A Clever Banker

Manichandar was a very successful banker. Whoever approached him for a loan never went away empty-handed. Manichandar was an excellent judge of character, so there may be some truth in the saying that he never incurred a bad debt.

Now in a neighbouring village was another banker named Jagadesh, who was by no means as ‘successful as Manichandar, no doubt due to his dubious business methods. Nevertheless, Jagadesh could not understand how Manichandar could rapidly expand his business when he lent money to all and sundry without demanding security.

Ultimately, Jagadesh’s curiosity improved, and he resolved to find out exactly how Manichandar conducted his business. So he went and. saw Manichandar and requested a loan of a thousand rupees. Manichandar had heard plenty of stories about Jagadesh and his shady methods in lending money, so he was naturally curious as to why Jagadesh should come to him for a loan. Indeed there was some trickery behind this.

Anyhow, he agreed to loan Jagadesh the money on the understanding that the loan, plus interest, would be repaid at the end of a year.

A year passed, and Manichandar sent Jagadesh a note demanding repayment of the loan plus the accrued interest. Back came a letter from Jagadesh, regretting that he could not make any payment because he had to buy a lot of mango seedlings for his orchard.

On reading this, Manichandar merely shrugged his shoulders and recalled that old saying that patience was a virtue. At the end of the second year, Jagadesh again replied to Manichandar’s demand for repayment, expressing his regrets. Still, unfortunately, so far, he had been unable to buy the mango seedlings he required.

Manichandar could see that this would go on year after year, as Jagadesh had no intention of paying unless he was forced to. But he waited another year to give Jagadesh enough rope to hang himself.

Then he sent Jagadesh a charming invitation to attend a religious ceremony he was performing. But sly Jagadesh thought that if he heard, not only would Manichandar ask him awkward questions, but all the village might get to know he had not paid his debt. So he sent his mother to represent him at the ceremony.

When the mother arrived at Manichandar’s house, she was shown to the best guest room, and when they were alone, Manichandar told her that he must speak confidently. “Mother,” he whispered. “I have to explain to you that your son took a loan from me three years ago, and as he cannot afford to repay the loan at present, he has sent you here as a pledge against the loan. Now if this story got out, your son would be disgraced. The only sensible thing to do is to keep the affair secret by you remaining in your room and seeing no one. I will see that you have every possible comfort.”

The mother had no alternative but to agree, but inwardly she cursed her son for this sorry state of affairs.

Next, Manichandar started a lot of rumours that the mother of Jagadesh had visited him, and they had quarrelled violently. By mischance, he had struck the woman; she had died and had to be secretly buried. In no time, these rumours gathered momentum, and ugly stories soon reached the ears of Jagadesh that his mother had been most foully murdered.

Jagadesh immediately set off to Manichandar’s house, and when he arrived there, Manichandar happened to be sitting on the porch. Without waiting to descend from his conveyance, Jagadesh shouted. “I have come to collect my mother.”

Manichandar slowly made his way to where Jagadesh was standing. “Your poor mother,” he murmured. “I am afraid it was a stroke.”

“Do not lie to me,” shouted Jagadesh: “You killed my mother because I did not pay my debt.”

“I must confess,” Manichandar said quietly. “It will be as difficult for me to produce your mother as it would be for you to produce the money you owe me.”

By this time, a crowd of gaping villagers had gathered, avidly waiting to hear more gory details about all those rumours they had heard.

Turning to the onlookers, Jagadesh cried out. “You heard what he said. I will return with the money I owe this wretch before an evening. Let him then produce my mother. If he does not, I will have him charged with murder.”

Towards dusk, Jagadesh returned and was pleased to see that the village was there waiting to devour the next episode in this melodrama.

Flinging a bag of money at Manichandar’s feet, Jagadesh shouted for all to hear. “There is your money, complete with interest. Now produce my mother.”

With a sly grin, Manichandar picked up the money bag and quickly went into his house, reappearing promptly to lead Jagadesh’s mother by the hand.

“Here is your mother,” he said.

Jagadesh was struck dumb. So were the onlookers. Without a word, Jagadesh took his mother and left the village, bitterly realising the shrewdness of Manichandar when it came to money matters.

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