Worried by the Chinese incursion into Ladakh, I have had a series of meetings with experts in the foreign ministry, all of them wearing People’s Liberation Army caps, who explained that there is no cause for alarm.
1st Expert: Relax. Every-thing has been satisfactorily explained.
Me: Why have they come?
Expert: For sambar.
Expert: Do you know these poor PLA chaps survive on boiled noodle soup for months on end? It’s enough to drive anybody nuts. One fine day, our lads were busy preparing sambar. You know the sambar with yellow pumpkin and toor dal?
Me: Ah, heavenly.
Expert: Exactly. Add the blissful aroma of freshly ground sambar powder. So when the breeze gently wafted the sambar scents northward and the Chinks caught a whiff of it, they said they dumped their noodle soup and made a bee-line for India. We gave them sambar, but they now want idlis, avial, puliyodarai. Their commandant told me, while polishing off an onion vadai, that the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach had said ‘Der Mensch ist was er isst’ or ‘Man is what he eats’.
Me: Very enlightening.
2nd Expert: It turns out the Chinese were in hot pursuit of the Abominable Snowman.
Me: They were following a yeti?
2nd Expert: There was a blizzard going on and Lance Naik Harnam Singh, who’s six foot three, went out to take a leak. Naturally, they thought he was a yeti and came over to take a closer look.
Me: Now that they have realised their error, won’t they be going back?
2nd Expert: They don’t believe us. They say Harnam is a Chinese yeti and want him back. We’re trying to convince them to accept a snow leopard instead.
3rd Expert: After several diplomatic meetings, we finally have an official communication from them. It explains everything.
Me: Could you share it with me?
3rd expert: Here goes: ‘A Chinese platoon went off track/Across the border into Ladakh/ But after pitching their tents/The Chinese gents/ Couldn’t find their way back.’
3rd Expert: I agree. There’s something wrong with the syllables.
3rd Expert: But don’t be too harsh, they must have translated it from Mandarin.
4th Expert: They now say they crossed over for the music.
Me: What music?
4th Expert: Nobody likes to be cooped up in a snow-bound border post hearing weird Chinese music all the time. So naturally, when the mellifluous strains of Balamuralikrishna floated over to the Chinese camp, they were dumbstruck. They said they were so mesmerised by the music they had no idea they had strayed into Indian territory.
4th Expert: How dare you insult Balamuralikrishna’s Paluke Bangaramayena, Anandabhairavi ragam, adi thalam. Out with you.
Me: Will the Chinese withdraw?
4th Expert: Well, you know, we’re planning to make a top-level trip to Beijing. We will take with us several packets of sambar powder, idli recipes, a snow leopard, a blue sheep, and Carnatic classical music CDs. That ought to do the trick.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal