“Our Father, … give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, … lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from all evil.” Amen
It was Spring of 1981. I was a practicing business and management consultant in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), India. One of the activities of my firm, consisting of three partners and a skeleton support staff, was to help businesses negotiate debt capital to expand their existing business.
Amidst many national financial institutions operating in Bengaluru those days, particularly fairly large nationalized banks providing debt capital, there were government-run financial institutions such as KSFC (Karnataka State Finance Corporation) which provided debt and sometimes some equity capital, depending upon the type and history of business and of course the credit history. Often political connection of the entrepreneur did weigh in. A part of my job was to figure out the requirements and particularly the hurdles to obtain loans and cut through the chase!
Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I had the owner of The City Tab, a weekly newspaper as my client. Mr. Tharakan, the owner-editor was well known for his excellent paper as well as his no-nonsense editorials. He was as much loved as he was disliked by many for his forthrightness and publicly-voiced ethical standards. In my opinion, despite annoying a few people, the weekly paper was very popular among the faithful readers and was a force to reckon with. It was growing in readership and needed more modern printing equipment but had no savings or resources of its own and had to look around for equity and debt capital.
A common friend had introduced me to Mr. Tharakan and I started working on the City Tab’s financial needs and figured out that the best source of capital for a small entrepreneur was KSFC! I set up a preliminary meeting with the point person at KSFC before preparing a formal loan application. One fine morning we met with the KSFC officer who after listening to the entrepreneur’s story and clarifying a few things, agreed to support and process the application provided it was well documented according to KSFC’s norms.
Well satisfied with our first round of meeting and agreeing to prepare the application as swiftly as possible, we took the elevator down several floors and were waiting for an auto to take us to the City Tab office. It was about 10.30 a.m. and the city, also known as the pensioners’ paradise, was picking up steam and the auto rickshaws were scarce around the KSFC office building facing M.G. Road (Mahatma Gandhi Road). While focused on getting an auto, I was also trying to avoid responding to a lame pan handler seated on a four-wheel platform; however, Tharakan was observant and opened his wallet and took out a rupee note and gave it to the lame person. Then he looked at me and said: “He is no different than us, you know; he is doing the same thing we did upstairs – begging for survival.” I smiled and nodded, agreeing with him.
Over the years, I have thought about this incident and have come to believe that we are all beggars!
We beg with God; and the universally popular Lord’s prayer (Our Father) is full of it! We beg with everyone. We plead, another way of begging, in court; we beg to differ with someone we dare not offend; we submit our petition to a government agency; we light candles to deities, supposedly God’s intermediaries, while making our supplications; we often say, “please” while asking for a favor or making or negotiating our way around! We may not admit it; but at the end of the day, we are all beggars whether we like it or not!