<%-- Page Title--%> Chintito <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 118 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

August 15, 2003

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Shhhh! don't tell a soul, but listen


‘Can't keep anything in his tummy' is a Bangalee adage that has none whatsoever bearing with one of our more common recurring ailments, the loose tummy. It pretty much refers to our inherited ineptitude inability to keep to ourselves what we hear about others. That does not necessarily mean we eat our words.

There is also the maxim that the stomach is erupting. Our increasingly popular status symbol -- the midriff pouch -- is not related to the storing of what we know of others, but frankly speaking, oops! For how long can you hold something in your tummy?

We should have had longer ears, (No! Mr. Spock was not a Bangalee) something like a tentacle that could intrude between any number of people to listen to whatsoever they were whispering about. The reason our ears remained short was because the contraption was not required, and in nature nothing unnecessary survives. Look at some of our political leaders.

Jewellers would have been happy as people would have a longer terrain to prick on earrings. But then jewellers have no regrets because people have discovered the most unlikely of places to prick on trinkets.

Even with short ears, it was never too long before someone who had heard something came to tell you what he had heard or thought he heard with of course the perennial warning, 'please don't tell anyone'. But your best friend or your husband or your wife, as the case maybe, is not just 'anyone'. Nor are your parents, and your brothers and sisters and your uncles and aunties and your scores of cousins and nephews and nieces and friends and their friends and even the man who you met at the local shop. So, spill the beans but make sure they do not tell anyone else.

No wonder then that we used to hear of military putsches even before the plot had begun to unfold. Little wonder also that our politicians see a conspiracy in anything done by the opposing party. For all you know, they have been surreptitiously let into the secret. And thereby came to be born the phrase, open secret.

Nothing marvellous either about the bazaar knowing for ages exactly when to and by how much to inflate the price before the finance minister makes his budget speech, concealed in his red old attaché case but from whom it has never been clear.

It has also been openly suggested that the real criminals are tipped off by insiders in the bahinis about a possible sortie on a hideout. Criminal or no criminal, if you hear a secret you should rush out to tell someone. Having moved out seconds before their arrival, it is not easy even for the fast-moving combined forces to apprehend any one of them. Everyone knows that a vehicle faster than a telephone call is yet to be invented.

Despite our lax belly, we are desperate to maintain the status of a secret and would do everything to keep alive other people's interest in it. Therefore, in addition to making sure the new recruit in the open secret game does not tell anyone else, we go around saying, 'I will deny if asked' or 'Tell everyone but don't mention you heard it from me'. As a nation thriving on the exchange of secrets we are unlucky not to have any grapevines.
Some people are so adept that if you want to spread the word, just tell them. The reputation of some of us is so high in this respect that they are often nicknamed Reuter, BBC, Bashosh, etc.

Not all secrets are edible (from Bangla 'khaay'). Some will fall flat; others will go a long way. To test the strength of a hush-hush all you have to do is time how long it takes for it to come back to you. The sooner it reaches you by another source the hotter it is. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), French General and Emperor was also aware of its speed and is quoted as having said, 'Secrets travel fast in Paris'.

We have this propensity to blame everything on someone else. The government will blame the opposition and vice versa. The minister will hold responsible someone lower for any mishap related to his ministry, be it a launch accident where unknown numbers have perished, or the accidental discovery of Taka fifty thousand in counterfeit bank notes in khod Bangladesh Bank. In regard to secrets spreading like wildfire, we will also blame something else like walls having ears. Imagine how ludicrous they would look.
Despite everything, what's the nirmal anondo of knowing a secret until the world knows that you know a secret?
Now to let you all on to some secrets being passed around:

The US forces are looking for Saddam in the wrong places.

There are underground tunnels connecting all the ponds in Bogra to a foreign manufacturer of bullets.
Some one hundred Taka notes are also fake but none have been identified.

But please don't tell anyone.


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