The broke businessman and his notebook, A Christmas Story

Photo Credit Kalakai Photography


The first time he went broke, his holding company went into receivership and his creditors and banks moved in and repossessed all his known assets. He had no choice, but to take his family and return to his village, in his home province in the mountains, after their house in the City was also taken.

People in the village who did not like him or had issues with him or were plainly jealous of his early success, rejoiced. Everyone dumped him except for his close relatives and a few loyal friends. Even his tribe dumped him and the general consensus was, "welcome to the kaukau and water group of companies, where nobody is hungry and everybody is a property owner. At least you don't get repossessed here." Some even said nasty things like, " Sa stap long city na smart ya pilim nau."

It was an embarassing ordeal for him and a time of great suffering for his family, especially his children who were born and raised in the City. No one seemed to remember his contributions to the tribe in his good times. The good that he did and the good name that he brought the tribe was all but forgotten.

As a businessman or now a former businessman, he knew he had to provide for his family so he returned to the land and worked the land. It was hard at first, but he soon got the hang of it and secretly enjoyed it. His only sadness was for his wife and children.

He stayed 18 full months in the village. Gone was the high life in Port Moresby, the cars, the houses, the hotels and the high flying friends. The family soon realised that the life they had was now all but gone and adapted as best they could to their new life. It truly was a trying time for his family. Out of sympathy and respect for their father, they resolved not to complain but to take life one day at a time.

One time people heard that he had flown to Port Moresby. Nobody cared or seem to care. Some even made fun of him asking, " Painim wanem na go lo City? Sa sem tu o nogat?"

After four months, he returned to his village. Upon arrival and to everyone's surprise, he hosted a feast such as one never seen before in his village. It was the biggest feast anyone had ever seen. Even soft drinks came by the truck loads. Every single member of the tribe was invited. That event was going to be the talk of the tribe way into the future.

 At the feast, the food and drinks were plentiful. People ate to their full and had so much left overs to take home also. They even had to take can drinks home for later, unheard of in a village.

At the speeches, everyone was curious to find out why he had hosted such a party which would have cost him a lot of money. The curiosity was at an all time high. Was he not a declared bankrupt? Where did he get the money for such an extravaganza? Why would he spend so much money when clearly his family needed it and were suffering?

Before his speech, he took out a dirty old note book and thanked everyone who stood by him and his family in their time of suffering. He read off the first four names on a list in his note book and thanked them for what they did for him. Amazingly, he spelt out every single detail of their help to him and his family throughout the 22 difficult months of their lives. 

Then he fished out four keys from his jacket pocket and said, "You four have helped me and my family so much. The little I can do to thank you is to offer you these four keys. At the Ela Motors yard in town, there are four brand new 15 seater Toyota Hiace buses. Whichever one your key fits is yours. You can pick them up tomorrow."

He had kept a comprehensive list on his note book, of every single person in his village that had done him and his family a favour and started repaying all those people in cash. To a woman who had brought him some kaukau, he gave K2000. To another who had given him a bunch of bananas, he gave K2000. To someone who had given him a two days old newspaper, he gave K2000 and so on and so forth. He never missed any single one of them, all the while giving a detailed account of what these people had done, reading off from his note book.

Many villagers who received nothing regretted and speech after speech was given on his generosity, some even apologized to him, advising themselves and other villagers not to play up with educated or people with degrees, although their advices sounded shallow and came tainted with envious regret.

After the feast, he took his family and returned to Port Moresby. Soon people heard that he had bought this or that and was bigger than ever before. This time people knew that this guy kept a note book so people from the tribe never went to his house when they were in the City like they used to in his previous good lmes. Only those on his note book came and went. In fact he flew them down to the City one by one and showered them with gifts until everyone on his list was completed....

THE second time he was declared broke and the usual receivers and repossessions, he flew back home to his village. This time alone. His family remained in the City as their house was not repossessed this time. The man had learnt from his mistakes and had set his wife and kids up. He was to suffer alone.

