A large number of men and women, young or old are profoundly engaged in minding not their own but someone else’s business that includes backbiting, disinformation or anything based on malevolent. When such activity becomes a pastime, we call is gossiping. Gossip as a pastime is as old as the mankind itself and globally present in every society. Gossip is intoxicating so long as it does not hit back the gossiper and forgetting for a while that anyone who is gossiping to him, may gossip about him too. One needs to realize that if one cannot say a nice thing, then better is not to say anything at all. Bullet, fire or flood are softer sources of destruction compared to the tongue of gossip. Gossip has no wings but can fly and cross continents. You can douse an inferno but can’t prevent gossip.
Supersonic jet cannot overtake the tongue. It is lethal than flattery as the gossip is something done behind the back and not saying to one’s face while as flattery is said to one’s face and not bothered about in the absence or behind the back. Gossip is such a cruel story that runs on wheels and ironically every hand oils these running wheels. Admittedly, small minds discuss people and yet while no one claims to like gossip but everybody enjoys it.
In fact those who have nothing worthwhile to do in life, indulge in gossip as a convenient mode of interaction between the gossiping lot to whom, barber shops furnished a platform internationally in the past. It has been observed that barber shops have more been frequented by those who never required a haircut or shave to their face or head. Barber shops have remained one of the most convenient and sought after zone of the people who otherwise would not say things in their drawing or living rooms those they have been saying in barber shops without the fear of being judged or questioned. And barber always knew everything that went in the town and whichever barber shop one would visit, there would someone hanging around doing nothing but pregnant with everything that was going on in and around the town. Any conversation at the barber shop would somehow convince you that there was nothing else happening in the world except what was being discussed there. I have no grudge against the barber shop or the barber himself but the fact is a fact and I recall , in the society in which I live, barber shop was no different than what it was anywhere in the world. Here in winters, the gossip mill of barber shop remained in its full swing as almost all the barber shops would install an iron stove for warmth and that would be a great relief and attraction for gossipers.
Interestingly , the chatter around worked sometimes like an engine to the barber working silently on someone under his sharp equipment, which sometimes, gave a tough time to a customer not interested in gossip while in the chair and his barber suddenly suspending in between to participate in the discussion with the fellow gossipers sitting around. One only can have sympathy with such a customer, helplessly looking at his barber with his head wet from the water sprayed for the haircut and the same trickling down his face. When it comes to winters, gossip mill gains speed also granted by mosque Hmaams, where mosque goers sit more for warmth and gossip than any kind of worship or saying their prayers and hats off to those avoiding mosque hmaams for the fear of getting trapped in gossip and leave the mosque quickly after prayers. Besides the barber shops here, grocer’s and baker’s shop in deep localities also have remained a breeding place for evil talk. This apart, some newspapers have been running a formal gossip column too. And a place that we seriously miss, was a coffee house in Regal Square of Srinagar, a safe haven for the elite gossipers, where with every round of coffee, governments would form and fall according to their whim and caprice pluming their ego and deprivation. This was all about men and our womenfolk earlier had their share of gossip on the river banks on the pretext of fetching water and spending more time in gossip rather than doing washing or fetching any water. River bank friendship of this folk was described as YARBAL KAKINI in Kashmiri.
Now no such river banks or river bank friendships are seen but with education and jobs among women have enabled them to revive and relive the era of YARBAL KAKINI. Ironically, gossip has not been interfered with even after getting educated.
All the gossiping dens have now been replaced by the electronic social media, which has brought together the gossipers of the world. Its Facebook, messenger and WhatsApp applications no more require any barber shop, hamaam, river bank or work place for any kind of rumour mongering, character assassination, innuendo or evil talk. It has now become free for all. With the world progressing, gossip has also kept its pace. Though minding one’s own business would be more abiding.
(A leading lawyer and acclaimed poet, the author can be reached at: [email protected])