Two plus two equals five

“You’ll be sorry to hear that Meenakshi is down with Alzheimer’s,” said Anjali in the course of a casual conversation. I was stunned. The last time I met her, Meenakshi was in the pink of health, and her suddenly developing Alzheimer’s seemed a singularly cruel stroke of fate.

Bad news travels fast, and it was not long before I heard the same sorry tale from several other sources, now embroidered and replete with details of how the illness had been identified, how the family had been devastated, and so on.

I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when a few days later, I spotted Meenakshi at the club with no visible signs of any illness, leave alone a dreaded disease. Wanting to display utmost discretion and maturity, the very subject of health was judiciously avoided. Instead, we exchanged notes on the usual topics of children and grandchildren, the weather and so on. Our conversation was completely normal. How, I wondered to myself, could Meenakshi be suffering from Alzheimer’s, and still remain so cheerful, and look fresh as a lily as well?

Not many days later, I met Meenakshi’s daughter, and enquired outright about her mother’s condition. “Aunty, Ma has never been better, and in fact where memory is concerned, she can put all of us to shame. This is a classic case of an innocuous remark being blown completely out of proportion. You see, one of Ma’s friends had invited her for lunch to celebrate her birthday, which was some three weeks later.

“While accepting the invitation, Ma had requested her friend to remind her a couple of days before the event, lest she forget the same due to the passage of time. ‘Moreover, I am sure I have Alzheimer’s’ she had added jokingly. That innocent remark, meant to be funny, was taken literally. Within a few hours, the story was doing the rounds, with each person adding a little spice to her version.”

As the saying goes, two plus two often equals five. For example, a newly married woman, who perhaps overate at dinner, says she is feeling sick, and the news spreads promptly that she is pregnant. A loud and heated argument takes place between a couple behind closed doors, and the nosy neighbour announces confidently that the couple is heading for a major split.

A married man gives a lift to his attractive neighbour out of courtesy, and sure enough a torrid love affair is going on. A young man working in a call centre and maintaining unearthly working hours, is surely involved with the underworld!

One needs to be extremely cautious while indulging in gossipy tête-à-têtes. It is best not to jump to conclusions based on half truths and without ascertaining the real facts, as even innocent hearsays can sometimes cause untold misunderstanding and confusion. While idle chatter is bound to occur, especially between ladies, one should be on guard as far as possible.

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