People in the village heard the story and remembered what he had done previously and his dirty old note book and came in droves. Everybody was a friend this time around. No one spoke evil of him. Tribesmen visited on a daily basis often bringing sugar and coffee and stories were told into the wee hours of the morning. Food came, money came, everything came. Everyone went out of their way to make an impression, hoping that their names were recorded this time around in that note book for the next big feast. Everyone was pretty sure that the next one would be bigger than the last one.

After about 13 months, he returned to Port Moresby. The story of his departure spread like wildfire. Finally he had left and everyone was looking forward to his return with very high hopes. Tribes people even argued over who did what for him. Some saying, "I did this or that." Everyone was looking forward to his or her reward. No one dared to make fun of him this time around.

He returned to his village after two months in Port Moresby. This time people were there to greet him at the airport and drive him home to his village. The expection went to an unprecedented high.

The royal treatment given to him, continued for a week, then a month, then two and three and people started to slow down with their generosity. After six months, more than half the generosity disappeared. 12 months and almost all forms of generosity disappeared completely. Everything reverted back to his family and friends, of the first "broke", although people showed kindness, just in case.

Then for a second time, and to everyone's joy, they heard that he had left for Port Moresby. Surely, this time he was going to come back with their rewards. But that was not to be. He never returned as expected.

This time he stayed for two years. When people heard that he was returning to the village to attend a funeral, everyone was hoping and even some were pretty certain that he would finally make an announcement of their rewarding feast. The expectation was so high that people even forgot the dead person, all they wanted was for him to speak and make the announcement they all longed to hear.

He sensed the expectation so he stood up and spoke. "Everyone here is looking forward to a feast, much bigger than the last one I gave. I know that and I will give one this Christmas. Let it be known that this will be bigger than ever. I will set a record in this place that no one here now or in future will break it."

Christmas was three months away and the village literally counted the days. Those who felt that they qualified for a 15 seater Toyota Hiace, complained bitterly that the days went very slowly. Some even complained that the times had changed and as a result the days were going at a snail's pace.

When December finally arrived, the topic of the village and tribe, from dawn to dusk was about nothing, but the biggest feast they would ever see. Some debated as to what the guy would do or do different from the last time. The expectation was mounting and was building up to explosion or climax stage.

Every single day of December, people were asking each other, "Any word from the man himself yet?" "When is he coming back?" "When do you think he is coming back?"

Finally the word came that the day of the much anticipated feast had arrived. The feast was set right on Christmas day. News of the occassion spread like wildfire. The village came alive. Even the neighbouring villages felt the aftershocks, so to speak. 

For the very first time, churches had to postpone their planned activities for that day since Christianity arrived there because no one was ever going to turn up. No one seemed to care about the after life or whether rapture was to occurr that day. No one cared.

Secretly, the pastors and elders who usually organised church activities for Christmas day, were glad because they too wanted to attend the biggest feast and who knows, perhaps some of them might hand up with a 15 seater Toyota Hiace bus or some cash reward. Who would miss such goodies for some stale church activity. Their defence when people asked was,...Christmas is not our custom so a break once in a while wouldn't hurt. The rest of the congregation agreed wholeheartedly, in an attempt to cover their own guilt.

Everyone who had done, even the slightest good knew that he kept a note book and their names were there or should be there. This Christmas and new year would be a wonderful time for the village and the tribe.

 Plans were made in advance. Some who thought they had done some good to the man himself, went ahead and started borrowing money from village money lenders in anticipation and started their Christmas and New year celebrations early, knowing that the last time, it was K2000 per person. Now it might go up to K3000 or K4000. Some argued that since the man himself had said that it will be a record setting feast, the amount of money might go up to even K5000 or K10,000.

 There was joy like never before in the village and tribe. Everyone was looking forward and anticipating. They all refused to listen to any negative words. People who said that nothing would be given or what was going to be given was less were told, "Devil flee." It was like landowners were going to be given their royalty payments on Christmas day. What a Christmas and new year it would be! So they thought.

Several days before Christmas, it was heard that the man himself had landed. The joy in the village and tribe could literally be felt and could even be cut with a very blunt knife. Everyone was psyched up as 25th of December approached.

On the 24th word went out that every single one was invited to the feast the next day. On the evening of that day, three container trucks arrived in the village. That was a first. Truly this was going to be the greatest feast ever.

