Small Business Loan


Yusof bin Othman ~ Loans Manager
Saiful Bahri bin Abdullah ~ a Customer
Nuraimah ~ a Clerk Office Boy
Voices: Catharine ~ Bank Secretary
Robert Tan ~ a Businessman
Non-speaking ~ Office Boy

Midafternoon. A modern office in a Kuala Lumpur bank. The room is well done up with an attempt at some traditional Malay decor: Most of the arrangement is standard, modern, and nondescript. The Loans Manager, Encik Yusof bin Othman, who is in his mid-thirties, is fairly good looking and a typical modern Malay executive. He is well dressed, in Western clothes shirt sleeve and tie. His coat is hanging from a hook. When the lights come on, Encik Yusof, at his desk, is engaged in a telephone conversation with Mr Robert Tan.

YUSOF : Well, that is worth trying then. I always thought that the Bunga Raya Massage Parlour on Jalan Kelang gave the best service. You know-lah, these small places away from thte limelight. They are usually better, you can get almost anything you want. Those in larger hotels are far more cautions. You see they have a reputation to uphold. But even there, if you have influence, or if you are a V.I.P. they can make anything available. (There is a knock on the door.) Looks like someone wants to see me. Come in.

Encik Saiful Bahri, about fifty-years of age, and dressed in baju Melayu and sarung enters. He has a serban on his head and carries a bundle, containing odds and ends.

SAIFUL : Assalamu Alaikum.

Yusof merely nods, and continues his conversation.

YUSOF : Ya, maybe one evening I’ll go along with you, especially if, as you say, you are willing to introduce…(laughs). I think I’ll call back some time. And remember, I am serious about that introduction, you know (laughs). Okay Robert, Bye for now.

He replaces the receiver. Encik Saiful has been standing, waiting for the telephone conversation to end. He looks somewhat embarrassed and out of place in the modern airconditioned office. Encik Yusof eyes him cautiously, is unimpressed, but attempts to be civil all the same.

YUSOF : Yes, what can I do for you, Pak Cik?

SAIFUL : Tuan, my name is Saiful Bahri.

He approaches Encik Yusof and offers his hand, which Encik Yusof, surprised, takes.

YUSOF : O, Encik Saiful.Selamat datang. What can I do for you?

Encik Saiful is still standing near the Manager’s table, and since Encik Yusof does not make any effort to offer him a seat, he cautiously pulls out the chair and places himself on it and his bundle on the floor near him. He then waits. Encik Yusof fidgets with certain papers on his table.

SAIFUL : I…I came about a loan application, Tuan.

YUSOF : Loan application? What kind of loan did you have in mind?

SAIFUL : Actually, Tuan I have already submitted the application form. At your Segamat branch.

YUSOF : I see, and…?

SAIFUL : Several months have passed, and I have not heard anything. Your Segamat manager suggested that perhaps if I visited you in Kuala Lumpur…

YUSOF : I see. So you come in to see if things can be speeded up a bit.

SAIFUL : Y…yes Tuan. Speeded up. I would be much obliged, Tuan. You see…

YUSOF : What kind of loan are we talking about, Pak Cik?

SAIFUL : Its a small business loan, Tuan. I have the reference number here on this letter I received from your Segamat branch, acknowledging receipt of my application. As you see, it came in November last year, Tuan, and its already June…

He hands over the letter to Encik Yusof who takes a look at it.

YUSOF : Ah, a RM10,000.00 loan to start a small business. What business do you have in mind, Pak Cik?

SAIFUL : A small motorcycle repair shop, Tuan.

Encik Yusof picks up the telephone receiver.

YUSOF : Hello, Catherine, can you please send someone in with the file for application No.SBL/33216/1980/i please. Thank you. It shouldn’t take too long to come in, Pak Cik. Why didn’t you call to make an appoinment? It would have been more convenient.

SAIFUL : Appoinment, Tuan? Sorry, but I had come to Kuala Lumpur to visit my daughter, and so I thought I’d take the opportunity to see you regarding my loan as well. It was a sudden decision, Tuan. You see it will save me a trip, you know. Your Segamat manager, Encik Lathif…

The door opens and an extremely pretty clerk brings in the file. Encik Yusof immediately takes note of her name on her name tag. Nurimah. He ogles at her unashamedly and Encik Saiful is obviously embarrassed. She hands him the file, he touches her hand deliberately and when she looks him in the face, he winks. She leaves and he watches her go, taking in her figure which, in tightfitting sarung kebaya, is ravishing. All this is of course, noticed by Encik Saiful, who does not know how to react.

