Sticks and stones may break my bones

The Defence Ministers of the two warring, neighbouring nations and their top military aides, decided to get together at a picturesque, snowy mountain top of indeterminate location, across a flaky, disputed border, to hold their 100th peace talk. The 99 previous peace talks had proved infructuous, with neither side willing to yield an inch of territory. These peace talks invariably turned into sabre-rattling war talks. Our media’s feeding frenzy moved into top gear. It was fervently hoped that the centenary of their jawing across a table will finally bear fruit with a degree of statesmanlike compromise on the cards. Hope springs eternal. The meeting was called to order by the English speaking, but not English, Defence Minister while the famously inscrutable Oriental team, led by their Defence honcho, nodded assent in unison. An interpreter each was present to take care of translating each other’s views.

English Speaking Defence Mininster (ESDM) – ‘Gentleman, I welcome you all to this summit meeting of our two defence teams, who have shown more intent on attack thus far. We are holding this conference at some unidentified mountain top, I know not exactly where. We were brought here blindfolded, and I hope we are not being blindsided. I am not even sure which side of the border we are sitting on – yours or ours. The incessant snowfall in these parts keeps obliterating the border line which results in our constant sparring with each other. This has got to stop. This being our 100th meeting, my Prime Minister is very keen that we should put an end to hostilities and smoke a peace pipe. Speaking metaphorically, of course. We are not all Apache Indians. So, what say you Chief?’

Oriental Defence Minister (ODM) – ‘Agleed, agleed. We totarry aglee. Our mighty Chairman also wishes we smoke many pipes of peace, though I plefer cigalettes myserf. But first, as a show of lespect for 100 talks, we bling speciar cake, baked excrusivery for this occasion. It is vely big cake with 100 candres with battely opelated frames burning blightly. Won’t go off even in the bitterry cord, brustely winds. Olientar technorogy.’

ESDM – ‘That is such a lovely gesture, Minister. Had trouble following you at first, what with all the Ls and Rs getting reversed, but I am beginning to get the drift or rather, dlift in your unique vocab. Sets the right tone, but how do we blow these electronic candles? I think you may have missed a trick there, Sir, though we do appreciate your wonderful techno-led, olive branch initiative.’

ODM – ‘No, no. We do not brow these candres, we use modern technique. At the count of thwee, we sing together, “For he’s a jorry good ferrow, and so say orr of us,” in honour of our mighty Chairman and your gleat Plime Minister. Then I give signar to my obsequious rackey, who after bowing five times, will switch off the candres by lemote contror. Then we all do bottoms up with neat Lussian Storichnaya. After that, we start talks in good mood. So, what say you Chief? Ha ha!’

ESDM – ‘Sounds fun, comrade. Let us go together, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table…. beg your pardon, was getting carried away there. All this preliminary pourparlers, at 11,000 feet above sea level, not to mention the neat shot of Russian Stolichnaya, it’s made me light-headed, might need oxygen and I am talking nonsense.’

ODM – ‘Oh no, my lespected fliend, you are not talking nonsense. I know orr about T.S. Eriot, gleat poet. And that quote by you from The Rove Song of J. Arbelt Pluflock was simpry marverrous. So applopliate.’

ESDM – ‘You think so, Chief? What a lerief. Good God, I am even beginning to talk like you. Tsk, tsk. Let us get down to business, shall we? First off, why are your soldiers and our soldiers fighting with sticks and stones across the border, and shoving and punching each other?’

ODM – ‘Sticks and stones may bleak my bones, but words will never hurt me.’

ESDM – ‘I am impressed by your familiarity with ancient Christian adages, but what has that got to do with anything? Nobody is hurting you with words. Stick to sticks. And stones. Please answer my question. What’s with the dandas?’

ODM – ‘Ho, ho, ha, ha. Dandas, I rike that word. It means sticks in Hindi, yes? I rearn a littre Hindi when I am posted in our Embassy in your countly some years back. But in meetings with your dipromats, we pletend not to understand so we can forrow how you are abusing us with smiring face.’

