Chitra Chakraborty


SINCE HIS CHILDHOOD, Dad loved to solve puzzles. Those days, several leading children’s magazines would publish the names of puzzle solvers. To find his name there was no surprise. What was surprising was the fact he would always include all his siblings’ names including my late, lamented youngest uncle Manoj Ranjan or Ravi when he was barely an infant! Dad truly lived the philosophy: "One for all."

His most favorite puzzle was the following:

A man is walking down the village road with a tiger, a goat and a bundle of grass. Soon he arrives at the river bank where there is one tiny boat that can carry him and another animal or grass at a time. Here is the problem: Left alone, the tiger will eat the goat. And similarly, the goat will eat the grass bundle. How is he going to take all three across the river safely? (Answer appears at the end.)

Looking back, I understand the reason why Dad loved this puzzle so much. There is more to it than just a puzzle. Here is the man facing a crisis, i.e., too many demands on too few resources. The world we live in, we face this everyday. Time management, prioritizing or focusing—call what you may—are but a way to solve it. Our life is a constant battle against time, money and/or some other precious little resource. The choices or the decisions we make determine not only the quality of life we live but also the course of our lives. And only wisdom can discern which one is the tiger or the crisis and which one is the mess, e.g., goat eating the bundle of grass. Life can be shattered when the tiger is not recognized and left alone with the hapless goat. And too often people fall apart when faced with a mess or relatively minor problem like goat eating the bundle of grass—recouperable loss. That poor man with tiger, goat and a bundle of grass is a metaphor for the problems we, humans, face throughout the world every day.

By asking us time and again this puzzle over Sunday lunch, Dad was teaching us an invaluable lesion—a simple but profound philosophy of life—which also happens to be very practical and timely. Recalling this puzzle fills me with pride and thankfulness.





Answer: Man takes goat with him to the other side first and comes back to get the tiger. He leaves tiger on the other side and brings goat back. Then he takes the bundle of grass to the other side. He returns again to pick up goat and after crossing the river, resumes his journey with tiger, goat and a bundle of grass.