When it’s not written in stone: The Wknd Puzzle by Dilip D’Souza

Farmer have tales, legends, even riddles about cruel moneylenders. All reflect a thirst for justice. In this one, a farmer’s daughter orchestrates a win for the whole family.
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Updated on Dec 03, 2021 08:31 PM IST
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ByBy Dilip D’Souza

Several years ago, I travelled through Vidarbha meeting families of farmers who had died by suicide. In every case, they were in debt, often to the local moneylender. So I heard a lot of resentment directed at moneylenders and their extortionate interest rates. In one village, people even told a story of cornering one and beating him up. It was a grim trip.

Just before I left, I heard of a puzzle involving moneylenders, one where the farmer’s family finally wins. Here it is.

A farmer, call him Kaustubh, owes a substantial sum to a moneylender, Pandurang. He can’t pay. Months pass, Pandurang grows rude and abusive, makes threatening visits to Kaustubh’s home. But Kaustubh still can’t pay.

Finally Pandurang says, “Your daughter Pradnya is beautiful. Marry her to me and I’ll forgive your debt.”

Kaustubh and Pradnya are aghast. Pandurang sees this and decides to force their hand further. He proposes something new. Pointing at the pebbles on the ground, he says: “I’ll put a black pebble and a white pebble into this bag. Pradnya must pull one out. If it’s black, she marries me and I forgive the debt. If it’s white, she doesn’t marry me and I still forgive the debt. But if she refuses to pick a pebble, I’ll have you thrown in jail for not returning my money.”

The farmer’s family has no choice. And then Pradnya notices that when Pandurang bent to pick up two pebbles, he surreptitiously chose two black ones for the bag.

What is she to do now? If she refuses to choose, her father will go to jail. If she pulls out one pebble, she’ll have to marry this terrible man. If she pulls out both black pebbles and exposes him, who knows how he might react, and the debt will still remain.

Question: What does Pradnya do?

Scroll down for the answer.

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Answer:

Pradnya puts her hand into the bag, pulls out one pebble and deliberately fumbles it, letting it fall. With so many pebbles around, she knows it’ll be impossible to tell which one she picked.

Then she says: “Let’s just look at the other pebble in the bag. We’ll know the colour of the one I picked from the one left behind.”

Pandurang isn’t pleased. A few seconds later, Kaustubh is very pleased indeed. He and Pradnya thank Pandurang profusely and walk home, finally debt-free.

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Saturday, January 22, 2022