The lender beware


We appear, as a nation, to have some difficulty recognizing the thing called a rule [plural: rules]. For a start, we cannot figure out why rules exist, and then, if they must exist were quite happy to accept them for others but not for ourselves. In a strange contradiction of this fact, we are always on the look-out for new rules to impose upon ourselves, and turn all kinds of things into rules, when theyre not. But once we grasp the fact that we have a genuine rule in front of us, we dont quite know how to deal with it: we try sidestepping it, subverting it, and when none of that works, we break it. It reminds me of the woman in a village who, faced with a toilet (the western kind) that was out in the yard waiting to be installed, ran her hand over it saying wonderingly, What is this? She walked around it, prodded it with her toe, tried to pull the seat off.then spat on it, and walked away.

An acquaintance spends much time and energy stressing the rules concerning correct use of the right hand and the right foot: the right hand when picking up things, the right foot first when entering the house, and so on. Her daughter, a left-handed child, has had her speech affected because mum insists that she should use her right hand for everything, including writing. Maybe it is because of this adamant pursuit of right that mum also drives on the right side of the road. Many a time our car has narrowly escaped being plowed into the ground by her at the wheel of her Toyota coming the wrong (? right) way from the opposite side. If this is confusing, her daughter must find it even more so.

In every civilized society there are rules saying that if you borrow something, you return it. However in Pakistans pinds this rule is not only disregarded, it is turned on its head: when you borrow something, you hang on to it. And when youve hung on to it long enough, it becomes the duty of the loaner to recover it. He does this by asking for it repeatedly, finally coming over physically and taking it back. Transport on the way back is his headache, not yours.

So back at our farm, we wage a losing battle against workers unwillingness to return items borrowed from other farms: a battery, a horse, a cow, a tractor. They want to keep it until the owner arrives in person demanding its return.

Sahab, aunaa tey ik var vi mangyia nayin! (But Sahab, they havent asked for it even once!), the farm workers exclaim, round eyed in astonishment at such foolishness, when my husband orders them to return a thing within the stipulated period of its loan.

This idea appears to be lurking in the minds of our rich and famous as well. After all, no one is long out of the pind as far as their qualifications for the job are concerned, in the upper echelons of our society and it is extremely plausible that they brought these ideas regarding loans along with them. Its just that the item on loan grows exponentially in expense with their wealth, which means that the lowly horse becomes a million rupees, and the tractor a loan worth a billion rupees, and so on.

Many heavy weights have been mentioned among some fifty of those who have defaulted on loans cumulatively worth billions of rupees, from the State Bank of Pakistan: The Gangjis, Habibs, Adamjees, et al.

Fears have been expressed that if action is taken against these people, it would carry serious implications for the country; that the economy of Pakistan will collapse as a result.

The economy will collapse if the people who are causing it to collapse are dealt with? To start with, just how healthy is the economy of Pakistan that it can hand out all this free money and sustain the loss of billions of rupees worth of dead loans? Other than the fact that thousands of businesses have already closed their doors due to power loadshedding, just how many legs is the economy of Pakistan standing on now?

Return the damn cow to its owners, for Gods sake, and let them carry on with their pitiful existence. Must the cow be milked until it runs dry and dies, along with all its dependants?

(By the way, Im kind of with the idea of getting eunuchs to stand outside the houses of these defaulters, clamouring for the return of these loans. Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and this at least has the advantage of providing some entertainment for the rest of us, if not the return of our money).