'They will not even let me send money home'

A frustrated Indian caught in a borrowing trap says he receives threats from 'loan sharks' and even attempted suicide.

Ravi Narayan found himself in debt last year after his business failed. After the global economic crisis, Mr Narayan, 53, who lives in Dubai and whose real name is being withheld to protect his identity, had to close his restaurant in Ajman. At the same time, a house he had bought in India was lost to debt. When he and his wife found themselves besieged by phone calls from banks and collection agencies, Mr Narayan turned to a loan shark.

He was desperate to pay back his wife's debts of 200,000 rupees (Dh15,000), so that she could leave the country and return to India with their children. Mr Narayan's debts in loans and credit card payments amounted to Dh50,000. "She left Dubai because of the torture from the banks," Mr Narayan said, adding that they were unable to negotiate a new payment plan. Mr Narayan stayed behind and borrowed Dh80,000 from five different lenders to pay back the banks.

"I had to take a personal loan from these people to pay the bank instalments," he said. "Because of my fault, it is a pathetic situation now." For every Dh1,000 he borrowed, he has to pay Dh100 in interest per month. "Nowadays, they threaten me," Mr Narayan said. "They come to my house and yell in front of the neighbours. They say they want to settle it now. The interest has exceeded the capital amount at this point."

After his restaurant folded last year, Mr Narayan was so overwhelmed by pressure from the banks that he attempted suicide and spent two weeks in a Dubai hospital. "They will not let me send money home even," he said. "I want to send money for my daughter's education, but they won't allow it." Mr Narayan said the loan sharks were well known in the community. He is still paying back his bank loans. After negotiating a new deal, the banks deduct an amount from his salary each month. He is left with Dh1,800, from which he has to pay at least Dh500 to the men who call and threaten him every month. "I have no savings," he said. "No house, no bank balance, nothing." @Email:sbhattacharya@thenational.ae