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For those lacking in ambition, Mumbai is a terribly unforgiving city.

Killing you would have been about as complex as delivering a pizza.

What made you think you can walk into my office dripping crap all over the place? That’s wooden flooring outside, for god’s sake; show some respect!’


ISBN : 978-9351368199

Publisher : Harper Collins India

Publication Date : 27 February, 2015

There comes a day in every boy's life when he needs to sit down and decide what to do with the rest of it. But our layabout hero, Samay, slept through it, as he did most days growing up. Waking up aged twenty-nine, he finds that he barely has any money left in the bank and the only job anyone is willing to give him is as a debt collector for small businesses. To top it all, he has had no luck with his college flame, Amrita. They were close friends once but are not even in touch any more. His less-than-ordinary life takes a mad turn when he is mistaken by mob boss Pande for a hitman and given Rs 75 lakh as payment. Samay wants to take the money and flee the city, but he discovers that Amrita, now a journalist, is next on the hit list... The Debt Collector's Due is a wild ride through the drama of college heartbreak and a terrifying murder in south Mumbai's Parsi colony to the sweaty alleys of Crawford Market and the mist-filled valley of Panchgani. This is a story about shifting fortunes and high stakes, a breathless read from the first page to the very last word..

The Debt Collector’s Due is a fascinating read. It is a classic example of how you can be fortune’s favorite and lose it all for want of ambition and focus. The language is simple, yet evocative. -- Deccan Chronicle

Samay forced himself to sit up and snap out of his melancholy.‘Come on, Sam,’ he chided himself, ‘this day isn’t going to totally suck unless you’re awake to experience it.’ He sat on the edge of the bed, face buried in his hands,contemplating what the coming day held in store for him. Like every other day he experienced,

Chapter 3

The break of sorts

Samay forced himself to sit up and snap out of his melancholy. ‘Come on, Sam,’ he chided himself, ‘this day isn’t going to totally suck unless you’re awake to experience it.’ He sat on the edge of the bed, face buried in his hands, contemplating what the coming day held in store for him. Like every other day he experienced, this didn’t look like it was headed anywhere great.

By now, he had been to virtually every office in Mumbai’s corporate hubs at Nariman Point and Bandra, and so he was about to embark on a journey into north Mumbai. He had an interview with a reasonably large company, Raman Associates, although experience had taught him to accept the immense probability of rejection beforehand, so that keeping a smile on his face would be easier.

He lumbered out of bed, had a shower, put on his only set of casual-formals that did not have tea stains on them,made and drank some tea (taking care not to spill any) and popped out for a visit to the ATM.

Samay’s apartment was in a small building complex, only a few stories high. It was old and poorly maintained, but the tenants did what they could to keep it tidy and make essential repairs. They were kind enough to ignore Samay, who had no money to chip in, but did help out in any manner he could by doing odd jobs and running errands for the elderly folk. They in turn sent over leftovers and the occasional sweet dish, which allowed Samay to save some money on food. The building stood at the dead end of a road that was pleasant and rarely crowded, which was an anomaly in Mumbai. The road stretched for about 50 metres from the building, until it crossed a busier road ahead. Samay walked slowly, enjoying the cool shade of the large, aged trees on either side of the road. When he reached the main road, he turned left and found the ATM.

The visit was purely ceremonial, because having only about Rs 10,000 left in his account (the last of his uncle’s endowment), he had to remind himself of how close he was to running out of money completely, as a means to psyche himself up for the interview. It never worked.

He reached the office of Raman Associates only to find out from the receptionist that the manager who was to interview him was not in. Another manager was called, but he was busy dealing with a client. The frustrated receptionist looked up from her desk, clearly irritated by the complication that Samay had brought into her otherwise routine workday, and was confronted by Samay’s fair, long face, already smiling in preparation for what he knew was coming. She was a middleaged woman with short, dark hair, wearing too much makeup and sporting a pair of horn-rimmed glasses that seemed too modern for the rest of her. Samay could not help but feel she was desperately holding on to what remaining strands of youth she had left and that the glasses were her final defence against her irrepressibly approaching old age. He felt bad about inconveniencing her and continued smiling almost apologetically. His charm and good looks prevailed, and with possibly the only stroke of good luck he had experienced in a while, Samay found himself in front of none other than the owner of the company