YUSOF : Thank you, Nurimah. I see, you were saying…

SAIFUL : Encik Lathif, your Segamat manager…

YUSOF : Yes, I remember now. He asked you to drop in here to speed up things a little.

SAIFUL : Yes, Tuan, speed up…

YUSOF : Now, let us see. Your name is Saiful Bahri bin Abdullah, and you come from Kampung Merbuk. How far is that from Segamat, Pak Cik?

SAIFUL : Not very far, Tuan. About five and a half or six miles. Nowadays they talk about distances in kilometers, but I still think in terms of miles, being old-fashioned. I don’t understand all this kilo-kilo business (attempts a laugh).

YUSOF : And this car workshop, I mean motorcycle workshop you intend to start. It’s going to be in Segamat town, I notice. You have already found a suitable place, then?

SAIFUL : Yes, Tuan, I found a premises in September, two months before the application for the loan was made, and have since been paying rent without actually using the premises. RM120.00 per month.

YUSOF : You have been paying rental for the past ten months? But why? That’s a lot of money wasted, surely.
SAIFUL : Yes, Tuan. Lots of money. The shop is at a good location. Not in the heart of the town, but good enough. I have the front portion. The back section is rented out to a jam factory, which uses it as a storage area. I was afraid I couldn’t get another suitable place if I did not take up this one.
YUSOF : I see.
SAIFUL : Besides, Tuan, Encik Lathif assured me the loan wouldn’t take more than a month or two…
YUSOF : (Still going through the file) Actually, Pak Cik, there’s a slight problem here…in this application of yours.
SAIFUL : Problem, Tuan?
YUSOF : Yes, Encik Lathif’s recommendation is quite strong. But since you do not have anything to place as collateral, the bank really cannot…
SAIFUL : But, Tuan., Encik Lathif…
YUSOF : Now. Pak Cik, please try to understand our position. Its nothing personal. The bank must be sure all money given out on loan is protected. Otherwise we’ll keep losing millions of ringgit every year. You have no house or land of your own, do you?
SAIFUL : No, Tuan.
YUSOF : In that case I am really sorry…
SAIFUL : But, Tuan., I know of other cases where…and Encik Lathif, Tuan. He…he said if I was willing to spend a small sum of Money…a small commission, there would be no need for collateral, Tuan. A waiver…
YUSOF : Commission…waiver…I see. And did he mention how much the…the commission would be?
SAIFUL : No, Tuan. No specific sum was mentioned, but Encik Lathif did say that the normal ‘fee’ would be five percent, perhaps a little more than five percent. I…I don’t know what it works out to, Tuan, but…as long as its not too much…
YUSOF : Five percent. And your loan application is for RM10,000.00…That means RM500.00. (Saiful is shocked at the figure but controls himself) Now let’s see… (Examining the file again) O, I forgot altogether, pardon me. What will you drink, Pak Cik?
SAIFUL : (Nervous, embarrassed and flaterred at the same time) No need to trouble yourself, Tuan. No need…
YUSOF : O, come on. I too need a drink. Its already past my usual coffee time. Have something.

Encik Yusof rings the bell without waiting for an answer from Encik Saiful Bahri. An office boy enters.

YUSOF : What will it be, then?
SAIFUL : Well, if you insist. Kopi-O.
YUSOF : (To office boy) Two Kopi-O. please. And be quick.

The office boy leaves. Encik Yusof offers Encik Saiful a cigarette which the latter declines. encik Yusof lights one for himself.

