YOURSAY: I learnt the hard way that money and friends don’t mix

Wednesday December 30 2015

What’s the value of Sh1000? To some, it can

What’s the value of Sh1000? To some, it can mean an entire month’s budget. To others, its cash they spend in the blink of an eye. To some, it means everything. To others; nothing. For me, it’s the cost I had to pay to lose a friend. ILLUSTRATION| JOSEPH NGARI 

What’s the value of Sh 1000? To some, it can mean an entire month’s budget. To others, its cash they spend in the blink of an eye. To some, it means everything. To others; nothing. For me, it’s the cost I had to pay to lose a friend.

There’s a saying that goes, “Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need more. The money or the friend.” Growing up, my mother constantly warned my siblings and me against lending or borrowing money from not only our fiends but also our relatives. Loaning money is a great way to destroy a relationship, she’d say.

This does not mean, however, that she taught us to be mean. Instead, she implored us to invest more in the culture of giving out gifts. “It is more fulfilling when you help out a friend in need without expecting them to pay you back. Doing so will strengthen a friendship and help you avoid the dangers a ‘friendly loan’ can bring,” mama said.

And even though following mama’s advice (giving without expecting to be paid back) has caused a few unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of me, I am happy to say that the approach has helped me avoid a considerable number of headaches.

In this one instance, though, I lost a close friend because her pride couldn’t let her accept a ‘free gift’ from me.  It proved to me that friends are forever, until you let them borrow money from you.

It all started with a call.

“Hi Jowal. I have a slight emergency over here. Mind loaning me 1000 bob?”

“Uhmm… I don’t usually loan cash to ladies,” I remember explaining. It’s from experience. Most bad debts I’ve accrued are with the fairer sex.

 “But since you say it’s an emergency, I’ll just give you the cash. No need to pay back. I’m sure you’d do the same thing if I were in your shoes.”

But her pride couldn’t let it slide. “Aki thanks, but I have to pay you back. I insist.”

Who was I to argue? “I’ll send you the cash today evening.”

And so evening came and went, I almost forgot about that 1000 bob until roughly a week later, when I found myself in a fix.

 “Hey Fiolina (Name changed), do you remember the cash I lent you which you promised to pay back? I could really use it right now,” I told her over the phone.

“Ooh… that!” She exclaimed. “Give me a few hours, I will send it to you via M-PESA.”

If you have been in a similar situation, then you know that a few hours could mean either exactly that, or never. I decided to give her the benefit of doubt and started playing the waiting game with her.

And so a few hours came and went, as I had feared they would. Thankfully, I managed to get myself out of the of the fix and chose to forget about the debt.

I reminisced about how our friendship was before the 1000 bob got in the way. We would seek each other out just to spend time with each other. We would talk about how our respective love lives were faring, offer advice to each other as we sipped our milkshakes

Life post-1000 bob involved me calling and her always being unavailable to meet. Our conversations were always punctuated with guilt (from her end) about the money she owed me.

I would call her asking her when we could meet and the first thing she’d say after receiving the call was, “I’m at the M-Pesa agent, sending you the cash right away!”

To which I would respond, “Relax, I wasn’t even calling about the money. Was just asking when you’ll be free.”

To be honest, I didn’t care about the money anymore. All I wanted was my friend back. 1000 shillings isn’t something worth squabbling about. Besides, I’d made it clear from the start that she didn’t have to pay me back.

But no. I’d text her and the first thing that would come to her mind was that maybe I was threatening to auction her belongings. I’d write ‘hi,’ and she’d text back ‘you’ll have your money by the end of the day.’

This was really frustrating for me.

And so it was that we started seeing less and less of each other, and spoke even less. She disappeared from my Facebook timeline and I never saw her photos again on Instagram. My calls to her went unanswered, much to my disappointment.

On Christmas Eve, I called to wish her a Merry Christmas. Her younger sister picked up the phone after I had dialled three times, informing me that her sister was not around.

“When she comes back tell her that I regret loaning her 1000 bob,” I said to her.

Yeah, that’s what 1000 bob can do. It cost me a friend.

To read more from this writer, visit