Firestarter

Hooded person holding a lighter in front of burning house scary arsonist / who seems to enjoy arson / he should be in jail arson stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Denied loan, man sets bank on fire. News reports.

Spare a thought for Wasim Hazaratsab Mulla, 33, a resident of Rattihalli town in Haveri district, Karnataka. He had applied for a loan for an undisclosed sum from his friendly (or so he thought) neighbourhood branch of a nationalized bank. As is the way with bureaucracy the world over, the boffins at the bank processed his application, took their own sweet time over it, and finally informed the wretched man that his loan application had been rejected. And the reason given? The applicant, the above Mr. W.H. Mulla returned a low CIBIL score. As the press report blithely assumed all its readers knew exactly what CIBIL’s expanded term was, I tried to look it up. While the expansion of the acronym remains unrevealed, I was able to conclude that it related to a person’s credit rating. We are in the dark as to the criteria applied to determine a loan applicant’s creditworthiness, but we can safely assume that our friend Wasim didn’t quite make the cut.

That appears to be, in a nutshell, what transpired between the bank and its customer. Now most people I know, who are in dire need of some cash at less than extortionate rates of interest, lean on their banks to cough up generously from their swelling coffers. Provided, of course, the loan is to be used for some genuine workaday purpose – buying property, purchasing a car or a two-wheeler in easy instalments, sending your child abroad for higher education, a medical emergency – that kind of thing. The bank, in turn, wants to be sure you are not squandering the loan betting on the horses or going on a wild bender at the local bar. Hence, they ask about 150 questions, in very small, illegible print, to make sure you are on the level and have more than an even chance of returning the principle and meeting your interest obligations. Not to speak of painful issues like lien and mortgage. All this information is analyzed till the customer is blue in the face, to determine that the money will be returned in God’s good time. If the results indicate that the would-be borrower is not a risk worth taking, he is politely shown the door. At times, not very politely.

Which is precisely what happened in the case of Wasim Mulla. Since I am not privy to the precise nature of the reasons ascribed for rejecting his application, one will have to assume they were sound. Most people, on facing such a rejection, would have merely shrugged their shoulders philosophically as if to say, ‘Ah well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.’ They may then have approached some shady-looking money lender sitting just outside the bank, who can recognize a loser when he sees one. Which would have led to a successful deal where the interest burden alone would have led the borrower to take his own life at some future date. Mr. Mulla, however, was not having any of this nonsense. He was made of sterner stuff. He had, in his opinion, clearly done everything he could to satisfy the skinflint pen pushers behind their desks at the bank. Just the paper work involved would have driven most customers to distraction. ‘Vengeance is mine,’ cried the stricken man rather biblically. Deuteronomy 32:35. Romans 12:19. Those may not have been his exact words, but close enough.

Wasim Mulla went home in a dark mood and pushed away, untasted, the plate of chicken biryani his wife had lovingly prepared for him. This should have aroused her suspicion as to what had upset him and what might follow, but she knew better than to question her husband. The hour was late while Mulla planned and plotted. ‘That bank must be torched,’ he muttered grimly to himself. He then took with him a tin of petrol and a box of matches and stole out of the house at the dead of night, while his wife slept dreamlessly. He then crept up to the bank premises, broke open one of the windows, sprayed the petrol as far as his arm and wrist work would allow him, struck a match and threw it into the highly combustible gas. We have to assume no security guard was posted to challenge nocturnal marauders. The resultant conflagration caused extensive damage to furniture, equipment and sensitive files and documents. It would have provided ironic satisfaction to Wasim, as he scarpered from the scene of the crime, that his own rejection papers would have been amongst the records that were charred beyond recognition.

