Friday, December 15, 2017

Make an ass of u and me

It was circa 1994, when one of my new colleagues, Amitava Chatterjee introduced me to the concept, “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me” 

I was addicted to wordplay and I loved it the first time I heard it expressed thus.

This was, naturally, a discussion on technical matters. We were constructing a fish-bone diagram. The most trusted tool in technical matters to cover your ass, a presentation, conceived and constructed, to convince the management that we were right on top of the things, that things are absolutely in control.

If everything were to be in control, you would not need to construct a fish-bone diagram in the first place.


The underlying message was, do not assume, look at data objectively, without prejudice, and do a thorough analysis to find the real cause.

It was common then, and even today, 23 years later, to see qualified persons making the cardinal error of confusing cause with effect.

I was so much impressed by the simplicity of the doctrine, that for many years I had this poster on the wall behind my desk, in my office.

As years rolled by, and with salt overtaking pepper on my cranium, I realised this is so much true to the social life as much as it is relevant to technical matters.

No. Make it more relevant to social life.

I have been a witness to brothers not on talking terms, parents distanced from their own children, broken marriages, destroyed friendships all due to this single malaise, assumption.

I like to compare it with cancer; just as it is invariably always too late when you diagnose cancer, so it is with assumption.

You may identify the assumption part, but never be in position to cure the damage caused by it. 

As with cancer, the effects are terminal, irreversible.

Before I try to explain the malady, as I see it, in current world, let me take you to another aspect of this problem. The powers of assumption have been harvested to its fullest by one of the most evil types to walk the earth; the manipulator.

The manipulator understands the powers of assumption. A manipulator is essentially a person who likes to control. A person with no interest in power, has no interest in manipulation. 

Feed the gullible with the well formulated manipulated manifesto, and Voila, the person is your slave forever. And what is more, you have successfully distanced two individuals.

Let’s start with M (a manipulator) playing the game of manipulation, using the tool of assumption, on an unsuspecting duo A and B.

In most cases, M, A and B are reasonably close to each other to start with.

M drops hints to B about “certain” things that A mentioned about B. It is always with a preamble, “please do not misunderstand me”, “I am actually embarrassed to even talk about this” and “for heaven’s sake do not go and ask A” and “please let this not change your behaviour to A” and the final twisted barb “maybe I misunderstood, do not take my word, you be the judge”

The basic human nature is thus, of all the options that are available at disposal, the one option that B will never do is talk openly to A or confront A and M together.

B starts viewing everything that A says with suspicion, jokes cease, doubts increase, absolutely normal occurrences take on monstrous hues. 

B loses the ability to smile and be normal. Driven to edges of paranoia, B starts imagining malaise where none exist.

Now is the time for M to approach A and start “am concerned about B”, “B is reacting too strongly”, “it is not possible to be casual with B around” and “you would not believe, just the other day B said….”

Both A and B feel they are obliged to M as it was M who brought the “disturbing revelations” that they were unaware of.

As A and B grow distant, become more formal, M basks in an achieved glory of staying close to both A and B, now separately, and feeding them the periodic fodder to foster their insecurities, rendering them a phantom anchor.

M achieving the “divide and rule” strategy will never work if A or B resort to the most logical and obvious of the options available to them, but 10 times out of 9 <πŸ˜ƒ> A or B or both will “assume” the worst and move on and apart.

Why M does this remains a mystery. The gains are insignificant. As a matter of fact, the “gains” whatever they are, are possible and much easier to reap in a collaborative atmosphere. If the “end” or the “gains” are not the main drivers, then the only possible aspect I can ascertain the behaviour of M is the “need to control” and the “obsession to stay in control”.

M likes “authority” and is never comfortable when the authority is questioned. 

Or when perceived as questioned.

In a convoluted way, I would stretch the theory that M uses “assumption” as a major tool, with cocksure certainty that the two being played with will never cross check and will always “assume”, probably on the “assumption” that M’s authority is being questioned.


To a neutral observer this will never make sense. 
People throughout the history fed on this insecurity and the “assumption gene” to achieve their ends with minuscule efforts. 

Be it Hitler and Goebbels spreading rumours about Jews to gentile, a white supremacist branding blacks as filth, people of one religious faith spreading suspicion about another in any communal riots, the Christian inquisitions, the persecution of any minorities, the lynching mobs, the list can go on………..

Having spent, a considerable amount of, time on one off-shoot benefactor of the malady, the M, let me now get back to the basic evil itself.

I reproduce a paragraph from earlier on, to relate to it, instead of making the reader scroll up to refer.

(It makes my blog longer too <πŸ˜„>)

I have been a witness to brothers not on talking terms, parents distanced from their own children, broken marriages, destroyed friendships all due to this single malaise, assumption.

Do the estranged brothers not look back?

Do the disillusioned parents not cast a forgiving eye in their autumn years?

Can the couples completely forget all their glorious moments?

Does not a friend revisit the good old free years, at least when totally inebriated?

All of them do.

But they all do with a vehemence that is frightening.

The adage “Time heels everything” falls F.L.A.T. here.

If the assumption is not blown to smithereens at the very first instant, it is already too late.

The intervening years only cement it harder, making it impassable, an ugly past forever stored away, never to be retrieved.

Like an old excel document that was saved with a, now forgotten, password.

The longer the separation grows, the more impossible it is to repair.

The growing sense of dread, “it happened once, what is the guarantee it won’t happen again?” combines with the most unpleasant sensation of “if I break the ice, the blame of all these years shall come to rest on me” and I give the other the chance to gloat (another assumption) “we wasted these many years due to your stupidity and pigheadedness” never will allow to mend one’s way.

One seeks comforts in such spoken wisdom “a broken glass can’t be fixed” “a crumpled paper never regains its crease” and yada yada yada

As a writer I have a responsibility to conclude. I am not one of the recent species of authors (books and films alike) I am frequently coming across who thrive on leaving a story open ended. 

What is one expected to do? 

“Assume” an ending? Compare with other idiots who do the same? And then enter into an argument as to which of the “assumed” ending is correct.


My conclusion:

Relationship by its basic nature is fragile. It needs to be nurtured, cared, tended and loved. It is not a plastic toy immune to disintegration. On the contrary, it is too fragile. 

If you want a relationship, start slowly, invest time, let it grow in its own pace, let the mango ripe in the tree, don’t try to ripen it by plucking it raw from the tree and burying it in a container of uncooked rice; and once the acquaintance and association blossoms into a relationship, let not even Armageddon try to shake it.

Mistakes are normal. 
Errors occur. 
Manipulators prowl. 
The best laid plans, often, go awry.

But what kills the relationship is assumption.

I “assume” I have been explicit.


  1. Wonderfully written, explained and concluded. Relationships are complex and at times even without out side inflence " assumptions" can bring in some bitterness, maturity of relationship is in swallowing this bitterness and continuing.