A very young friend of mine called on me the other day. It was a social call with a difference. “I am not here to enquire about your health,” she told me frankly. “I am here to give you an update on my health. So please let me gripe and vent my frustration.” Riddhi was angry, incoherent and very agitated.
The reason — a nosy parker colleague whose only mission in life was to dig up “all dope” on my friend’s life and times — the good, the bad, the ugly and yes, the juicy tit-bits. “Her single-minded obsession of me is driving me nuts,” complained Riddhi.
“I have encountered snoops in my time but this one takes the cake. She has an insatiable desire to ‘know’. And she pursues it with dogged determination. She sneaks a peek into my salary slip, looks over my shoulder and into my computer and reads my mail along with me!
She eavesdrops on my conversations, butts in with unsolicited advice, and finds nothing wrong or rude in asking deeply personal questions. Worse, she seems to know where I’ve been, with whom and for how long… It’s unnerving and very very unsettling. I feel hounded and don’t know how to deal with her probing questions and knowing looks. Help me, what do I do?” agonised Riddhi.
And even as I empathised with Riddhi and devised an effective strategy that would put an end to this intrusion in her 20-plus life, I couldn’t help but think that this was a situation we all encounter all the time in our lives. This, despite the fact that our teachers in school and parents, always cautioned us against such deviant behaviour.
“It’s rude to read other people’s mail, eavesdrop, ask a woman her age, a man his salary, rifle through a woman’s purse/handbag, ask the price of a gift, etc, etc ...” was dinned into us, and not without reason. Apart from the fact that it is extremely rude behaviour, it is most irritating to have someone read over your shoulder, pry into matters of little concern or interest to them, and worse, be brazen enough to ask questions on what they peeped into without your permission.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that a person’s private space is his own, sacrosanct, even if he is in a public place. Encroaching upon this space is sacrilege. And it does not include something as blatantly ill-mannered as opening someone’s mail.
It goes beyond subtler areas like peeking over someone’s shoulder, even if they are doing official or class work, overhearing a conversation between two people, or someone talking on the phone or joining a group of people, without their permission It’s very important to exercise self-control in a lot of situations where curiosity seems to get the better of you.