“Now that the man is no more, what’s the point in talking about money? In any case, it was a small amount,” says Mumbai’s top diamond merchant, from whose family Lalit Sheth of Raj Travels had taken a personal loan of Rs2 crore. The diamond merchant said it was a private loan given to a fellow Gujarati, and now that Sheth has passed away, they will not press his family to pay up.
Said another diamond merchant whom Sheth owed “less than a crore”: “Had it been a huge loan in excess of Rs20-30-crore, there would be proper collateral, and then we would talk about recovering the amount. In this case, we regret the loss of a strong member of our community.” He added that though it is up to a creditor to ask the family to repay the loan, the practice in the Gujarati and Marwari communities is to waive the personal loan in such a situation.
Though the quantum of money owed by Sheth that eventually drove him to commit suicide is still unclear, his Gujarati businessman friends confirm that official amounts running into lakhs are just the tip of the iceberg. “Tens of crores would be a more likely figure, but even that is not reason enough for Lalitbhai to give up his life,” said another Gujarati businessman, adding that ups and downs are a part of a business, and that Sheth had seen his share of profits and losses over the years.
Reacting to the community’s largesse, Sheth’s son Akash said that he appreciates the community’s stand when the family is going through a trying time. “My father helped many members of the community over the years, and today they are doing the same,” said Akash, adding that his father was well respected in business and hence not only Gujaratis but also associates from other communities are standing by the family.