Strategy can win over tricky situations

Once upon a time, a merchant owed a large sum of
money to an old moneylender. The merchant’s ships had
sunk and he failed to repay the debt. The moneylender
fancied the merchant’s beautiful daughter and told the
daughter that since, her father could not repay the debt, he
was willing to marry her and forgo the debt.

The daughter told the moneylender, “Only if it is
destined can I become your wife.”

The moneylender asked, “How will I know whether it is
destined or not?”

The daughter said, “This garden path has black and white
pebbles. Pick one white pebble and one black pebble. Put it
in your bag. Then from your bag, if I pick a white pebble,
then my father’s debt will be cancelled and I will marry you.
If I pick a black pebble, then also my father’s debt will be
cancelled but I will not marry you.”

The moneylender agreed. He bent down to pick two pebbles.
With a sleight of his hand, he quickly picked two white
pebbles and put them inside his bag. He thought that since
both pebbles were white, whichever pebble the daughter picked
up, she would have to marry him. However, the daughter had
sharp eyes and she saw the whole trick. The daughter put her
hand inside the bag, picked up one pebble, but as she was
bringing her hand out, she quickly fumbled and let the pebble
fall on the ground, where the pebble got lost amidst the
several black and white pebbles.

Then the daughter told the moneylender, “Oh! In
nervousness my hand fumbled, but still we can decide. Your
bag still has one pebble. So the pebble that I had picked
must be the other color of the pebble that is in your bag.”

The moneylender put his hand inside his bag and drew out a
white pebble, as he had put two white pebbles only.

The daughter looked at the moneylender and said, “So I
had picked up a black pebble. According to the agreement,
my father’s debt will be cancelled and I will not marry you.”

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time: 100 Management Stories” by Rajen Jani