x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Suicide seemed the only way out after business betrayal landed Indian expatriate with a massive debt

Anil, a 46-year-old father of two, arrived in the UAE in 1984 and initially worked doing odd jobs for an Arab household.

Anil rocks back and forth gently, his hands clasped behind him, casting wary glances at the people walking by.

He is nervous about running into someone he knows, but, nevertheless, ready to tell how he fell into debt – and how the stress and tension of being duped by his boss, abused by his sponsor and harassed by illegal moneylenders drove him to make two attempts to end his life in 2011.

Anil – not his real name – a 46-year-old father of two, arrived in the UAE in 1984 and initially worked doing odd jobs for an Arab household.

Hoping to earn better wages, he began training as a tailor and paid Dh7,000 for a visa to the Indian owner of a tailor shop.

It was the first time he had borrowed a large sum of money, and he pledged his wife’s gold jewellery to an Indian bank.

For 12 years his monthly salary of Dh 200-300 was barely enough to cover living expenses.

In 1999, Anil decided to purchase 49 per cent of the business owned by his Indian boss, and was assured that the local sponsor had been informed of the deal.

He borrowed Dh7,000 from friends and pledged more of his wife’s jewellery.

“I bought the shop, and business was OK, then the local sponsor of the shop turned up and said the shop was his and I had no right to the shop, so I should leave.”

For then on, Anil claims he was harassed by the sponsor on a regular basis.

The only way to end it, he was told, was to pay the man Dh18,000 to transfer sponsorship.

Following a friend’s advice, he borrowed Dh12,000 from a money lender and agreed to pay Dh1,200 as monthly interest. He borrowed the rest from friends.  

“Nothing worked out as I hoped,” he says. “I was only able to pay off the interest and couldn’t send any money back home.”

By March 2011, Anil owed Dh61,000. His visa and business licence had expired and the rent was unpaid. He was unable to pay his children’s school fees or even daily expenses, and his wife still knew nothing of his debts.

Moneylenders were appearing at his door and harassing him over the phone. They threatened to humiliate and shame him publicly.

“I didn’t think I could get my life back on track. There was no way I could pay these debts,” he says. “There was no one to help me.”

One night, as his friend lay sleeping in the same room, Anil tried to hang himself from the ceiling fan but was not strong enough to kick the table from under himself. After several attempts it overturned with a crash, waking his friend.

After that first suicide attempt, Anil says he was offered false promises of financial help, and then tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t know how to end my life, so I switched off my mobile phone without having eaten for days and locked myself in my room,” he says. “I think I was in there for four to five days. I did it with the intention of dying.”

He was saved when his landlord broke down the door. Friends then directed Anil to K V Shamsudheen, who offered him advice. Strangers donated money to help him pay off his most pressing debts.

Two years later, Anil feels better equipped mentally to deal with adversity but still has debts of Dh17,000 and a bank loan of 400,000 rupees (Dh22,400) in India.

Thankful to those who had helped him, Anil admits his pride had prevented him from confiding in others sooner.

“Never think about suicide,” he says. “We must tell our difficulties openly to someone, anyone.

“Someone will be there to help you. Someone will come to your aid.”