ESDM – ‘We learned that trick from you, comrade. Ho, ho, ha ha, yourself. Now look. Enough of all this banter and no, I do not wish to have another large Stolichnaya, and neither will my generals. I know they are dying for a drink or two, but they will simply have to wait. Now about this silly skirmish. How do we put a stop to it?’

ODM – ‘Sirry skilmish? Never heard that before, Minister. I am asking my PA to make notes. You speak Engrish so beautifurry.’

ESDM – ‘Yes, thank you. We have had over 150 years of coaching from the best teachers of that language. Now we speak it better than them. But we digress. I cannot return home without hammering out a solution to this bamboo shoots fight with your lot.’

ODM – ‘But your peopres in the media are boasting orr day rong that they have pushed our boys back. Orr lubbish. Plopoganda. First you stop that. Now you ask me why we fight with sticks. What do you want us to do? Bling out our Karashnikovs? There wirr be bodies evelywhere. Your bodies.’

ESDM – ‘I get your point. Not that we will be sitting back and eating your bullets, mind you. We do have sophisticated weapons, you know. Look, again we are getting obstreperous. Try pronouncing that, my slant-eyed friend. But jokes aside, I have a solution in mind. Problem statement – we do not know where the border actually is and we are both playing blind man’s buff. Or bluff, if you prefer. I suggest both sides move 500 metres back from where we are now sitting and pitch our tents there. Put up some white flags on the disputed territory to flag PEACE. That piece of unoccupied land we shall develop into a field to play cricket or football. You can thrash us in football and we will return the compliment in cricket. This shall be treated as a permanent settlement of the dispute – without a shot being fired. Our bosses will be very happy. There, I am done. Can we sign the peace treaty now?’

ODM – ‘Yes, you are so collect. One plobrem. Have we not tlied this before, and did our boys not bleak orr the lures and began pushing and shoving again? How do we stop that?’

ESDM – ‘But my dear ferrow, I mean fellow, that is why we are developing a playing field. A level playing field, ha ha. Given the conditions, we can even play ice-hockey. It will be an example to the rest of the world, wherever there’s bloodshed over border disputes.’

ODM – ‘Ok, you convinced me. We are leady to sign on the dotted rine. And now for some dericious news. We have allanged speciar feast for orr of you. Menu incrudes Duck Brood Soup, Suckring Pigret Dumprings for starters, Stinky Tofu, Snake Mince, Pigeon On a Stick, Pig Blain and Lice for main course, and finarry, the coup de glace, our world famous Fortune Cookies for your good hearth and happiness. Ho, ho, we can’t wait. And you cannot lefuse our hospitarity.’

ESDM – ‘When you say brood, blain, lice, you mean…never mind. So gracious and generous of you, but my general informs me that our entire delegation is down with a terrible stomach churn, after listening to your menu. It has been a long day. Our simple repast of roti and dal chaval, cooked by our brave jawans, awaits us.’

ODM – ‘That is so sad. We have to eat it orr ourserves. One finar question. How do you plopose to deal now with your western neighbours, who are arso our vely good fliends? And they also have the bomb.’

ESDM – ‘You don’t miss a trick, do you? Don’t fret over them. We have the situation under control. We play cricket with them, on neutral ground and thrash them black and blue. Once in a while, we let them win, just to show there’s no ill feeling. Thanks for asking. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bugs bite.  And don’t forget to practice that bamboozling Chinaman delivery for your next game of cricket with us.’

ODM – ‘If I can find reft-arm list-spinner. Ho, ho, ha ha.’

ESDM – ‘Ha, ha, ho, ho, right back at you.’ 

The 100th peace talk was thus convivially concluded. Everyone went away tired, but happy to be able to convey glad tiding to their respective heads of state.

Published by sureshsubrahmanyan

A long time advertising professional, now retired, and taken up writing as a hobby. Deeply interested in music of various genres, notably Carnatic and 60's and 70's pop/rock. An avid tennis and cricket fan. Voracious reader of British humour and satire. P.G. Wodehouse a perennial favourite.

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7 Comments

  1. An insider in the CCP tells me that Xi Jinping read your post and thought that it was a load of borrocks.

    Personally I thought it was extremely funny and very well done, but I will head for the nearest nuclear bunker (the under-stairs cupboard) just in case.

    After supper.

    Liked by 1 person

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