossiping is perhaps the best way to discover people who are exactly like you. Lifelong rishtey ban jaate hain ji, over gossip sessions. We all outwardly take a stand that we hate gossip mongers, but deep inside we know the thrill of being able to high-five a person whose mean-ness levels are exactly the same as ours. A person at work who is my gossip partner would know exactly what I mean. And you know what, people who gossip also have to be creative. Because you can’t excel at gossiping unless it’s told in an entertaining way. Mehnat lagti hai, talent bhi lagta hai, koi mazaak hai? Denouncing an activity that stimulates the mind at so many different levels is sacrilege.
Ab thoda serious ho jayein, just for a minute? See, I wrote all of this in good faith towards your sensibilities and intelligence. I hope you know the difference between malicious backbiting and relatively harmless, idle chatter. It’s easy to act Puritans and deny it, but I can bet my AAP jhaadu that there’s not even a single person who hasn’t done the latter, at some or the other time. I’m only asking for an admission of the truth here, as long as we are aware of our boundaries.
Spreading false rumours about someone with an intent to harm his or her reputation is not gossip, it is sin. The thumb rule that I apply to myself is simple.
I imagine a situation where the person I’m gossiping about, turns out to be standing behind me when I’m speaking. If I can still say the same thing about them playfully to their face, I’m doing okay. Don’t ever say anything behind a person’s back, that, if the need or situation be, you can’t repeat in front of them. And, finally, to the victims of harmful gossip. Dekho yaar, there’ll always be people in life who would love to see you fail, simply because they didn’t succeed. They’ll keep talking behind your back, but you’ve got to realise that they are ‘behind’ you for a reason.
Here’s a random, confusing, but golden advice, a la Chaddha ji — ‘Agar aap hi har waqt yeh sochenge ki log kya sochenge, toh phir log kya sochenge?’
Sonal Kalra is wondering if all the sweetness and goodness in trying to be Alok Nath, gave her diabetes. How will she handle a very long life now?