Excerpt from Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Banker to the Poor

Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

by Muhammad Yunus

Banker to the Poor
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1999, 258 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2003, 288 pages

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I became interested in painting and drawing and apprenticed with a commercial artist, whom I called Ustad, or “Guru.” At home I arranged my easel, canvas, and pastels so that I could hide them from Father at a moment’s notice. As a devout Muslim, Father did not believe in reproducing the human figure. Some art-loving uncles and aunts in the family became my coconspirators, helping and encouraging me.

As a by-product of these hobbies, Salam and I developed an interest in graphics and design. We also started a stamp collection and convinced a neighboring shopkeeper to display our stamp box in the front of his shop. With two uncles we frequented theaters to see Hindi and Hollywood films and to sing the romantic folk songs that were popular at that time.

Chittagong Collegiate School was much more cosmopolitan than my primary school had been. My classmates were mostly sons of government officials on transfer from various districts and the school offered one of the best educations in the country. But its particular attraction for me was the Boy Scout program. The scout den became my hangout. Along with boys from other schools, I engaged in drills, games, artistic pursuits, discussions, hikes in the countryside, variety shows, and rallies. During “earnings week” we would raise money by hawking goods, polishing boots, and working as tea stall boys. Aside from the fun, scouting taught me to be compassionate, to develop an inner spirituality, and to cherish my fellow human beings.

I particularly recall a train trip across India to the First Pakistan National Boy Scout Jamboree in 1953. Along the way, we stopped and visited various historical sites. Most of the time, we sang and played, but standing in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, I caught our assistant headmaster, Quazi Sirajul Huq, weeping silently. His tears were not for the monument or for the famous lovers who are buried there or for the poetry etched on the white marble walls. Quazi Sahib said he cried for our destiny and for the burden of history that we were carrying. Though I was only thirteen, I was struck by his passionate explanation. With his encouragement, scouting began to infiltrate all my other activities. I had always been a natural leader, but Quazi Sahib’s moral influence taught me to think high and to channel my passions.

In 1973, in the chaotic months following the Bangladesh War of Liberation, I visited Quazi Sahib with my father and brother Ibrahim. We drank tea and discussed the political turmoil around us. A month later, Quazi Sahib, then a frail old man, was brutally murdered in his sleep by his servant, who robbed him of a small sum of money. The police never caught the murderer. I was devastated. In retrospect, I came to understand his tears at the Taj Mahal as prophetic of both his own suffering and the suffering in store for the Bengali people.

Excerpted from Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus Copyright © 1998 by Muhammad Yunus. Excerpted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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