Most Gracious ILites, After relaxing with a romantic poem on the full moon, it is high time that we devote our attention to something serious this Saturday. Next only to the disease of comparison, what affects the women-community the most is the disease of gossip. Not that men don’t gossip, but that is a different story and needs to be attacked in a different context. So we’ll defer it for future discussion or better still leave it to be discussed by all males-sites. Gossip is talking ill about somebody in her absence. And the greatest problem about gossip is that we indulge in that destructive habit, even without knowing that we are doing it. I have watched on many occasions that the line dividing an honest comment and a pure gossip is so thin that it it is not visible to the naked eye. Why gossip is dangerous? Because I have seen it destroy many a wonderful life, many a promising career. Decades ago, there used to be a very powerful woman-leader in Tamilnadu Congress. I do not want to name her. She came from such a lineage that she was dubbed as an upcoming star and could have easily become the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. All changed because of gossip. She let out a very casual comment about the then Prime Minister Indra Gandhi. The comment was not sought from her; nor was she obliged to make it. She could not resist herself making it. That comment cost her her political career. She was sidelined and eventually thrown out of politics. And how much havoc is wrought by a mother-in-law discussing her dil with the servant maid or her friends in the temple! All these gossip give a leverage to perfect third parties who always take advantage of the weak situation prevailing in the home front. I read the most pathetic case on this subject two weeks ago. One lady told her neighbour, as they were gossiping in the late afternoon to while away time, that her husband does not ‘perform’ in the bed. A neighbour unless she is the most proven and trusted friend, is the worst person to confide this kind of things. But in this case gossip proved more destructive to the person who heard it than the person who told about it. This neighbour promptly reported about this ‘sexual weakness’ to her husband. Her husband appeared to just neglect this remark. But it was working on him. So he started a master plan to seduce his neighbours wife. And succeeded in it. The husband, the father of two, married for 7 years, then chose to run away with the neighbours wife. The eloped woman’s husband on hearing this, consumed poison and died. This lady is now left to fend her two children carrying the shame of the scandal. Two families ruined in one go. All due to gossip. I have seen many ladies clubs and associations ultimately crumbling because of the sheer force of gossip. Gossip leads to factions and people soon start focussing on mud-slinging, forgetting the work at hand. Of course there will be instances where we will have to complain about the other person. I have been following what I call as level of intimacy rule. I don’t complain about a person who is very close to me to another person who is not that close. Complaining will happen in the reverse direction. For example I will complain about my casual client to my wife; but I will never complain about my wife to my clients, or for that matter, anybody. Thus MILs can complain about their maids to their DILs but not the other way round. And if by force of circumstances we have to complain about someone really close to us, the best way is to go to a professional counsellor. And not choose some common friend for that purpose. I have seen this in business organisations. Some bosses love to listen to gossip; and soon an useless coterie develops around these bosses making all sincere and talented people to leave the organisation. What is the root cause of gossip? If you ask me I will say it is our inability to accept differences in people. Let me give an example. Suppose 50 ladies from IL want to meet in a common place. Lets say all of these people are from places like <st1:City><st1lace>Madurai</st1lace></st1:City> and Chennai. So the ladies will come dressed in sarees and chudidhars. Suppose one lady comes to the meeting dressed in a skirt. Take it from me the other 49 will wait for this lady to just move away a bit and immediately they will comment, ‘What is this, this 40 year old woman comes in a skirt? I don’t think she is of good character.’ Somebody else will support her and add their comments. Gossip will grow. When that skirt-lady approaches the other group, conversation will come to an uncomfortable stop. That lady will smell the fish. The harmony of the group is broken. The same treatment is meted out to ladies who converse boldly with men, ladies who drive large macho cars, ladies who drink… the list goes on.