CHANDANA POKUNA, Sri Lanka -- Every day after 4 p.m., residents in this quiet, leafy village listen for the putt-putting of motorbikes on the sandy road next to their homes. When they hear it, they know to shut their doors and turn off their lights. Their children are instructed to run inside and not let anyone in.
A motorbike is the vehicle of choice for local debt collectors, who fan out through places like Chandana Pokuna, some 500 brick-faced, rundown houses in Sri Lanka's rice-farming north central district of Polonnaruwa. The motorcycle men, agents of microlending companies, start work in the late afternoon, when they know residents will be at home.