YUSOF : Actually this bank is very keen to give assistance to small time business men, Bumiputeras in particular. You know, in keeping with the New Economic Policy and so on.
SAIFUL : Its a good thing too, Tuan. Otherwise how can they ever get into business without any capital? Even a minimum purchase in the Amanah Saham Nasional is beyond most kampung folk.
YUSOF : Have you managed to buy some yourself?
SAIFUL : Very little, Tuan (laughs). Only five hundred ringgit worth since the scheme started; Its really a joint holding.
YUSOF : About your loan application. Pak Cik. This working paper does not contain enough details, particularly regarding potential business turn over, profit expected, and so on.
SAIFUL : Encik Lathif got it done for me, Tuan. I’m quite ignorant about these matters, really.
YUSOF : Never mind. I’ll get someone to improve it, so that the proposal looks viable. Perhaps one of my clerks can help out, as a special favour to you, Pak Cik, in view of the New Economic Policy.
SAIFUL : I shall be most obliged. Tuan. Thank you. Tuan.
YUSOF : If we Bumiputeras do not help each other, who is going to? Surely not the Chinese or the Indians…
SAIFUL : That’s right, Tuan.
YUSOF : And, talking about helping…do you think RM10,000.00 will be sufficient for our project?
SAIFUL : I plan to start small, Tuan., with Hamid, one of my boys, helping me. You see he dropped out of School last year, having failed his SRP examination, and cannot get a job. So I thought I’d start him off on this business since he’s interested in motorcycles. Later on, if his nasib is good and things improve, may be we can expand a little.
YUSOF : Does your son have any basic skills to run a motorcycle repair shop?
SAIFUL : No, actually not. Just interest. But he’s learning. For a start I will be employing a Chinese mechanic. Someone my son knows; and then, gradually, Hamid can learn the skills.
YUSOF : I hope the Chinese mechanic is someone you can trust. What if he leaves you suddenly?
SAIFUL : Hamid is quite confident he can trust his friend. Its really Hamid’s desire to get this workshop started.
YUSOF : And you? What do you do for a living? I hope you don’t mind my asking.
SAIFUL : I tap rubber, Tuan. In an estate near my kampung. It belongs to a wealthy Kuala Lumpur Chettiar. I have been working there since the age of fourteen. My father too worked there until he died. It was he who got me the job.
YUSOF : And so I suppose you will be giving up rubber tapping once the workshop starts.
SAIFUL : No, Tuan. My job is a safe one and it has been providing me with enough to live for almost forty years. I will not give it up, Tuan. Its my rezeki. I will most probably go on being a rubber tapper as long as I can work.
YUSOF : And your wife, or is it wives? Do they also work in the estate?
SAIFUL : Actually, Tuan. Both my wives are dead now. Som died three years ago. Minah died last year.
YUSOF : I’m sorry I asked you.
SAIFUL : That’s alright, Tuan. My daughter, Khatijah-she’s my eldest child, is now almost twenty-three..She has been working in a factory in Petaling Jaya since she completed SPM several years back. She helps out once in a while by sending some money. Together we keep the family going. You know its difficult when there are eight children and only one of them is working. But what can be done? Its our nasib.
YUSOF : I can see things must be rather difficult with your limited salary from the estate.
SAIFUL : I am depending very much upon this loan, and have been praying to Allah the Almighty for His assistance in getting it, Tuan. It will at least make sure my son learns a trade so that he can take car eof himself and his younger brothers and sisters in case something suddenly happens to me. One never knows when one is going to die. It is all in the hands of Allah.

During the conversation the office boy has come in with the two cups of Kopi-O, places them on Encik Yusof’s table, and left.

