Ladies and not-so-gentle men of the world, please keep the newspaper aside for a second and give an applause to Shivani. Oh, you don’t know her? So what, neither do I. But when you’ll hear what she’s going through, you’ll all see a bit of yourself in her. Shivani, like you is a regular reader of this column and sits nicely in the TF category- Trusting Fools. Please don’t mind Shivani, a lot of us are in the same boat as you. Trusting, because it’s a very nice quality in human beings, fools because we first allow others to take an advantage of our niceness and then torture ourselves regretting it.You see, Shivani’s problem is one of the most common stress factors around. If a friend asks her for money, she lends it. The friend mostly, and conveniently, forgets to return it. She feels terrible asking for it back, but does. The friend makes some excuse and forgets, again. She wonders if she should ever lend money to anyone again, but she does. And goes through the same I-feel-terrible cycle. In her case, the amount and reasons are relatively minor — someone asking for change in the college canteen, someone borrowing money to pay the autorickshaw etc. But a lot of people I know suffer from the next stage of this constant lending syndrome. They have friends, relatives, colleagues, business associates, asking for money in thousands. Of course with tales of how they’ll pakka return it when they get the next salary or the next payment. That ‘next’ often never arrives and strangely enough, it’s the lender who starts to feel embarrassed asking for his or her money back. Hota hai nah...bolo? What? Most of you are in the borrower category? I always knew that the abnormal and dysfunctional lot of the humankind reads my column, but you don’t have to make it so obvious. Chalo anyway, even if you are the one who borrows and forgets to return, I’m sure it somewhere sits heavy on your conscience. Let’s learn a thing or two from these calmness tips.
1 Learn to say the magic word: Not Abracadabra, genius. I meant ‘NO’. Itna simple hai, two piddly little letters, no scope of spelling or pronunciation mistake. And still the toughest for a lot of people to utter. We just can’t bring ourselves to say No - for the fear of looking rude, or selfish. I’m not asking you to turn selfish. I’m not even asking you to not help others in times of need. But deep inside, if you feel that a person has made a habit of asking you for money purely because you are an easy source, then you better learn to say the 14th and 15th letter of the alphabet together. There are, of course, ways of saying it nicely, and cleverly. A friend of mine is an expert. The moment someone asks her for money, she says, ‘Oh God, this is unbelievable. I was just going to ask you for some myself. I left the wallet at home.’ I suspect she’s never carried her wallet in her entire life.
2 Lend for the reason, not the person: This one’s tricky and some of you would disagree with me. But let me explain. The whole point of lending your money - pocket or earned - to someone else, is to help them out of a tricky situation. But often, we don’t base our judgment on how desperate or real the situation is. We decide to help the person based on how we feel about him or her. In doing that, we run the risk of that person taking us for granted and start expecting help at the drop of a hat. A guy I know politely refused money to a colleague when he wanted to pay his credit card bill for overspending on online shopping, but readily gave it when, on another occasion, the same colleague had to get his phone recharged to call his dad who was unwell. Focus on the reason, and you won’t contribute in making someone a habitual borrower. Of course, there are some who are totally shameless or dheeth, as we call them in Hindi. I’m actually one of them. I mostly borrow small amounts of money from colleagues when I order for food in the newsroom. Only because I feel too lazy to walk down to my bag in my cabin at a little distance. And, of course, several times, I forget to return it. But, you see, my reason is genuine. Human beings need food for survival. And also, I’m lucky to have a fairly large team. So, a different person ends up taking out the change each time, and no one in particular is impoverished. Okay fine, these are lame excuses. I won’t do it again. I’ll open a permanent credit account with the cafe. Heartless people, you :(
3 Golden rule: This one I have abided by all my life because I also have a tendency of lending money (only when I don’t have to walk to reach it), and not being able to ask for it back. ‘Never lend what you can’t afford to lose.’ This is the absolute, ultimate, truth. Before you lend money to anyone, always ask this question of yourself - Will I have a big problem if I never get this money back? If the answer is yes, please, for God’s sake, do not lend. The problem may not just be financial, it could also be emotional. If you’ll keep on thinking and killing your peace of mind about how someone’s not returning your money, please do not give it in the first place. Because my dear, some notes of any damn currency cannot and should not become a reason for spoiling your relationship with a person or robbing you of a good night’s sleep. So, remember the golden rule — Lend only what you can afford to lose. If you get it back, party. If you don’t, well, consider it God’s fee for opening your eyes for future.
Sonal Kalra wishes no one in her newsroom reads this week’s column. She doesn’t want to die of hunger, nor from exercising. Are you, too, a constant borrower or lender?
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