Long ago in an Indian village, a poor farmer found himself in a terrible predicament. Several of his crops having failed, the farmer was deep in debt to the village moneylender. Like others of his ilk, the old moneylender was grasping and ruthless. He also coveted the farmer’s pretty daughter. So he proposed a bargain — he would forgo the farmer’s debt if the maiden’s hand was given to him in marriage.
The farmer was horrified. The moneylender’s evil ture was known to all. That he had to sacrifice his daughter to this man’s lust made the farmer’s situation unbearable. But he had no altertive. The maiden knew this and grieved.
With half an eye, the cunning moneylender saw their dismay and decided to play a little game. Smiling to himself, he suggested that providence should decide the matter. The game would play out like this — the moneylender would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. Then the maiden 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 written off. If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into the dungeon for the indebted.
On the agreed day, they stood on a pebble strewn path passing through the farmer’s field. Talking to the farmer, the moneylender suddenly turned away and bent down to pick up two pebbles. But quick as he was, the maiden’s eye was quicker. She saw that he had picked up two black pebbles and shoved them inside the bag.
With a carefully expressionless face, the moneylender then turned towards the maiden and asked her to pick a pebble. Should she refuse to play his game? After all, he had already loaded the dice against her! Or should she resign herself to her fate and go on with the charade? Her fate would then be worse than death, but at least her father would be saved from debt and imprisonment.
Or maybe she should confront the moneylender and expose him as a cheat? The maiden looked into his eyes, like those of a ske about to strike. The trap had been set. There was to be no escape.
The girl put her hand into the bag and began to draw out a pebble. And then she fumbled...
The pebble dropped and was immediately lost among all other pebbles in the path. “Oh, how clumsy of me!” the maiden cried.
She then added: “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the pebble that is left, you will be able to tell which one I picked.”
The moneylender was now well and truly stumped. How could he say with his own mouth that he had been dishonest? The entire village would laugh at him. His aura would be blown way.
The maiden had changed what seemed an impossible situation into one to her great advantage. Not only had she kept her wits about her, she was willing to think out of the box and look beyond the obvious.
Such is the power of lateral thinking. No wonder creative thinking guru Edward de Bono was so fond of illustrating it with this story.