One truck had two containers filled with cartons of soft drinks all the way from the factory in Lae. The other two were refrigerator containers. One had five cows culled, skinned and prepared by a farm at Markham Valley in Lae, MOROBE Province. The other had cartons of chicken from Zenag in Lae.

The arrival of big container trucks was enough to psyche the entire tribe up to maximum level.  Nobody slept much that night because of the excitement. People sang praises for the man himself till the small hours of the night. Even people who had ridiculed him earlier. Some even said that such people should go directly to heaven when they die.

On the very day, one industrious pastor, having noticed in the previous feast that the Lutheran pastor who had prayed and blessed the occassion had been rewarded with K2000, took it upon himself and his church to officiate the occassion, hoping secretly that he would be rewarded handsomely.

The other churches who hadn't thought of that became very jealous, knowing that this pastor was now going to steal the show and walk away with a bundle of money. Why hadn't they thought of this themselves, they wondered and secretly cursed themselves. There was a brief confrontation between this Penticostal pastor and the Lutheran pastor of the first feast, but it was agreed that the songs and preaching would be done by this pastor and his church and the benediction would be given by the Lutheran pastor. They were never asked by the man himself, but did the arrangement on their own accord.

By the evening of the 25th of December, the food was ready. He had killed about 50 pigs. Some people offered him pigs but he refused all offers, turning away around 18 to 20 offers.

 All of those offers were not genuine. The pig owners wanted a price above the usual for their pigs, remembering his generosity in very small things like his giving of K2000 to a guy who gave him a two days old newspaper in the previous feast. Some even thought their scheming gesture might even get them a 15 seater Hiace bus. Who knows. A pig is more valuable than a two days old newspaper.

He bought all the pigs elsewhere with cash and did not buy any from his village or tribe.

The preparation of the food had taken all night. Again, he did not use his own people's labour, but had got his wife's people to perform the chores. They had started as early as 10 pm on the 24th and by 1 pm the next day, the food was all ready, according to plan.

It was truly a sight to behold. There were Christmas decorations and balloons and the works. It was truly the biggest Christmas party ever. The food, all stacked up nicely, rows and rows of pork, chicken and cow meat with all the other extras that go with a highlands style mumu. It truly was a spectacle and a sight to behold and it certainly was the biggest feast ever hosted in the tribe. It made the first feast look like a under 13 rugby league game and this one look like a real test match.

After the short service by one pastor and the prayer or benediction by the other, the food was distributed from family to family. There was just so much left over that they had to distribute a second and a third round also.

The speeches usually went first, but this time the man himself insisted that the food should go first and the speeches follow after. He had reasoned that many times people ate cold food, but not in his feast. He wanted people to eat when the food was still fresh or hot out of the earth ovens. No one complained, in case their names were removed from the note book. It was usual for them to argue, but this time they were all smiles and agreed to all that the man himself said.

After the food was distributed and people sat in family groups and started eating, the speeches began. 

As is usual the leaders spoke first. Some shedding crocodile tears, when reciting the hard time the man and his family went through and now through the tough times, they were finally okay. One could clearly tell that the tears were not genuine, but more like "I hope you haven't forgotten my name in your note book or please add something extra to my share for my tears."

Then it was his turn to speak. The moment people had been waiting for all these time had arrived. There was complete silence. A quietness such as never ever experienced before took over the place. Even people stopped chewing the food they were still eating.

He began his speech with, "Thank you all for taking time out of your schedules to attend this gathering. I said it will be the biggest and I am sure you will agree with me that this is the biggest feast ever and on such a wonderful day as this Christmas day. I have kept my word.

The first time I was declared bankrupt, only a few people helped me and I think I have paid them back a thousand times over. The second time I went bankrupt, many of you had a change of heart and many of you came to my aid. It was like, a giving, sharing and caring revival had taken place in our tribe and village.

 I have tried my best to record every kind deed on my note book. I will therefore read from that note book and try to sort everyone out today because I don't like to owe any man, woman or child anything in this life...that is why I allowed myself to be declared bankrupt twice so that the people I owe money to get their dues...and even if it is a third time, and I feel I owe people, I will still allow myself to be declared bankrupt...the point being that I owe no one in this life."