YUSOF : Pak Cik, I am beginning to feel that perhaps the RM10,000.00 you are asking for may be insufficient for your purposes. Why don’t you apply for more? Say RM20,000.00, or even RM30,000.00?
SAIFUL : (overwhelmed) No, Tuan. I’m afraid.
YUSOF : Afraid? Of what? You don’t have to use all the money if you don’t need it. Or you can use it for other purposes-perhaps to get married again or to go to Mecca. Don’t you have any such plans?
SAIFUL : (Somewhat ruffled) No, Tuan. I’d rather not take too big a loan. I don’t have any plan to get married again, as yet. And as to the pilgrimage, it is not proper to go to Mecca on borrowed money. What if I should die without being able to repay it?
YUSOF : I’m sorry. I didn’t really mean it-about your getting remarried or using the money to go to Mecca. Its just something that came accidentally out of my mouth. Please don’t get upset. But some people do use borrowed money for such purposes, you know.
SAIFUL : Yes, Tuan. I am sure some people do. But I…
YUSOF : But seriously, Pak Cik, the money you borrow from this bank can be reinvested in a Savings or Fixed Deposit account, even in this very bank, if you wish, and can earn a higher interest rate than you are going to pay for it. You see, we only charge 9% interest on Small Business Loans, and a long term fixed deposit can get you twelve or even thirteen percent if you are prepared to negotiate a little. On the other hand, if you prefer, you can buy more Amanah Saham Nasional shares, and reap huge bonuses and dividents as they keep promising on Television.
SAIFUL : Yes, but the big problem I’m worried about is that of having to pay back.
YUSOF : O, you can pay back gradually, Pak Cik. The whole question of repayment–that’s a different matter altogether. You can ask for extensions and further extensions, on and on. Many people do that. There’s nothing wrong with it. The banks understand their problems and even close one eye when they don’t pay back.
SAIFUL : Astaghfirullah!
YUSOF : Yes, many borrow with no intention of paying back at all, and the banks can do very little about the problem. Its the same with MARA loans. You must have seen in the newspapers a recent statement by a Minister that even students and V.I.P’s don’t repay MARA loans. In the end the banks just write the loans off. Indirectly, this is their way of helping the poor Bumiputeras.
SAIFUL : You mean these things really happen?
YUSOF : Yes they do-all the time. So, don’t burden yourself at this point with the question of repayment. When the time comes we shall see. So take the RM30,000.00 I am offering you, and do business on a larger scale.
SAIFUL : If you say so, Tuan. I…I really don’t understand these things very much.
YUSOF : You see, Pak Cik, more money means more business and more business means more profit. Its really very simple. Don’t you agree?
SAIFUL : Perhaps, Tuan. InshaAllah. But I shall not be too ambitious. Better learn to walk before running, as they say.
YUSOF : Well, then. That’s settled. (He gets up and picks some forms from a bookshelf) If you will just sign some blank forms for now, I’ll get on eof my clerks to fill them in later on, and also to write a new proposal on your behalf, as I mentioned earlier, justifying the loan of RM30,000.00. It shouldn’t take too long to get your loan approved.
SAIFUL : (Getting ready to sign) Jawi is acceptable, isn’t it, Tuan? I signed the original application also in Jawi. You see in my days the kampung schools…
YUSOF : Oh, Jawi is perfectly acceptable. Infact as you may already know, they are bringing it back into the schools these days.

Saiful Bahri nervously signs a stack of forms which Yusof hands him.

SAIFUL : So many copies! (Smiles nervously) Thank you very much, Tuan. You have been so kind.
YUSOF : O, my pleasure. We are here to serve people like you, Pak Cik. (Places the documents away).
SAIFUL : If I may ask, how long will it take, Tuan? You see I have been paying rental unnecessarily on the vacant shop…
YUSOF : Let’s see. When can you come to Kuala Lumpur again?
SAIFUL : I usually come once in two or three months, to visit my daughter. But if you wish I could come earlier, Tuan. Any time you say.
YUSOF : Why don’t you give me a date? Say one or two weeks from today?
SAIFUL : Perhaps two weeks will be better, Tuan.
YUSOF : Okay then, Pak Cik Saiful we’ll meet in two weeks’ time:same day same time. The papers should be ready by then. Bring along some cash. There may be certain charges for stamp duty and so on.
SAIFUL : Yes, Tuan.
YUSOF : And don’t forget the RM1,500.00.
SAIFUL : (Shocked) RM1,500.00, Tuan?
YUSOF : The commission, remember? The five percent? Commission is such a lousy word. Let’s call it service charge, if you prefer…to process and approve your loan. The bank interest, of course, will be included in your account.
SAIFUL : B..but, Tuan.
YUSOF : Encik Saiful., what’s the problem? I thought the whole things was clearly understood.
SAIFUL : I…I guess so. I…I just didn’t expect it to be so much.
YUSOF : It’s only 5%. The normal rate. Actually its not the normal rate. Sometimes people do pay 10% or more. Depends. Just as Encik Lathif…
SAIFUL : Yes. Yes. Just as Encik Lathif…But does the money have to be paid first, before the loan…
YUSOF : That’s the normal practice. The loan will not be processed otherwise. You know, just to speed it up a little..
SAIFUL : RM1,500.00. I….I may need more than two weeks in that case, Tuan, to raise the money. I can sell my Amanah Saham Nasional shares straight away, as soon as I reach Segamat. But the other one thousand…that will take longer. Perhaps my…daughter; perhaps..(He is almost on the point of tears).
YUSOF : As you wish. Encik Saiful. But remember, the sooner you bring in the money, the sooner you will receive your RM30,000.00 to start your business.
SAIFUL : Yes, Tuan.
YUSOF : And, before I forget. The RM1,500.00. Don’t give it to me here in the office. I will arrange for someone to collect it from you. May be at some nearby coffee shop.
SAIFUL : (With a deep sigh) Yes, Tuan. (Getting ready to leave) And…and Tuan, suppose I decide that RM10,000.00 or even RM5,000.00 will be enough for now, will that be alright with you?
YUSOF : That’s your decision, Encik Saiful, whether you want to borrow RM5,000.00, RM10,000.00 or RM30,000.00, I was only thinking of your own good. Whatever you decide, come back when you are ready..
SAIFUL : With the commission…
YUSOF : …Service charge.
SAIFUL : I will remember that, Tuan…service charge.
Encik Saiful gets organised, and slowly begins to move away from the table, depressed and bitter, not even wanting to say farewell to Encik Yusof, who is watching him.