Mr Raman had the look of a man who had taken only forty years to reach the age of fifty-five. Clearly, years of stress in managing his company had taken a toll on his personal appearance. He was bald; with thick glasses that gave his rather tired-looking eyes a shrunken look. He sat behind a large rosewood desk located at one end of a long, tastefully decorated office. He spent precisely fifteen seconds scanning Samay’s résumé and looked up with a smile, which suggested that he knew he was at the receiving end of some joke played on him by the receptionist. He paused for a second to replay the conversation that had passed prior to Samay’s entry into the room

‘A candidate is here, sir, seems very sincere…’
‘I’m busy. Let him meet someone else.’
‘There is no one else available, sir. Please meet him, he seems like a good person…’ She paused, trying desperately to find a good selling point. ‘…quite tall!’ she added in a tone of triumph.
‘What? How is that relevant?’
‘Please, sir…he’s fair also!’

‘Oh god! Please stop! Okay fine. Send him in,’ Raman had given in, conceding that the interview would be less of a waste of time than continuing the conversation with her

One thing he had to admit: Samay had the sincere look spot on. Countless rejections had honed his ability to look like someone willing to take up any job, at any level and be completely impassive to all forms of criticism

‘I’m guessing this is not your first interview?’ Raman began, looking down at the résumé again, almost as if challenging himself to find some titbit of achievement there

‘Not really, sir. I lost count at eighty-five. It became too depressing,’ Samay retorted and then waited for the expression that he knew would come. His upper middle class upbringing meant Samay spoke and sounded like someone well off, and this usually derailed his interviewers to start with, considering the position for which Samay had applied. His obvious lack of qualifications, however, meant that this effect was momentary. They invariably recovered and saw him for who he really was—a spoilt rich kid, fallen on bad times, learning about life the hard way and clearly not succeeding.

‘Look, son,’ the owner continued, ‘I’m sure you have no false notions about how abysmally poorly you come across on paper…

Samay smiled. For the second time that morning, he prepared for the inevitable.

‘…but you seem earnest, so here’s what we’ll do.’ He looked up at Samay, who still had his smile plastered across his shocked face. Ironically, this was not a scenario he had ever prepared for. Quickly, he re-set his facial expression back to ‘sincere’ and waited.

‘I have a small issue of debt collection. It’s not a huge amount—Rs 30,000. The buggers are being really difficult; you know the kind? “No sir, no sir, no funds in the bank.” Meanwhile the owner and his wife go to Thailand for the weekend because she’s suffering from some pre-menopausal midlife crisis and won’t sleep with him until he takes her shopping for knockoff handbags!’ He paused to confirm whether Samay was following him; he really wasn’t.

‘Anyway, why don’t you go there and see if you can get the money from them? Normally, all it takes is someone to actually go there in person and keep asking for it. If you get it, you can take a commission of, say, 5 per cent. That’s about Rs 1,500. I’ll also give you the details of my other outstanding amounts and you can collect them in the same fashion. If you’re any good, I’ll refer you to my friends. Everyone is facing issues with non-payment of debts these days.’

Samay needed no persuasion. Rs 1,500 would go a long way in his current situation. And how tough could it be to get money? He grabbed the address scribbled down by the owner, thanked him profusely for the opportunity and was on his way.

The office of the debtor—a company called Vaibhav Enterprises—was about an hour away by bus. Samay got off at the bus stop and asked around for directions in the baking sun until he finally found the address. The building was old and seemed to have hundreds of offices arranged around a quadrangle and going up many floors. Property prices in the city had skyrocketed over the past decade, and small businesses had long since shifted from spacious offices to tiny pigeonholes known as ‘galas’. Entire companies were run in spaces of barely a couple of hundred square feet. In many cases, the company sprawled across multiple galas (sometimes non-adjacent to one another), with each gala housing a different section of the business. Samay observed activities ranging from manufacturing to assembly to back office operations, all happening side by side, each in its respective cocoon. It was a case study in space management.

