Monday, April 13, 2009

The Ass in Assumptions

"Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make - bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake - if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble."

Lemony Snicket

This is a story which is more than half a year too long in the outing. I have always wanted to write about it but it kept slipping off my blogging schedule. In fact, I would have written it about a week ago if I didn't have to get a certain picture from Jo first.

It is a picture of my Aka - a colloquial name we used for our domestic helps back when we were in India - and I. I never did find out what Aka really meant, and I never did get her name either. Anyway, this is an important picture and is quite central to the incident I am about to reiterate for your benefit. All the main characters are in it with Jo, the third, being behind the camera. And the camera itself. We must not forget the camera.

This picture was taken before I left India last year.

The camera belongs to Josephine actually, one which I have gotten into the habit of borrowing quite regularly for my own purposes in the last months of my time in Manipal. My camera, if you recall, was murdered by a waterfall somewhere in the mountainous wild of the Indian North.

It all began when Jo's camera disappeared into thin air while it was in my room.

I am one of those people who never cracks under crisis. Whenever a problem arises, you'll never see me pray, despair or throw my hands up in surrender. Instead, you'll see me frown. That's what I do. I frown at problems till my mind works out a course of action I can follow. I believe that a person isn't lost until he stops walking.

So, I frowned at that empty spot of air on my writing desk which Jo's camera should be occupying, but wasn't. The last time I saw it was just that morning, right before I went out for lunch and an afternoon of reading at the Coffee Day in the library. Now, what happened in the intervening time? Think, Kok, think!

I wasted about half a minute trying to will Jo's camera back into existence with my eyeballs, and failing that, I wondered if the damn thing had somehow gone invisible (I swept the spot with my fingers just to be sure). Then, as my eyes pried and prodded the rest of my room, I noticed a disturbance in the creative chaos which typically permeates my room like the smell of unwashed laundry. That is, I could see my floor. It was usually concealed masterfully under my books, rough notes and clothes which still smelled sort of clean. That means Aka must have came by while I was out and cleaned the place. Da da dum! We got a suspect!

Aka was the only person aside from me who has total unrestricted access into my room and that's because I trust her implicitly. Call me a shiny-eyed idealist but I truly believe that there's a good person in everyone, and that we should always give this good a lot of room to grow. Besides, when she first started working for me, I remember setting up a secret test of character for her. She did much better than expected. In fact, she did so well that if it was an exam paper, she would have scored above 100%. So, I came to assume that she would not disappoint me, at least where her honesty was concerned.

It's a horrid feeling, finding out that your trust in someone was completely misplaced after all. It feels as if you've been cheating yourself all this while, but was just too dumb to realise it. Of course, how that feels like cannot compare to when you have to confront that person about it. It's like a lump in the throat that's too big to go down. I really didn't want to think that it was Aka. Sweet, unassuming Aka who goes to the store for me when my detergent ran out and invited me to her house for Diwali - who stole the camera. Honest, upright Aka who did not so much as pinched a single rupee from my room in the entirety of the two years she worked for me. But who else could it be? My room was built like a prison cell; grille on every window, and bolts as thick as lead pipes. No one without a key could have gotten in without powertools and without trace.

I decided on what must be done in five minutes because if there's one thing I do well; it's making hard decisions. I would ask Aka to "look for" Jo's camera for me, and tell her to put it on my desk when she does. I'll leave the room as usual so she could return it with as much of her dignity intact as possible and we could all pretend that nothing happened at all. I would also tell her that if I still could not locate my camera after a few days, I would have to make a police report and let them investigate the matter. Hopefully, the threat of lawful involvement would scare her into doing the right thing. It was terribly unfortunate, no matter how it would pan out. I have grown quite fond of her, and I have always been impressed by her integrity and character. She earned every penny by the white of her knuckles and the sweat on her brow, and she stuck to it. I paid her more than what she asked for monthly because I felt that she deserved it. Then, in the light of this theft, I felt as if I have never really known her at all. It tore her down to her ankles in my mind.

I did not plan on telling Jo about her camera yet though, because there was still a chance I could get it back. If I could not, it wouldn't make a difference if I tell her later anyway. I would have to buy her a new one using the money I saved for my new Panasonic Lumix TZ-15. Anyhow, I couldn't think of a single reason why she wouldn't be glad of getting a brand new clicker. I'm a pragmatist. I make plans and fix things. It's what I do.

Now, Aka comes to my place every third day - instead of every other day as was initially agreed upon in our contract because I didn't want to work her too hard (and also because I don't like to be disturbed too often) - and I was all prepared to put my little scheme into action. Only, I didn't.

I met Jo outside my room, just minutes before I expect Aka to arrive, and found out that the camera has been in her keeping all this while.

"But how?!" I spluttered.

"Aka let me into your room to get it when she was cleaning a few days ago," she explained. Aka cleans for Jo too and knows that she and I are good friends.

Then, I proceeded to tell Jo about how I nearly and very wrongly accused Aka of being a dirty, common pilferer, and about my contingency plans for recovering it or reimbursing her for the lost camera. When I finished, she was laughing her ass loose while I stood there scowling like the midday sky of Armageddon. I was pissed, but I didn't really have the right frame of mind to stay that way. That's because I was fucking glad. I was fucking glad I talked to Jo before I confront Aka. I was fucking glad that I didn't end up playing the nasty employer part and attacked a decent, hardworking woman for crimes she did not, would not commit. I was this close to utterly destroying all the goodwill between Aka and I just weeks before our last goodbye - this close to being just a bad memory and a bitter aftertaste.

It's strange how I dared assume her honesty back when I hardly knew her but I would entertain the contemptible and frankly preposterous notion that she could be a thief, even after the hundreds of times she proved her worth. There's a moral here in this story - possibly even several. If I have to pick one and tell you to remember it always, I'd pick the one about having faith in people, about trust.

What we risk, I believe, is much smaller than what we always imagine. What we stand to gain is so much more than what we dare to believe. I don't think you know what I mean. But that's alright.

k0k s3n w4i


Betsy said...

I read something from PostSecret before that goes something like this (if my memory still functioning well) :

My dad finally found the gold watch he lost eight years ago lying in his safe at work. We accused our maid of stealing it last time. She left crying. And she served our family for more than ten years.

It's good to trust people :) (to a certain extent).

- yuhhui - said...

Haha. i wrote a post on assumptions yest and wanted to post it up today. Looks like you did it first. XD

b said...

u sound like my dad in the title

fubi said...

i remember when i was a prefect in school, they made us memorize something they called the Rule Of Thumb. Rule no.5 was "when you assume you make an ass of you & me" xD i alwiz thot it ws kinda lame >_> they framed up the 9rules and made us recite it all the time.

Anonymous said...

my aka stole anything in her sight.
i suspect she even sleeps on my bed and use my comb

Dr.Vishaal Bhat said...

Its Akka and not aka... stress on the K. Akka means elder sister in Kannada. :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

Betsy: that's terrible. dad's always too suspicious of people.

yuhhui: haha, really? y haven't u posted it?

b: i expect i sound like a lot of old ppl in the title.

fubi: i was a prefect too. but i was pretty corrupted. why have power when u can't abuse it? :D

Anonymous: ur story sounds familiar. i think i know whu u are.

Dr.Vishaal Bhat: yeah, i kinda thought that that's what it is... but I daren't assume :P thank!

- yuhhui - said...

Hhaa. coz i'm having back to back PBLs and class tests. Blocks coming up! =(