A long chain of Goodness

December 2014

By Roshan Shah

Roshan Shah finds an ingenious and compassionate solution to the vexing problem of loaning money to supplicants

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry

 (Polonius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet)


I could make out from the way he walked up towards me and his smile that he wanted to borrow some money. Immediately – and before he could say a word – I told myself: “You have to say NO if you don’t want to be taken for a ride yet again. If he doesn’t return the money – which seems likelier than that he will – you’ll end up resenting him for the rest of your life. Why spoil things between the two of you? Remember Raja? He borrowed 500 rupees from you a month ago and seems to have conveniently forgotten all about it. Think of how that still rankles in your mind, how it has ruined your relationship with him. Say NO to Shanu, as politely but as firmly as you can. You really have to learn to say ‘no’ when you don’t want to say ‘yes’.”

All these words raced through my mind in just a few seconds as Shanu drew up to me and said, “Sir, can I borrow Rs 500? I’ll return it tomorrow.”

It was with great difficulty that I forced myself to say ‘no’ to him. After all, Shanu is a daily-wage labourer and has three children and a wife to feed, and earns just a tiny fraction of what I do.

I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to turn down his request, though.

“What if he really needs it, for an emergency?” I thought soon after I refused him.

“But why should he ask me for the money?” I quickly countered myself. “Can’t he take a loan from the office? I’m sure they won’t refuse – not a mere Rs 500. And, then, what if it’s not really an emergency? He may just drink up the money or waste it on something equally useless.”

“Poor man, he’s humbling himself by asking you for a loan,” a voice inside me retorted. “Why would he demean himself like that without a genuine reason?”

“But what if he doesn’t return the money – just like Raja did last month?” another voice boomed. “I agree 500
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