With good advice from a helpline, debtor is turning his life around

PA, 53, managed to claw out a debt trap with help from a social worker.

Salesman P A, 53, racked up debt on 14 credit cards and, after setting out a plan of action, is still paying back the money he owes. “I’m admitting this to warn people like me not to do what I did,” he said. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // Not all cases end in hopelessness, especially if those stricken with debts seek the right assistance.

One Indian salesman had 14 credit cards and Dh70,000 he owed banks six years ago.

He has since sworn off cards, settled bank dues and makes monthly payments to return the Dh8,000 he still owes friends and family.

This is a story of how showroom salesman P A, 53, managed to claw out of a debt trap with help from a social worker.

Working in Dubai since 1991, he invested in a business with friends in 2007. High costs caused the business to fold and they were left with bank loans to repay.

“From one card I went to 14,” he said. “I began using credit cards almost like people use visiting cards. I’m admitting this to warn people like me not to do what I did.”

He lost his job in 2008 and fell short of cash to cover his debt. In desperation he phoned into a radio helpline run by K V Shamsudheen and that call, he said, changed his life.

He was advised to stop using cards, to sell property in India, approach banks to settle amounts and tell friends and relatives about his situation.

“I was in a bad way. I thought until my death my debt will not finish,” said P A. “I got heart problems, pressure, tension. But when I stopped this plastic money, I got many ideas to rid the debt.”

A few banks waived some charges, while others refused. When approached for a response, the banks did not comment.

His wife took Arabic tuition classes and cooked Indian food that he sold to restaurants.

His children’s school also agreed to waive fees for terms when he could not afford to pay.

“I clearly told my relatives my trouble. With their help I finished paying one bank account at a time,” said P A who recently got a new job.

“Now I’m a zero card person.”

He focused on clearing his liability so it would not burden his family.

“I thought, ‘God don’t take my life without finishing my loans’,” he said. “I write everything in my diary and show it to my wife and children so they know how much is owed.”

After the shocking deaths of Indian filmmaker Santosh Kumar and his family this month in Dubai, Mr Shamsudheen, chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, and authorities have renewed calls to people to live within their means.

“I tell people that interest is a curse and extravagance is a sin,” Mr Shamsudheen said. “People come here to enjoy prosperity but if they commit suicide, then it’s bad for our society.”

Now when P A hears about a needy case, he finds 12 people to contribute a fixed amount per month to cover the family’s annual expenses.

“I help others because God has given me back my life,” he said. “Mr Shamsudheen gave me courage and told me not to think any bad thoughts.

“Suicide causes grief to others so nobody should do that. I still keep my first card in my wallet as a memory.”