Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thoughts-Changed times

In today’s world of ‘might is right’, I am reminded of an incident about sixty years back. Aslam Khan was a well to do trader who used to supply some raw material to Lala Kirodimal’s factory. Kirodimal, a god fearing man, fondly called Lalaji by one and all, was a real wealthy man. Though Aslam regularly supplied material to Lalaji’s factory, they both were not in personal touch as all Lalaji’s business and other interests were being looked after by his trusted munim (manager), as was the practice prevalent in Marwaris those days. In fact, munimji knew much more about business dealings than Lalaji himself. Every body dealt with munimji and Lalaji rarely came into the picture.

So, Lalaji was surprised one day, when he received telephone call from Aslam Khan at his residence. Aslam introduced himself and said: “Lalaji, there is a small request.”

Lalaji: “Yes, of course, what can I do for you Aslambhai?”

Aslam ventured: “Lalaji, I have supplied material to your factory worth about Rs. six lakhs (more than a crore in today’s terms). The payment is not yet due. It will be after a month. But there is an emergency. If you can accommodate this payment now, I will be obliged. I also offer you what ever discount you suggest for this pre-payment.”

Lalaji: “Yes, I know all about your supplies. Well, no problem, I will ask munimji to send you your cheque right now. But Aslambhai, your voice sounds troubled. If this emergency is not too personal, can I do anything else for you?”

Aslam was surprised that Lalaji even knew that a supplier named Aslam even existed. But Lalaji’s mild yet grave and controlled tone gave some confidence to him. He knew Lalaji to be a man of principles. Never once, in his years of dealings with Lalaji, his payment was delayed. On due date, whether he went at nine in the morning, or seven in the evening, he never had to wait for his cheque. It was always ready. So he opened up.

Aslam: “Lalaji, my own supplier, who imports this material, has come from Delhi without any intimation. My payment to him is also not due. But while here, he saw some property and decided to invest. All of a sudden he came to my office and asked for eleven lakhs within a day. This amount is not big for him but he doesn’t understand my limitations. Of course, I can refuse payment as it is not due, but I don’t want to. For one, he is very reliable and another, he has never bothered me in the past for payments. Now, yours is the biggest bill of six lakhs. Now that you have given me solace, I will contact two three small dealers and hopefully I will be able to pay eight-nine lakhs, if not eleven. If you had not accommodated me, I would not have ventured to contact others. So Lalaji, I am really grateful and once again request you to deduct discount ten percent or even more for the pre-payment.”

Lalaji: “Aslambhai, I understand. You don’t have to call others. Send somebody your trusted, to my residence for eleven lakhs you require. Since you want to accommodate your supplier, better make a job of it. As far as your offer of discount is concerned, please remember that I am not making payment of your bill. It is still pending and you collect your cheque on due date. So there is no question of discount for pre-payment.”

Aslaqm: “Thank you for your trust, Lalaji. But don’t make the payment of my bill. Adjust it against your loan. The balance five lakhs, I will arrange as soon as possible. And I will personally come to your residence to sign whatever papers you want me to sign.”

Lalaji: “You are welcome. But there are no papers to be signed. This is not an official deal and it is on trust. And yes, you collect your cheque on due date otherwise I will have to explain several people in accounts department in my office as to why we are stopping your payment. Aslambhai, we both are seths (owners) of our businesses in our own right. Why should juniors know about dealing between two seths? Let our fists remain closed.Let it be business as usual.”

Aslam: “Lalaji I don’t know what to say? I never expected you to know that I exist. How can I ever repay?”

Lalaji: “Yes you can. I have heard that a very tasty Rabadi (Indian sweet) is available near your office. When I have an occasion to pass your office, I will drop in. You can get me that Rabadi to eat and we are quits.”

NOTE: This incident occurred almost a decade prior to my father narrated it to me almost fifty years back. My father was close to both Aslam and Lalaji as he was an insurance agent to both of them. Such was the generosity in those days.