In attempting to make good his escape, the avenging arsonist was soon chased down, apprehended and brought to book by the local PC Plod. As I type these words out, he is doubtless being given the third degree, rubber truncheons et al, to understand what led him to resort to such extremes. On reflection, he could have gone back to the bank, sat down with the manager over a nice cup of tea, discussed cricket for a while and tried to sort things out. The manager might have even taken pity on him, after listening to his tale of woe, called his assistant who processed his file and asked him to take a relook. I realize that he might have been hoping against hope, but he should recall that unattributed quote ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Then again, given his choleric temper, patience might not have been one of Wasim’s virtues. Anyhow, he did what he did and is now behind bars. I have no idea how the interrogation went, but if I happened to be an inquisitive fly on the wall at the dank police station, I might have been witness to a fascinating conversation. Naturally the exchanges would have been in the flavourful local lingo, but I have to necessarily imagine it in my brand of English.

Police Inspector (PI) – ‘Right Mr. Mulla, I take it you have been read your rights and you know exactly why you are here at my station.’

Wasim Mulla (WM) – ‘Because I was not sanctioned a loan by the bank.’

PI – ‘No, no, that is why you set fire to the bank and was arrested. I am asking you, Mr. Wasim Hazaratsab Mulla, why you decided to flood the bank premises with petrol and throw a lighted match into the building, thereby causing great damage to public property.’

WM – ‘Because I did not have bombs or any other explosive materials.’

PI – ‘I am sorry?’

WM – ‘I should be sorry for not doing a more thorough job. I am only answering your question. I am a poor man and at my home, I could only lay my hands on a can of petrol along with a box of matches. I could not afford anything more lethal. I will try to be better equipped next time.’

PI – ‘Smarty-pants. Mr. Mulla, I am trying to be patient and polite with you, but you are trying me. This is no time to be funny. You are in big trouble already.’

WM – ‘Funny? Who is trying to be funny? I was not laughing when my loan application was rejected. What would you have done Sir, if you had been turned down like me?’

PI – ‘God give me strength, again with the loan application. That is a matter between you and the bank. Look, for the last time, arson is a serious crime and you could be put away for a very long time. You are lucky no one died.’

WM – ‘Lucky, lucky? Ha, ha. You are the funny man, Sir. I am crying here. I asked the bank for a small loan for my daughter’s wedding expenses, for which I had to fill 35 pages of a highly complicated form. I spent Rs.500 on a human shark sitting outside the bank to help me fill the form. Then they sit on it for four months and tell me I did not score enough points with CIBIL.’

PI – ‘You were trying to score with Sybil? Who is she? This is interesting. A bit of excitement and forbidden romance. And why is the bank interested in your love life?’

WM – ‘Now who is being the smarty-pants? What love life? Are you trying to confuse me? I know all these slimy police methods of interrogation. By the way, if you are the good cop, where’s the bad one?’

PI – ‘ I am the bad cop. There’s no good cop. You said you failed to score with Sybil? She could be an important witness.’

WM – ‘CIBIL is not a girl’s name, Sir. C-I-B-I-L. I don’t know what it stands for. Something to do with credit, of which I have been declared unworthy.’

PI – ‘Oh, I see. Now I get it. And you get this, Mr. Mulla. You are not worthy of my spending so much time on you, either. I will draft out a confessional statement and you can sign it. In triplicate. End of interview.’

As Mulla was taken back to the lock-up he asked the constable for a light. The cop handed him a matchbox, which the accused casually slipped into his trousers pocket after lighting his fag. There was a wicked gleam in his eye. Now if he could only find a way to smuggle in a can of kerosene.

Published by sureshsubrahmanyan

A long time advertising professional, now retired, and taken up writing as a hobby. Deeply interested in music of various genres, notably Carnatic and 60's and 70's pop/rock. An avid tennis and cricket fan. Voracious reader of British humour and satire. P.G. Wodehouse a perennial favourite.

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4 Comments

  1. Nice one, Suresh. Had Mr. Mulla consumed the biryani cooked so lovingly by his wife, he may have had a good night’s sleep and woken up to a bright new day.

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