Take Away – Indo-Chini Chow Mein

They say sincerity shows in one’s eyes. But then what about those whose eyes look shut while open, or vice versa? Or the poker faced, like non-smiling Buddhas, serene outside but the opposite inside? Inverting the body language syndrome!

Given that excitable us are not very good at playing poker with those inscrutable neighbours of ours, it is enigmatic (or is it a habit?) that why we don’t ask for show, especially when we are so unsure of our hand?

Cartoon Courtesy: Bashir Ahmad Bashir
Cartoon Courtesy: Bashir Ahmad Bashir

No, I don’t mean show us that Daulat Beg Oldie Line, which we can see on the map but never on the ground, like latitudes and longitudes. The Chinese on the other hand keep redrawing the Line on the ground after each picnic their PLA goes out to in the Indian Himalayas.

That reminds me, once as I was wistfully peering across our last post at Kaurik into Tibet, I was told the story of how the Headman of Kaurik village (which now apparently falls in Tibet) had gone to Shimla to admit his son in a school there, when the PLA marched into his village while he was away, and how perforce he had to remain back even as his family became Chinese citizens!

That was way back in 1962. I suppose History is replete with such stories of divided families due to the Lines on a map but imagined borders on the ground. Remember Toba Tek Singh?

But, coming back to the poker game, we don’t ask for ‘show’ because we know we will lose or is it because the Chinese have upped the stakes so much that we don’t have the moolah to ask for a ‘show’? Of course the military option of “pushing the Chinese back” is fraught with all sorts of existential dilemmas each of which probably has a dead end answer.

So, perhaps the détente trick is to neither ask for show nor risk the push back option. All in the hope that tired of centuries of holding the cards close to their chest (and deep freezing their PLA volunteers along imagined borders), the Chinese will ultimately thaw (i.e. smile) and ‘show’ voluntarily.

The danger in this indefinite détente is that by the time such accommodation comes about, concepts like nationalism and territorial integrity may lose their relevance, as they are already beginning to.  For instance, when the Indian toy, slippers and inner wear market becomes more important to China than some fuzzy frigid Line high up in the Himalaya!

Just wondering, what language(s) do we use at those high altitude Flag meetings; Hindi-Chini, English-Chini, Sign language or simple military gesticulation?

The latter two options of course would be difficult to reduce to mutually acceptable minutes of the meeting leading to historical mis-understandings, like the Nehru-Zhou En Lai Hindi – Chini Bhai, Bhai fiasco. Also are we actually able to look them in the eyes!

Given our collective weakness for Chinese food, why don’t we quickly work out a mutually agreeable Indo-Chini Chowmein, (one could expect Hon’ble EAM to do at least that!) and insist that troops on both sides of the imagined border will daily partake of the fare, cooked by the other side. We could add some Himalayan herbs to induce conviviality and reduce hostility. Perhaps the way to the Dragon’s heart is via its stomach?

Failing which we could actually match Chinese inscrutability with our Cosmic Patience!

Nodnat - is a pen name that the writer with deep knowledge of Himalayan flora and fauna and a keen environmentalist has adopted. He hails from Kotgarh, in Shimla Hills and retired as Principal Chief Conservator of Forests from Himachal Pradesh forest department.

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