Cheating the Cheater !

R.D. Bhardwaj
Long long ago, in a small Indian village, a farmer named Krishan Lal, had to borrow a large sum of money from Mungeri Lal, the money-lender of his village, but, unfortunately, he could not repay the same as his crops were damaged due to the devastating floods. The money-lender was a middle aged person and was very cunning in nature and shrewd in dealings. He used to fleece his customers by one trick or the other and made them pay interest much more than what actually became due from the borrowers. As the payment of principal plus interest became due from Krishan Lal, but he was not in a position to repay his debt, and the money lender had some other plans. In fact, he had fancied the farmer’s young, beautiful daughter – Urvashi, and wanted to marry her by hook or crook, but he also wanted that his plan of marrying her should look somewhat reasonable / logical in the eyes of his fellow villagers. So he proposed a bargain to Krishan Lal.
Keeping this in mind, he called on the farmer to his house and told him that he can afford to forgo his debt if he could marry hisdaughter to him. Everyone in the farmer’s family was horrified on hearing the greedy and wicked proposal of the money lender. Even Urvashi, the daughter of the farmer was not at willing to marry that cunning fellow, because, he not only a cheater, but also much older than the girl he intended to marry. In fact, he was scorned by most of the villagers because he had plundered the property and happiness of many gullible people by his clever and intricate intrigues. Krishan Lal’s delicate and sensitive soul was also bruised very badly on hearing the indecent proposal of the money lender, but he had to wear patience, as he was fully aware of the fact that Mungeri Lal was quite rich and influential fellow. 
However, the shrewd money-lender suggested to the farmer that they let the providence  decide their matter. He told the farmer – “Let us play a simple game and in that game, if the farmer wins, his debt would be totally waived off  and if the moneylender wins, the farmer shall have to marry his daughter with him.” As the farmer did not have money to repay his debt, with a heavy heart, he asked, “What is the game?”  The money lender told him the game shall be played in the presence of that around 10/12 people from their village. Myself, you, your wife and daughter shall all go to the river that flows behind our village. Other people from their village shall see that the game is played fairly and shall also be witness to the entire episode. On the banks of the river, thousands of pebbles of many colours lay scattered by the flowing river. One of people present there, shall be asked to put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty pitcher, which would be placed there. Thereafter, the mouth of the pitcher shall be covered with a cloth, so that nobody is able to see the colour of the pebbles. Then your daughter shall be asked to pick-up only one pebble from the pitcher, and thereafter –
(1) If she picked-up the black pebble, she would have to marry the money lender and her father’s debt would be entirely waived off,
(2) If she picked-up the white pebble, she will not have to marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven,   and
(3) But, if by any stretch of imagination, she refused to pick-up any pebble, her father would be thrown into the jail for non-payment of his debt and I shall also confiscate your property to recover my dues by selling the same.
The farmer, Krishan Lal listened to his game plan carefully and then asked for one week’s grace period to think about his proposal and discuss it with his family and promised the money-lender, Mungeri Lal, to revert to him after seven days. The money lender gladly allowed him the desired grace period to discuss the matter freely with his family and decide on the matter. In fact, the money lender was sure that the financial condition of his borrower was very vulnerable and that the desire moneylender was relishing in his mind, was going to be realised soon. And thus, he clearly told him that he should also keep in mind that there is no other way by which Krishan Lal can repay his outstanding debt to the money lender. And that Krishan Lal should also bear in mind the consequences which are likely to follow / happen in case he fails to repay his debt even after that grace period and also of not playing the said game with him. On his return to home, the farmer discussed the problem amongst his wife, Kamla and his daughter Urvashi. As his economic condition was really very poor and he also had no relative who could provide him the desired money, they also informed their daughter everything about the impending debt of the moneylender and what he had in mind to recover the same. Of course, like them, Urvashi was also petrified on hearing the cunning and dirty plans of Mungeri Lal. But, as the saying goes, what cannot be cured, must be endured – hence, the farmer and his wife decided to take the risk and play the game, where there are more chances of winning than loosing.
After the expiry of the grace period, the farmer went to the money lender and informed him that, as he could not arrange the money required for repayment of his loan, and thus, he is now left with no other option but to play the game. So, as per rules, the money lender asked his henchmen to call ten people from their village to go along with them to the river to witness the whole turn of events, so that no one in the village could later on, point an accusing finger towards the moneylender for cheating the farmer. Thus, the farmer, Krishan Lal, his wife Kamla and their daughter Urvashi, and of course, the moneylender, went to the place where the required game was going to be played, i.e. the bank of the river.  The wicked and greedy money lender again informed all the people present there that this game is being played to settle the debt of the farmer, which he had taken last year but failed to repay the same according to the terms of the loan. Then, he asked Mala Ram, one of his henchmen, to pick-up two pebbles (one black and one white) from the river-bed and put the same into the pitcher. As all the people present there  were engrossed in cross talks over the whole affair and its likely consequences, the money-lender’s henchman – Mala Ram, turning his back to all other people present there, bent over and picked up two pebbles and put them into the pitcher.  