YUSOF : Ah, Encik Saiful. You haven’t even had you Kopi-O. Its getting cold.
SAIFUL : There’s no need. Tuan. Thank you very much, Tuan. You have been so kind, Tuan.

Encik Saiful Bahri leaves the room, Encik Yusof watching him all the time. Lighting a cigarette he sits down again and puffs for a while, allowing the smoke to rise in rings. Then he picks up the telephone receiver.

YUSOF : Catherine, please send Cik Nurimah in.
VOICE : Yes, Encik Yusof.

He waches the door as it opens and Cik Nurimah enters. She realises he’s watching her, and although apprehensive, tries to keep a pleasant countenance.

YUSOF : Have a cup of Kopi-O, Nurimah.
NURIMAH : No, thank you, Tuan.
YUSOF : O, just call me Yusof. After all we work together here. No need to be so formal. How long have you been in this place? I haven’t seen you before.
NURIMAH : Just since yesterday, Tuan. I have been moved from the Jalan Pudu branch stand in for my cousin Yati who is on medical leave.
YUSOF : Jalan Pudu branch. I see. Nurimah, will you be able to stay back a little this evening after work to do some overtime? You see I am trying to complete an important report. I really need some help.
NURIMAH : I am sorry, Tuan. I cannot. I have to go home straight after work. My fiancé will be coming to fetch me.
YUSOF : Fiancé? That’s no problem. I can send you home. Where do you live?
NURIMAH : In P.J., Tuan. But I really can’t stay after work. I am sorry.
YUSOF : Well, too bad. I was hoping we could better acquainted. How about tomorrow, then?
NURIMAH : No, Tuan. Not tomorrow, not at any time, Tuan.
YUSOF : That’s too bad. Here then, take this file back.
NURIMAH : Yes, Tuan.

Nurimah, who has been all this while standing some distance away from Encik Yusof’s table, now goes to the side to get the file from him. He hands it to her, but deliberately touches her hand at the same time beginning to stand up. She senses danger and quickly moves away towards the door, without even looking back at him. Lustfully, he watches her go, and after she leaves, he falls into his chair and heaves a deep sigh.

YUSOF : Nurimah! Nurimah!

After a few moments of daydreaming, he picks up a telephone receiver and dials a number on his direct line.

YUSOF : Encik Robert Tan, please. (Slight pause) Hey, Robert, Yusof here-lah, once again. (Pause) Hey, you know the girl you mentioned? The one at the International Massage Parlour-lah. What’s her name? (Pause). Cannot wait-lah. You know this new girl in my office, really made me excited. What? No-lah. Not available. I’ll tell you later. So, what time shall I pick you up? Make it seven thirty-lah. We can have dinner somewhere first. (Loud laugh is heard). See you later then. Hey, you better call and make sure Rosie is available, huh. (Pause). Good. By the way, you know your loan application for the housing project in Rawang? Yes, yes, New Melody Gardens. There should be no problem, based on the…arrangement I mentioned last time, if it is acceptable to you. (Pause). Okay then, that’s good. I’ll get it through in the next few days. And then we can celebrate. Where? Haadyai? No problem. Any time(Laughter). Actually Bangkok or Manila better still (Laughter). Good. That is why I say it is always a pleasure doing business with you (Laughter). Okay then, Robert, see you at seven-thirty.

Yusof replaces the telephone receiver, and, placing both his feet on the table, muses in silence for a while. Lights slowly fade out.