The coconut vendorThere was a shrewd old man who used to sell green coconuts on the street. He had quite a few regular customers, one of whom was a little girl. Every day she would come and buy a coconut for her father. He was not doing well physically and he believed that coconut water would help to improve his condition. All the coconuts had a fixed price, no matter what their size. Sometimes there was a great difference in the size, but the old man always charged the same. What is more, whenever the little girl came with her rupees, he would select the smallest possible coconut for her to take home. She could not understand why he always gave her the smallest one.
One day, after he had handed her a particularly small coconut, she became brave and asked the old man, “If you are saying the price is the same for all, why do you always choose the smallest one for me? My father is asking me why I bring home such small coconuts. He says he has never seen them this size. I told him that you do have big ones, but you keep those for other people. So he has asked me to tell you that he is prepared to give you more money so that I can take home a larger one.”
The old man said, “Oh, no, no! You are right. They are all the same price. But tell your father that I have a heart of compassion. You are such a little girl. If I give you a big one, it will be too heavy for you to carry. Your home is quite far away. So I was only showing my concern for you. I am sure your father will understand. I give you the smallest one so it will be easier for you to carry.”
The little girl returned home and told her father what the old man had said by way of explanation. The next day, her father said to her, “This time I want you to look in the baskets and select a very big coconut. First you pick up the coconut and then you give the old man the money. But do not give him the full amount. Just give him a few rupees and keep the rest in your pocket.”
The little girl ran to the coconut vendor and found a huge coconut in one of his baskets. She grabbed it and then quickly gave the man a few rupees, saying, “I am going. Here is your money.” The old man was very surprised by her behaviour. When he started counting the coins, he discovered that she had not given him the full amount, so he ran after her. She was going quite slowly because the coconut was so heavy. The old man grabbed her and screamed, “You rogue! You little thief! You took my best coconut, and you did not give me the full amount!”
The little girl began to scream with fright. Then the old man let his monkey loose and it jumped on the girl to bite her. There was such a commotion on the street that many people gathered to see what was happening. Finally someone summoned a policeman. He rescued the little girl from the monkey and the old man. Then he questioned the old man and asked the girl, “Why did you deceive this man? He says that you have not given him the full amount for your coconut.”
The little girl said, “For weeks and weeks I have been buying coconuts from this man. Every morning I come here. But he always gives me the smallest ones because he says that it is too difficult for me to carry the large ones. The price is exactly the same, but I get only half the amount of coconut water from the small ones. I told my father last night, and he said to me, ‘Since the old man is so kind to you, I want you to give him less money. When he catches you, just tell him it is for his own good that you have done it. Tell him that you also know how to be kind. If you give him the full amount, he will have to spend such a long time counting all the coins. He has many, many customers to serve, so if you give him less money, it will take him less time to count and then he will have more time to help others.’ That is what my father told me to do. Now may I keep this coconut and go? I am sure my father is waiting for me.”
The policeman took the little girl to one side and said, “Your father is a wise man. You did the right thing. Now you can go home with your coconut.”
Then the policeman severely scolded the coconut vendor for cheating the little girl day after day.