Samay had to get into a rickety old elevator to get to the floor on which the debtor’s office was located. Stepping into the office from the heat, he was pleasantly greeted by the cool blast of air-conditioning. He had to admit that his client was not wrong; this did not look like a poor man’s workplace. Although it was a tiny office, the interiors were done fully in glass and several employees worked busily in their cramped, minuscule cubicles, paying no attention to anything but their work. Samay gave his details to the receptionist and waited. The waiting room—like the rest of the office—was tiny, and Samay’s large frame seemed to fill it instantly. After about half an hour of waiting, he was shown into the cubicle of a man he was told was the accounts manager.

‘What is the amount?’ the accountant asked brusquely.
‘Rs 30,000,’ Samay replied politely
‘Yes, yes,’ the accountant cut in, ‘you will need to wait. Funds are not there right now, you see?’

‘I understand,’ Samay smiled again. ‘Wait for how long?’ he enquired.

‘Maybe a few days…or weeks…who knows? When funds come, we will let you know.’ The accountant looked away, and it was clear he was dismissing Samay

Samay went back to the waiting room and sat down. He had nothing else to do, and the heat outside made him want to stay in the waiting room a tad longer. By now, however, two more people were in the waiting room with him. The receptionist made an impatient sound in his direction. It was clear he was crowding the place, and she could not understand why he was still there. She got up and went into the accounts section. Samay could hear muffled voices. She was possibly enquiring why Samay was still hanging around, why the accountant’s dismissal had not made it perfectly clear that he should leave this matter for another day. A few seconds later she returned with the accounts head in tow

‘I told you it will take time!’ The accountant sounded annoyed that his message had not been absorbed by Samay in the manner intended.

‘Okay,’ Samay smiled. ‘I will come back tomorrow.’
And so he did. The next day and the next, each time smiling with utter politeness at the accountant’s exasperated attempts to convey to Samay that it would take ‘more time’, but assuring him at the end of it all that he would be back again the following day

On the fourth day, Samay stood again in front of the accountant, who seemed to be desperately seeking some moral or legal loophole that would allow him to strangle Samay rather than see him one more time. They proceeded to have the same interaction they had had in the past three visits, topped off by Samay’s polite declaration that he would be back the next day

For a few moments there was silence as the accountant surveyed Samay, who stood, as always, smiling sincerely.
‘Wait here,’ he finally said.

In a few minutes he returned with a cheque and handed it to Samay. The accountant smiled wearily—as if a painful growth had just been extracted from his body. Samay thanked him and was on his way.

Four months passed. Since recovering the first sum of money, Samay had progressed to bigger amounts and had become an expert in debt recovery. With more clients, it meant his day was fuller and he would move from office to office knowing that each visit brought him that much closer to recovering the funds.

The skill, he came to understand, was a combination of persistence and simply smiling through every abuse thrown at him by the debtors he visited—a skill in which he was already a master. The idea was to visit a debtor day after day, never getting upset, but insisting—somewhat mildly—that the amount needed to be paid. Eventually they all tired of his

unwavering expression and annoying presence in their office and paid up just to be rid of him. For repeat offenders, his reputation preceded him and recovery was that much easier.

It wasn’t always possible to get people to pay up immediately, but Samay knew that as long as there was a healthy pipeline, he could recover an average of Rs 15,000 a day, which for him meant an income of about Rs 18,000 a month—which was okay for now. He needed just enough to keep his head above water, and the job allowed him to do exactly that.

The characters he came across in this job taught Samay much about the various abominations of the human psyche when it came to dealing with matters of money and, more importantly, parting with money

Money, Samay came to realize, meant different things to different people. There were those to whom their bank balance being in the black meant everything, even if in reality they owed much more than that balance. Others simply could not stand to be in debt and the mere reminder of it would unnerve them to the point that they would pay up immediately, even if it meant draining the last of their cash reserves

Clients who assured him over the phone that the payment was on its way were found to have shut shop and gone abroad for good the next day. A gentleman who declared to Samay— in a voice more morose than any he had ever heard—‘by tomorrow, all dues will be settled’, was found hanging in his room, apparently too deep in debt to crawl out of it. Cheques bounced with alarming regularity, and often Samay found that the cheques were post-dated by anywhere between two months and two years, without so much as an attempt to explain by the debtor.

