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Need to know basis

Osama would’ve fled Pakistan long ago if only the people there had our insatiable curiosity about others.

india Updated: May 03, 2011 21:08 IST

Here is a case of how lack of curiosity killed the cat. If people in Abbottabad had, like most subcontinental people, been consumed with curiosity, Osama bin Laden would have had to flee this safehouse long ago and thereby save his skin. But no, it never seemed to bother anyone that a gigantic mansion surrounded by high walls seemingly had no occupants or that the garbage was burnt on the premises. Had it been here, by now nosy neighbours would have popped in for a cup of sugar, found out how many children the occupant had, what his qualifications were and whether he planned to add to his family.

A journey on an Indian train is proof, if any were needed, of our insatiable desire for an information overload from the stranger next to us. The ploy is quite cunning. You will offer the victim a bit of your food. She may or may not accept, but either way you have got your foot in through the door. A barrage of questions later, the hapless traveller has told you everything about herself and a few generations before. Those of us who happen to live in apartments have to develop Navy Seal-like skills to evade our neighbours. But the exception to this penchant of being in the know clearly is on the wane in Pakistan where people seem quite nonchalant about others walking around with ticking bombs and building safe houses in busy localities.

Of course, some of this is rubbing off on its ally, the US. What else explains the singular lack of alarm at Mallika Sherawat turning up a White House correspondents’ dinner. Does she write under a nom de plume? Is she actually JK Rowling with a tan? Could her minimal clothing be designed to lull American security into complacency? Come on folks, ask a few questions here. If she had turned up at Pratibha Patil’s at-home here, we would have had her antecedents right up to the mustard fields of Haryana by now. So clearly, our brand of nosiness could be useful in saving the world one fine day. We can see a tall bearded man in the corridor, do excuse us while we go and check on him.