This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.

I am sure you have lent something or other, some time or other to somebody or other, during your lifetime.  Have all the lent out items come back to you? Very unlikely.  Some would seldom return to you.


On several occasions I never got back my match box when I used to be a smoker years back.  The borrower would light up his cigarette and put the tiny 'fire box' inside his pocket, turn about and walk off without a second look at you forgetting that what went inside his trousers  was not his property.


Books borrowed more often than not won't come home to you.  They are not homing pigeons, so to say.  You might get some of the magazines back if you are lucky.


Lending money to a friend is a different matter. I have no experience on this game because I rarely had any extra money to spare.  If you are a rich guy, tell the world what you have gone through on 'money lending'.  If you are a hand to mouth type person, you can refuse the  loan  bluntly without any  embarrassment whatever.


But, you would develop a soft corner for some persons if the item asked for is of a throw away value.


A ballpoint pen used to be a very cheap article some years back. It was so cheap that one didn't mind tossing it away once the ink finished and go for a new one..


BPP is a famous item on the 'lending/borrowing' list as well.  A borrower would never feel uncomfortable to ask for it and you as the owner would have no hesitation of any kind in lending the material.


I used to clip around six of different hues in my shirt pocket to make the row look like a rainbow.  It was a very colorful sight indeed and you looked very graceful and dignified, too, because the myriad colors attracted admirers. Oh no, they were not admirers but borrowers inside a bank.  I have always wondered why people come to a bank without a writing utensil.  No bank gives you money on verbal request; they always want a piece of written paper with your signature on it.


Two customers came one after the other to borrow a BPP from me. I obliged them. When it was time for me to return home, I found only four in my armory. Two were lost.  How could I retrieve the two when I didn't remember the face of the borrowers?


Then, the price of BPPs was shooting up.  I couldn't afford to keep too many. I even decided to go out with an empty pocket.  This turned out to be a liability.  While traveling or gazing at the sky, you develop some ideas or get a brainwave to write an article or short story or an excellent opening sentence very clearly flashes on your mind.  By the time you reach home, you discover that the great ideas had vanished into the thin air. Then, you would feel completely helpless and curse yourself.


So, carrying a BPP became an imperative along with a few sheets of blank paper to jot down anything of value that crossed your mind immediately.  Whether you have one BPP or half a dozen, borrowers would be always after you.


And I just could never say 'no' to any one who asked to use my BPP.  It was a very kindly thing to do also. But, the fear of losing it, always forced me to stand near the borrower and take back my possession as soon as he had finished his job. In spite of such security precautions, I had lost two or three over two or three weeks, because I got distracted by some occurrence and the borrower had infiltrated into the thick crowd.


One day at the rail reservation office, while I was standing guard at my BPP,  the usurper  was asking me all kinds of questions about his train journey   as if I was an expert on rail matters. I answered him to the extent I knew. When I couldn't answer a tricky question, he exclaimed, "Oh, you don't know?" and rushed out to the display board to find out the information - and that was the end of my grand BP.


Unable to stop the habit of sporting at least one  BPP in my  pocket,  I decided to turn  into a  kind of  sadist.  Instead of refusing to lend your single valuable BPP, why not give the careless customer a dead pen just to annoy him or teach him a lesson while your good pen was securely tucked inside your trouser pocket out of sight?


"Sure," I said and passed on the BPP to a middle aged man.  He collected it, shook it a few times, and when the dead pen refused to write, he turned around and said, "Can't you keep working pens with you?  Here.  Here is a rupee.  Go and buy a refill. OK?"  I didn't know whether to cry or laugh.


There are some perpetual borrowers or should we say that borrowing a BPP is their natural habit?  Having drawn my attention inside the bank he said, "Sir, sir, may I borrow….."  I pointed at the pen that was standing upright from his own pocket. He lowered his eyes and, to his horror, sighted his own BPP staring at him.


On another day  I said,  "Sorry,"  and turned to go.  This man stopped me. "Listen, do you expect me to go home all the way and fetch my own BPP while one is readily available  in your pocket?  Give it."  His tone was very threatening.  So, like an obedient school boy, I handed it to him with a request, "Please return it as soon as you have written out your cheque."  "Of course," he confirmed and continued. "Who do you think I am?  A BPP thief? "He was good enough to hand back my pen and also said a big 'thank you'.   

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                                                                Israel Jayakaran  [Sweet grace]