One rainy monsoon afternoon, Samay stormed into a debtor’s office, annoyed that a cheque had bounced despite repeat assurances to the contrary from the proprietor of the company. The office was dank, poorly lit and consisted of only two rooms—a waiting room and a cabin with a glass door, where the proprietor usually sat. Samay was upset to see that the cabin was empty. The receptionist in the waiting room looked at Samay dispassionately. She had seen him many, many times, and Samay could hardly blame her for the detestation radiating in his direction.

‘When is Mr Patwardhan back?’ Samay queried politely. ‘Oh! Not for some days, Mr Agrawal. Thank you for coming.’ Her normally high-pitched voice sounded even shriller and unusually flustered. Samay decided to brief her on the issue and stepped closer to her desk. But his foot stepped on something, and he heard a stifled yelp. He looked down to see a set of fingers quickly retract under the desk

It was a large desk of wood and clearly not designed keeping the rather mousy-statured receptionist in mind. She looked straight at Samay, waiting for him to resume dialogue as if nothing had happened.
‘Is he…hiding under your desk?’ Samay could scarcely believe the question he was being forced to ask.

‘No, no!’ she contradicted, ‘Why would he be there? He’s in…Ahmedabad. On a business trip.’
‘Madam, I saw a set of fingers poking out from under your desk.’
‘Fingers? No, no…those were my toes.’
‘Rather long for toes,’ Samay proposed. ‘Yes. I have very long toes.’
‘And I heard a sound. There was definitely a sound,’ he ventured.

‘That was my chair…see,’ she gyrated comically from side to side on her chair to try and fabricate the sound, but could only produce a rasping noise as the wooden chair’s legs scraped the floor. She stopped all movement and stared blankly at Samay.

The rain fell harder outside as Samay and the receptionist stared silently at one another in an odd sort of Mexican standoff. Samay finally spoke, addressing the base of the table. ‘Look, it’s fine if you don’t have funds. I can come back some other time. But for your own sake, just tell me straight up what the situation is. It seems that would be easier for you than to hide under a table every time I visit.’

There was another long-drawn silence. The receptionist seemed unsure of where to look, so she kept staring straight ahead, almost through Samay, as though focussing intently on the wall behind him. Slowly, with a lot of effort, the proprietor crawled out from under the table and stood alongside her, smiling sheepishly at Samay. He was a dark, thin, bespectacled man with wispy grey hair and a permanent slouch. His shirt was un-tucked (possibly from crawling under and out from under tables) and his embarrassed, bucktoothed grin revealed too much to Samay about a penchant for chewing tobacco.

Apologies, Mr Agrawal,’ he wheezed as he tried to smooth his dishevelled hair back into some semblance of order, ‘you can re-present the cheque next week; I will make sure there are funds in our account.’

Samay smiled and was greeted with beaming grins from both of them. Clearly they seemed to think they had done an admirable job of steering through the situation. He thanked them and left, laughing.

But apart from such occasional bouts of amusement, collecting money was a mundane affair. Debtors either had funds, or they didn’t. If they did, he wore them out with visits and phone calls. If they didn’t, he monitored them until the time was right and then wore them out with visits.
In time, the monotony of his job started to awaken Samay’s inability to maintain a continuing interest in any one thing. And though he suppressed it by reminding himself that he needed the money to survive, he could not deny that it was growing stronger with each passing day.

It had also occurred to him that there was never going to be any growth in what he did. Any amount over Rs 35,000 was followed up on personally by whomsoever it was owed to. As a result, Samay was only given assignments involving sums less than this amount, which meant a maximum of a little over Rs 1,500 on any given collection.