As the farmer’s daughter, Urvashi’s life was at a huge risk and stake; she was constantly keeping an eagle eye on the whole range of activities. Thus, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that, just like the Shakuni money-lender, his servant appointed to pick-up the pebbles was also a cheat, and he had clandestinely picked up two black pebbles only and put them into the pitcher. Thus, she realised that the entire game was already fixed in such a way that only Mungeri Lal ultimately wins the game and succeeds in his black mission. The mouth of the pitcher was then covered with a cloth so that no one could see the colour of pebbles inside it.
Mungeri Lal then asked Urvashi to pick-up a pebble from the pitcher. Urvashi was also aware that the shrewd moneylender had employed four henchmen who had long sticks in their hands to deal with some sudden unimagined situation or eventuality. She was also aware that the moneylender’s henchmen had beaten some of his clients of that village in the past.
As everybody present there was thinking very curiously to see what is going to happen next moment, the farmer’s daughter Urvashi kept on thinking seriously, as to what she should do at that point of time. She had also seen Mungeri Lal’s servant, Mala Ram, putting only two black pebbles into the pitcher and that picking-up any pebble would result in the same thing. She very seriously analysed all the three possibilities and that what is going to emerge soon after her action of picking-up a pebble from the pitcher, which is hugely going to affect her life in future. If she exposed their cheating to all the people present there, nobody was going to take side with them, as all of them feared stick wielding henchmen of the money lender. Moreover, everybody had taken some loan from the rich and cruel Mungeri Lal, who was the master of the entire game plan.  And if she refuses to take a pebble, her father would be handed over to police and everybody knows the behaviour of police while dealing with a poor man, who did not have any fall back arrangement.  She also knew that her picking up any pebble from the pitcher shall not make any difference, as the moneylender’s cheater henchman had already pushed them to very vulnerable situation by putting both the black pebbles into the pitcher. At one point of time, she also thought of picking-up a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her family from their overdue debt and imprisonment.
Then one of the people standing there asked the girl, “Urvashi ! Why are you brooding over the matter, go ahead and pick up one pebble and put an end to the whole game.” But Urvashi was pondering over some scheme as to how she can take the next move so that the game is also played and none of her family members is harmed in any manner. Cunning Mungeri Lal was also thinking in his heart that his long cherished desire is soon going to be realised and he was very much happy with the favourable turn of events. All the members of Krishan Lal’s family were also looking to ground, as they feared that their disgrace is quite imminent now. An uneasy and continued gloom and despair prevailed there for some time, as, with an air of suspense, lull prevails before the storm.
Then suddenly, his daughter moved slowly towards the pitcher, moved here and there for a while and then suddenly, put her hand into the pitcher and drew out a pebble, but held it closely into her clenched palm. Everybody was looking at one another very curiously to see the colour of the pebble. Without looking at it, Urvashi  fumbled and feigned as if she was feeling giddy, and thus, she let it fall onto the innumerable pebbles-strewn path of the river. The pebble immediately fell from her hand and was lost amongst the  many other pebbles, which lay scattered there.
Then, after a few seconds, she  feigned as if she has realised her senses, and said, “Oh, I was not feeling well and that is why the pebble I picked-up from the pitcher fell down. But never mind, as all of you know that moneylender’s servant had put two pebbles, one black and one white, into the pitcher, one which I had picked-up has fallen off my hand. But, the other one is still left there in the pitcher. By seeing the other pebble, you will be able to tell as to which pebble I have previously picked-up ……..” All the villagers present there, said, “Oh Yes! She is right ! Let us now pick up the other pebble and see its colour …….. as the outcome of the game shall be known only on seeing the colour of the second pebble lying in the pitcher.  
Then, they asked Krishan Lal to pick up the second pebble and show it to all the people. And the farmer just did what he was told to do. Since the remaining pebble in the pitcher was black, it must be assumed that the girl had picked the white one.  And as per rules of the game, the white pebble means that Krishan Lal will not have to marry his daughter Urvashi to the money lender and that his entire debt shall also be forgiven. The situation that had emerged now, has left Mungeri Lal very disheartened and disgusted at the ultimate outcome of his wicked game. And since he also did not have guts to admit his dishonesty to his fellow villagers, the girl he intended to marry by deceit, had turned what seemed to be an impossible situation, into an extremely advantageous for her family. Tears of sudden joy rolled down the cheeks of Kamla and Krishan Lal, whereas, the mood in the Mungeri Lal’s camp became sullen with the disappointing failure of his deceitful game. All other villagers except Mungeri Lal’s henchmen, were happy at this outcome. The sudden and unlikely positive result of the game gladdened the hearts of Kamla and Krishan Lal and they felt as if tonnes of the unwanted burden which was killing and crushing them since long, has been off loaded from their heads and souls and they felt immensely relieved. Both of them looked at their daughter Urvashi endearingly and embraced her lovingly, and then slowly started moving towards their sweet home.   
Even the most complex problems also have a solution. It is only that we don’t attempt to think beyond what apparently looks imminent. Secondly, many problems have hidden solutions, but it needs some patience and perseverance to seek them. And lastly, there is nothing wrong in cheating the cheater.

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