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All of Tamatarland was in great turmoil.

There had been a vile attack on its security forces by a suicide-bomber, who had sneaked past dozens of heavily guarded checkpoints and murdered over two dozen Tamatarland soldiers. It was later claimed the culprit was a local Muli, trained and sent by Mataristan, the neighbouring and enemy nation.

Not surprisingly, Tamatars across the country were very agitated, demanding revenge against the Matars. The kitchen knives and peelers were out and they wanted all-out war.

War, or at least war cries, were a routine affair between the saffron coloured Tamatars and the green Matars, who had been in conflict for over a thousand years. This was despite the fact (or maybe because) they had so much in common.

For example, the same red, yucky, sticky ketchup ran in the veins of all their people and there was nothing both countries loved more than honking while driving their automobiles. People on both sides of the border also sang badly in their bathrooms and shared the favourite pastime of sneezing and spitting on the streets, while simultaneously swearing at imaginary foes.

The only time they did not fight each other – was when the powerful, carnivorous Foxes from another continent ruled over both these groups for a couple of centuries. At that time the Tamatars and Matars were too busy currying favour with their colonial masters to try and kill each other, but the moment the Foxes packed up and left, these two vegetable groups were back at their favourite sport.

‘We don’t care how you do it but kill ten Matars for every Tamatarland soldier killed!’ they screamed. And they screamed especially loud when the television cameras were rolling. In Tamatarland cameras rolled all the time, even when there was nothing really happening anywhere – it was a hoary tradition apparently.

Tamatarland’s TV anchors, who were paid large sums of money to roll faster and faster in front of rolling cameras, were very severe in their tone – ‘Switch off their mikes, cook them alive, fry and eat the bloody Matars’ they shrieked, as if war was just another episode of Master Chef Season Ten.

One of these anchors, a  shrill, bespectacled Tamatar,  gave all the Matars on the planet such a lashing with his long and poisonous tongue, many of them had to be given anti-snake venom to survive. And finally this fiery/funny Tamatar flew into such a rage, that at least at the time of this report, he had still not flown out of it (some suspect he flew across the Line of Control in the middle of the night, pretending to be a bat carrying the deadly Nipah virus).

Tamatarland’s leader, a dandy character, who originally aimed to be a small-time actor but ended up as the highest official in his land – issued a warning in the sternest voice he could muster. This was difficult for him as he had a nasal and somewhat squeaky voice, but he made up for this handicap by swinging his arms against the empty air around – the swishing sound adding weight to his otherwise silly dialogue delivery.

“Brothers and sisters, open your ears and listen, there will be war” said Tamatar-in-Chief gravely addressing the nation, while adjusting his hair carefully.

“Tamatars should not be taken lightly. One Tamatar may be very light of course but together we make many quintals. We will teach the Matars a lesson they will never forget”.

However, despite all this talk of revenge, Tamatarland actually had very few options that were practical to implement. Both Tamatarland and Mataristan had a powerful weapon, that if used in an all-out war could turn all the Tamatars into a messy puree and Matars into a toxic paste – after which reincarnation was not possible at all. Such total destruction would also interfere with the elections coming up in Tamatarland, winning which was important for Tamatar-in-Chief. Without access to the nation’s treasury he would never be able to keep his wardrobe filled with the latest fashion accessories.

Even a conventional war was not feasible as the Matars had powerful friends – especially the dreaded Soyas of Soyaland, who would surely come to their rescue in case of any conflict. The Tamatars feared, that while they clashed with the Matars – the Soyas, would come in and steal a big patch of their garden.

So the Tamatars instead thought of a brilliant plan D– they would deny Mataristan the waters of a river that flowed from their side of the border. After all, what is a Matar without some water inside it?

However, Mataristan had other sources of water, especially from Gajaristan, the country that was to its north, full of people orange in colour, but had green tops and though they didn’t give a damn – they had no problem sharing water. So the Matars just laughed at the idea of shrivelling up or getting desiccated and instead posted photos on social media of their citizens playing with lots of water – just to annoy the Tamatars.

So next Tamatarland jacked up the prices of fertiliser they used to export to Mataristan. ‘No urea, no euphoria’ – they taunted the Matars from across the border. The Matars were perplexed and anxious for a while but then figured out a way to turn the non-Matar populations of their own country – like the Chilgozas, Akhrots and Badams – into manure. They had decades of practice in the art and science of squashing their minority citizens, pissing on them and fermenting the mix in big urns that were left out in the sun for months. The resulting product was very good, they claimed, for growing more Matars.Funnily Tamatarland had also developed similar techniques to turn their own minorities – like the Appams, Idlis and Sarson da Saags – into great quality fertiliser.

But, given all these serious obstacles to effectively punishing the Matars, the Tamatars decided to save themselves some blushes and go for what was popularly known in their country as the ‘thain, thain’ option- faking the sound of a gun firing, without any bullets flying around anywhere.

Basically, this strategy involved working out a deal between Tamatar-in-Chief and his counterpart Matar-in-Chief, under which Tamatarland  would go to war against Mataristan, without actually hitting real targets. The latter in turn would pretend to be very upset but essentially do nothing in retaliation.

Soon enough, Tamatar-in-Chief announced the next morning “There has been a secret strike against Mataristan”. A secret strike, that was so secretive that nobody – not even the Matars – knew about it. And yet there was great rejoicing in Tamatarland at the news – with all the warriors  on TV talk shows chattering non-stop with pakodas stuffed in their mouths (essentially practising self-censorship at a time of war)

While all this fun stuff was happening in this part of the world, very far away across seven seas, a  fair and furry Fox was surfing the channels, watching the news of the Tamatar-Matar conflict with some amusement.

“Just as my grandpa prophesied!” chuckled the old Fox. His grin widened as the details of the conflict became clearer. It was all gas and hot air, a light and sound show – typical of these curries.

“These provincial warlords from the fourteenth century have no idea of how to run a modern country. They will soon be begging us to come and rule them again”, the wily Fox muttered, smacking his lips at the thought of having both Tamatars and Matars in the same steaming pot, just like in the salad days of the Empire.

“Hurry, hurry, make me a curry!” he sang, switching to his favourite reality show – The Raj Returns.

Meanwhile, in Mataristan, passers-by were amazed to hear a string of the choicest abuses and curses emanating from the grave of a well-known Matar called Manto, as he tossed and turned in anguish under the ground.

Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker who can be reached at sagarnama@gmail.com

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