In an attempt to expand his capacity, Samay recruited an assistant, offering to pay him a portion of the commission on the debts he recovered. He initially entrusted the assistant with some easy accounts, but within a week, one of the clients told Samay that he no longer required their services. The assistant had been in a huge fight with the client’s debtor, threatening to use force if the payment was not made immediately. The debtor had called the client and cancelled future orders, and the client had in turn blamed Samay for the whole debacle.

Samay began to appreciate that the patience and unwavering politeness needed in his job were not easy traits to instil in a person. When he did manage to find someone suitable, the financial arrangement did not work out. The commission was a pittance when divided between two people and, eventually, the assistant figured out he could do the job without Samay’s guidance. It made Samay realize that he truly was a one-man show, and the show was never going to pay a lot.

For the first time in as long as he could remember, Samay started thinking about the future. He was still unqualified, and it excited him to think that perhaps finishing his degree would be a smart way to make a fresh start. With significant time at his disposal while waiting in the receptions of various offices, Samay started studying again, continuing when he got home and often working well into the night to make up for lost time. His efforts paid off as he slowly came up to speed with the course material and was able to obtain a degree via correspondence.

Samay felt good that he was no longer in the category of ‘college dropouts.’ But he knew it was all purely symbolic. Life didn’t suddenly roll out the red carpet to untold success just because you obtained a piece of paper that any average twenty-two-year-old would be expected to have.

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What readers are saying

An Exciting Read
Gripping, fast paced and filled with vivid descriptions. The Debt Collector's Due gets you invested in its protagonist from page one and has you rooting for him until the end.
Sethi creates whole, three dimensional characters and then has them colliding with one another, while never losing sight of the underlying plot at play.
The author's quality of prose indicates that as he matures, his style should allow for the kind of work that is both entertaining and intellectually rewarding.
Certainly worth a read and an author to watch out for. - HKS

Great to Read Within the Genre
I LOVE Indian writing. Call it patriotism, call it prejudice but I do love Indian writing. Adhirath Sethi’s debut book checks all the boxes for a commercially successful book that is an easy and enjoyable read. Is there a chase scene? YES. Is there romance? YES. Is there a useless hero who manages to rise to the occasion? YES. Is there a helpless damsel in distress? YES. But here is where the twist lies. And i like the twist. Instead of going for the fair maiden who is grabbed by unsightly thug in a marketplace or a rich fair girl woman who’s engaged to an equally fair but evil man the author goes for a female who is smart, successful and utterly ballsy.
Hats off man! – The Girl Who Reads

Beautifully Woven intrigue
Read the book and you will experience the spirit and flavours of Mumbai's vivid description of its cafe, streets and sights!
The reader not only feels a part of "here and now" of the characters, especially Samay , but autogenically emphathizes with his hopelessness in the occuptaion of collecting bad debts....
In a rather fresh and contemporary style Adhirath writes with wit, scarsam and emotion, providing depth that rivals most crime authors of the day!
The vernacular is complimentary to a debut author and merits praise for portraying each of its character in accuracy of their fully realized personality which blends and flows with their dialogue.
There are gripping moments as the story unfolds...being a short book one is induced to go to its very end without putting it aside !!! – Pramod

A good thriller with a twist
Definitely a good thriller in the old mold. Story has interesting turns and hard to put down. Recommend for crime thriller readers. – Pratap

Addictively good
I got this book in the afternoon and was done by night!! An interesting read that connects as you read and captures the reader completely. Couldn't shake off the feeling of having wanting to read more and more. New author, but definitely worth a read! - Ran

Un-put-downable paced thriller which keeps you on the edge till the last page. - Ahir

You’ll smile your way through this book
Crisp, well written, neatly crafted. The Debt Collector's due is a great, quick read. I love how details introduced early in the book bear fruit later on in the most creative and amusing ways. Utterly recognizable characters and settings in a fresh new plot and written in a unique "Sethi" voice! Buy it and read it. – Maitri

There are good twists and turns during the 184 pages
This is a very interesting read. there are good twists and turns during the 184 pages. Samay's travel through time and his travails provide enough food for the reader. overall worth spending the money on a new author. – Abheek

Brilliantly engaging – must read!
If you are a fan of crime novels told with pitch perfect humour, pick up this book now.- Kenny