Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the village moneylender, an old, ugly and devious character.
Knowing that the farmer did not have the resources to pay him back, the moneylender proposed a bargain - he would forgo the farmer's debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified.
In an attempt to appear honourable, the moneylender suggested that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. The girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.
If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father's debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be pardoned. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.
They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer's field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. The sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into his bag.
The moneylender then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.
Now, when faced with such a sudden and sticky situation, how was the girl going to untangle herself and her father? Most of us would arrive at three options:
1. The girl could refuse to take a pebble. Her father would be imprisoned as a result.
2. The girl could show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat. But then, the moneylender could still demand that the debt be paid up.
3. The girl could pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.
What would you recommend?
*******UPDATE***** april 5, 2007*********
******HERE'S WHAT THE GIRL DID****************
The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.
"Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked."
Since the remaining pebble was black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the money-lender couldn't admit his dishonesty, he grudgingly forgave the farmer's debt.