A poor traveller was walking through the streets of Ak-Shehir. He had a little to eat for two days. He had spent his last penny, and all that remained in his pockets was a piece of dry bread.
As he passed by an eating-house, he saw several people sitting round the fire, eating and drinking. On the fire there was a large cooking-pot, full of meat-balls giving off a lovely smell. You can be sure that this smell made the hungry man’s mouth water!
The owner of the eating-house stood there, serving his customers. He asked the traveller if he wanted to buy some meat-balls, but the poor man turned away. ‘A man without money never buys anything,’ he said.
Yet the traveller still walked to and fro, enjoying the smell. He took the piece of dry bread out of his pocket and held it over the pot. After a minute or two, he slowly ate the bread and he tried to imagine that it tasted better when he had the smell of meat-balls in his nose. The eating-house keeper got angry when he saw the man doing this.
He took hold of his arm roughly and hurried him round that corner to the magistrate’s court. Now it happened that Nasruddin, the ‘Hodja’ was acting as magistrate that day. When he asked what was the matter, the eating-house keeper said to him, ‘This man came into my eating-house without any money and helped himself with the smell of the meat-balls which were cooking in the pot. He must be forced to pay me.’
The Hodja took two pennies from his pocket put them between his hands and shook them together backwards and forwards, against the eating-house keeper’s right ear.
‘Can you hear anything?’ he asked the man.
‘Yes sir, I can,’ the eating-house keeper replied.
‘Now, can you still hear something?’ the Hodja asked, as he shook the two pennies together against the man’s left ear.
‘Yes, sir, I can still hear the pennies shaking together, but why are you doing this?”
The Hodja put the pennies back in his pocket and answered. ‘Surely the sound of money is a fair payment for the smell of food. You have therefore been paid twice, and that is more than enough. Let this poor traveller continue his journey.’