A man died leaving behind 17 camels for his three sons. His will entitled the eldest son half of the lot, one-third was earmarked to the younger son and one-ninth to the youngest of the three siblings. He entrusted his friend with the responsibility of executing his will. As soon as the will was read out, all hell broke loose. There was no way 17 camels could be divided in the stated proportions. Math failed to offer a workable solution. Best of the brains around tried and failed. Negotiations too failed as the siblings didn’t see compromise as an option. With no solution in sight as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, tensions intensified. The dead man’s will became the talk of the town. As the rumor mill spread far and wide, it caught the ears of a traveler passing the city. Intrigued by the situation, the traveler offered help. He had a brief closed door meeting with the three siblings and everyone came out smiling. The eldest son got nine camels, the younger got six and the youngest happily went home with his two. As the traveler mounted his own camel to carry on with his journey, a young boy stopped him. He had two questions for the traveler – why did all efforts fail till now and how did the traveler solve the riddle in minutes.  On hearing the boy’s questions, the traveler got off his camel.

The traveler asked the boy to narrate the story, right from the death of this friend to date. The boy did. The traveler smiled on hearing the tale and said that no one could have solved it as no one really tried. He said that people only focused on the complexities of the situation and either became a part of it or added to it. The traveler went on to highlight some instances. He pointed how the mother of the siblings, instead of taking control of the situation only prayed all day expecting god to intervene. The brothers, instead of sharing, being compassionate and working on a solution, focused on getting their share and became suspicious. They almost ended up hating each other. The town in general go something new to talk about. Some laughed, some speculated and some wondered. The intellectuals worked and reworked the math whilst the ignorant folk watched. But no one really had anything to do with solving the problem. The traveler continued saying that the executor of the will too had his resolve wavering throughout. First, the executor spent time reminding people of his authority in the situation and then, time was spent cursing his dead friend for the wrong math in the will.

The traveler then shared his recipe. He revealed that when he sat with the siblings with the objective of brokering peace, he counted 18 camels. He added his own camel to the lot. He then reworked the math giving the eldest half i.e. nine, the younger took his one-third i.e. six and the youngest got his one-ninth i.e. two. The last camel left was taken back by the traveler. Thus the 17 camels were amicably divided, as per the dead man’s wish, between his three sons. The boy stood still in amazement as the traveler disappeared over the horizon. The boy went home with a lesson – to be in it to win it!


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