After this he signalled someone who was standing near his vehicle to bring the bags. There were two military style bags that appeared to be packed to capacity.

When the bags were brought over, the silence in the crowd became more profound that one could hear a pin drop. Even the babies stopped making a sound or were forced to suckle on their mothers' breasts.

As the two bags were laid out on the table before him, he opened the first bag and checked for something. Then he opened the second bag and checked. Those closest to him peeked to see what the bags held. It was indeed cash, packed to the brim of both bags. They all had satisfying smiles and sent confirmatory signals to their friends in the crowd further away from the bags.

The crowd waited anxiously, in anticipation as he started looking for something inside both bags. Then he signalled the guy in the vehicle to come over. He whispered something to him. Everyone saw the guy hurry to the vehicle and check for something every where inside. He signalled the man himself that whatever they were looking for was not there. 

The man checked the two bags again. This time he poured the contents of the two bags on the table and searched through the bundles. When the crowds saw the bundles, they held their breaths. Not one of them had seen so much cash in their lives.

He went searching through the wads of cash. Some fell off the table but people dutifully picked them up and put them back on the table.

Then he told people who were nearby to put the cash back into the bags and whispered something into one of the elders who was there and sat down. As he sat down, he started sweating. He looked lost, speechless and worried as if he had had a death in the family.

The elder stood up and with a sad voice asked if any one had seen the man's note book. He pleaded with the crowd that if any person has seen or has taken the note book, this was no time to play around but to return it because all the many names and their kind deeds towards the man himself were all recorded in detail in his note book and that is the list he will go by to payback people with the cash in the two bags.

He added that if someone had taken it then they must return it. Assuring them that there won't be any repercussions but forgiveness from all in the village and tribe because after all it was 25th December and it was the day of forgiveness and giving. 

No one stepped forward or admitted. Not even to having witnessed such a theft. After about one hour of searching and trying to figure out, the man himself stood up and said, " You all know I carry a note book around where I record in detail every good deed done to me by others. I had this book this morning and I must have misplaced it in the run around to organise this feast. 

All the names and deeds are listed there from those who did much to those who did little. Since almost all of you aided me. I am not a computer to recall all your names and deeds.

I came to repay you and I am not leaving with the money in the bags. It came in your name, it will stay here, but I cannot give it to only some I can recall and not to others I do not recall. You all know that I repay fairly and accordingly. Without my note book, I am sorry, but I cannot do much.

Since the two bags of money came in your name, I will not take a single note back to Port Moresby so you tell me what to do. How should I distribute the money? Please take your time and come up with a decision that will be beneficial to all that did much and all that did little. Come back with the answer in three days, for I will be returning to Port Moresby on the fourth day to spend the new year celebrations with my family.

Get the two bags of money and lock them in one of the containers and give the keys to a trusted member of the community and guard the container, in case someone tries to rob the money like they stole my note book and messed things up for all of us

After his speech, the crowd was literally confounded and somewhat confused. It was like they were in a state of shock. Normally there would have been a lot of mumbling and grumbling, but not this time. 

There was an eerie silence over the crowd. People were trying to figure out in their own minds as to what just happened after the hype and the high of the past few weeks. They could feel the self induced high, starting to slowly deflat like a slow leaking balloon.

The thought that he may have deliberately hidden the note book crossed their minds, but then why did he not want to take his money back. He could have used the lost note book as an excuse and could have kept his money. They knew he stood on his word so when he said the money he brought came in their name and was theirs for keeps. The deliberate or intentional theory did not hold much water.

The only plausible conclusion was that, the note book was indeed stolen by some jealous person who didn't want the village and tribe to benefit. Some people who had already borrowed money felt like, tearing the thief into pieces with their bare hands limb by limb.

The good thing, however, was that at least the money was still there and that was everything. They would have to ensure that the money was safely locked in the container for three days.

One of the elders had said that they all take one full day to come up with ideas. In the second day they will come together with all the ideas, discuss and put the best one forward to the man himself on the third day. All agreed. 

But just to be sure, a team was dispatched to investigate and try to find the note book. There was no need to dispatch a security team to guard the container. The entire tribe volunteered on their own accord to stand guard and set up camp around the locked container holding the money on a 24 hour basis. If the money was somehow stolen, it would be absolutely unbearable.

