The Chinese have cheated us. First, their soldiers crossed over into our side of the border in Arunachal Pradesh. And almost on cue, my Chinese 21 inch flat TCL TV went kaput. All this within days of the prime minister's Beijing journey, brand new Sino-Indian treaties and Dalai Lama officially saying he doesn't mind.

In Arunachal Pradesh the Chinese army captured a few of our intelligence men, questioned them and then deposited them a few kilometers further inside Indian territory, with a warning that they should never return. When the story made it to the capital's dailies the foreign office had to aim some diplomatic noise at Beijing. China's official response was that there's no such place called Arunachal Pradesh.

Now, it appears that in 1913 or some such time in the ancient period, some dude called McMahon drew a line to separate India from Tibet (and in effect from China). Unfortunately, for future generations, Mr McMahon's fine-tipped pen had just broken, and all he had handy was a fat brush. Now, that didn't matter too much, since this was in the good old days when the most of the world was the British Queen's property and drawing up lines to carve that up, was merely a book-keeping exercise.

But almost a century later, each inch counts. So just when it seemed Sino-Indian relations were finally moving on a straight line, McMahon's big rude brush has crossed it out. Understandably, the Arunachal imbroglio is not what the Vajpayee government wants at this time, when China's support is essential to our global cat and mouse games with Pakistan. So, it won't be wrong to say, that the Chinese have cheated Mr Vajpayee.

They've cheated Mr Vajpayee, and they've cheated me.

My tryst with the Chinese began in January 2002, when my husband and I were preparing to set up home. We were looking for a 21 inch flat screen, and didn't have the money for it. And then, we became acquainted with a company called TCL. It was Chinese, had a better picture than the Sony in the same showroom, and cost exactly half the money. Everyone is buying TCL, said the salesman, and soon others will be forced to shut shop.

We bought it - the TV and the salesman's yarn. Six months into our marriage, we heard TCL had left India. Apparently the company that was distributing their TV sets had decided to keep all the cash. It made whoever had seen our TV very happy. No one likes to watch a TV set in someone else's home, that's far superior to their own and far cheaper. And the collective envy in hundreds of hearts had its effect. A few days back - around the time that our IB chaps were being interrogated in Arunachal - our TCL packed up.

Since, the Chinese haven't even left behind a good repairman, we had to sell it off as junk. Maybe if they'd kept a few service centers alive in India, even I would have supported their stand on Arunachal. But now I have to live with our new LG 21 inch. Not a patch on the TCL, I say, but at least we don't share a border with Korea.

-Smita Maitra Editor, Cerebration







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