Baniyas (moneylender/traders) have a bad reputation. Though the functions they perform are similar, they in no way enjoy the respectability and admiration accorded bankers and businessmen, their brethren in spirit. They are castigated by villager and scholar alike as shylocks, parasites who—if given half a chance—squeeze clients dry through exorbitant interest rates on loans and on goods-on-credit. In an Indian village, one quickly becomes aware of the sometimes fearful respect they command. One approaches them for credit as a supplicant; for the defaultor, there is no more distressing sight than the Baniya at the door demanding to go over accounts. Baniyas are far from lovable; their popular image as fawning, cowardly, greedy sorts who take undue advantage of the weak while ingratiating themselves with the powerful appears singularly well deserved.

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