 Another team was dispatched to look for a credible "glass man", with clear instructions, not to bring those guess fire ones or those generalising ones, but one who is able to be specific and point straight to where the note book was or point straight to the culprit who stole it and then whoever the thief was would literally get it, some secretly thought.

The search and investigation team came up with nothing. The glass man team brought a guy who kept saying, " Em yupla yet nau." When pressed, he said, "Buk em stap namel lo yupla yet." That made people turn the whole vicinity upside down, but still to no avail. The glass man was dismissed as a fraud. He almost got beaten too. There were discussions on finding a genuine one in places like Lae or Madang, but time was against them.

Finally, they convened their "ideas meeting" on the second day. Some suggested for the guy to draw up a new list with every person stating his kind deed. Others said let him pay from his memory and whoever he forgets must be prepared to forget their rightful claims.

One said to let him keep his money. He was shouted down and told to shut up with such demonic ideas. 

 Another suggested for him to evenly distribute the money as he did the food. The ones who thought they could end up with 15 seater buses almost beat him up arguing that why would others benefit from the hard work of some.

 The "ideas and against the ideas" meeting went on and on with no definitive resolution. 

Every idea seemed to clash with the interests of others. The only fairest thing to do was to give all his money back and hope that he goes bankrupt a third time so that they would show their kindness all over again. Even that too was not agreed to because all they wanted were the two bags full of money. They had seen the two bags and now had their hearts and minds set on the contents.

Then one old man got up and said, " Every idea proposed seems to have an opposition always. The only common sense thing to do is to let the man himself decide and do whatever he thinks is best because after all it is his money and we don't deserve it. Which one of us can honestly say, we did good to him with good intentions? We all went out of our way to please him not with good intentions, but because we wanted to be repaid a thousand fold. Let him decide. Who knows he might reward all that have done good to him from his memory and if he forgets anyone then we must not blame him at all. He is human and we all forget things. I am sure that if we leave things to him, he might even do what is best for all of us."

After much deliberation, they all agreed to the old man's view and resolved to let the man himself decide. They knew that he would remember some of them and reward them.

The next day, they all were present and gave their resolution over to the man himself. 

He asked if all of them agreed for him to decide what to do with the money. They all shouted in the affirmative. He then asked if despite what he decides, all his debts would be forgiven and deemed paid in full. Again they all shouted in the affirmative.

With that he said, "Let heaven and earth be witness that my debt to all of you is repaid in full despite whatever I decide to do. I owe non of you anything from this day forth."

He then asked the key bearer to open the container and bring out the two money bags. He opened one bag and took out a new list from inside his jacket pocket and  started calling out the names on that list and gifting them K2000 per name. The names on that new list included five of the oldest and most senior citizens of that village and all the seven widows of his small tribe including the key bearer.

After that he closed the opened bag and told some people to load them on his own vehicle and before leaving left these words. " I don't know why I lost the note book, but all I know is that nature is always fair in that a genuine sower always reaps his rightful dues. Many of you here have not been rewarded today for your good deeds to me now, but I am sure you will reap sometime in future in your lives if indeed your deeds were genuine.

For the rest of the money in the bags, I have now decided to build a clinic for the village that will benefit all and build permanent church buildings for the three bush material churches standing in the village and also give a facelift to the two permanent ones."

Three days later four big trucks with containers arrived in the village. One of the drivers explained that the trucks held prefabricated steel beams, roofing irons and everything else for three church buildings, a clinic and the maintenance of two other churches

In the new excitement of seeing all these container trucks, no one asked when the orders were placed or where the materials came from.

 The orders had been placed about five months ago from China. It took three months for the ship to arrive at the wharf in Lae. The shipment arrived two weeks ago. The trucks were hired two weeks ago to pick them up after the usual customs clearance and the  delivery of the containers to the village.  Did the note book get stolen? I seriously doubt that. At least the "glass man" may have been right and almost got a terrible beating for nothing.  Some times we expect too much from what we have not sown.# PS. It is a rarity for a declared bankrupt to be declared bankrupt again the second time around. This time around he knows how to hide things legally.


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