04 November 2011

The date

"How about a lunch date?" he asked. On any other day I'd have refused  politely. But today was different. The work place was almost deserted as most folks were still enjoying their extended Diwali holidays. The boss was on vacation this week. As they say - when the cat is out the mice will play! Well, why not, said my heart. It had been so long since someone had asked me for a little fun just by ourselves. It had been so long since it had been possible.

"Yes", I typed in my chat window. "Where would you like to go?" he inquired. "Somewhere not too far" I replied. "You like pasta, right? How about a multi-cuisine restaurant that serves all kinds of cuisine?" he prodded. He then named a restaurant that was not too far away for a lunch break during office hours. Secretly pleased that he remembered what I liked from our previous conversations and was mindful about my taste, I replied "That sounds good." "Alright then, I'll come by to pick you up tomorrow. See you!" he promised and logged off. I could almost hear the anticipation in his words. I couldn't help feeling the rush of adrenaline at the thought of dressing up and being treated to a luxurious meal by a guy after such a long time.

The day passed pleasantly after that. I was lost in the excitement of the next day. Back home in the evening, hubby inquired about my day at the office. "You seem happy. Looks like it was a fun day" he said. I looked up at him quickly wondering if he could guess the reason for my preoccupation. But he was playing with our daughter and seemed oblivious to my mood.

I dressed carefully the next day. Western or casual is allowed on fridays at my organization and I chose the same. "You look great", quipped my husband as I was leaving for work. That brought a smile to my face. It was a painful exercise to wait until lunch time, but the hours passed quickly. I took one last look in the mirror before walking to the entrance lobby where he would be arriving soon. He came soon enough and off we drove to restaurant in his smart sedan. He inquired solicitously whether the AC was adequately cool in the car. I was wearing my sunglasses and he commented that I looked 'deadly'. I literally preened in my seat.

The restaurant was elegant, cozy and not too crowded. The service was prompt but not too rushed. We chatted about the food, the last movie seen by us and about some mutual friends. I couldn't remember the last time I had had such a peaceful meal. Usually, I sail through my lunches at work as I have to leave early to be in time for my daughter in the evenings. Dinner too is a rushed affair as my daughter likes to sit on my lap and wants to eat from my plate. Though that has a charm of its own, it is blissful to have a leisurely meal once in a while. Since there wasn't a lot of crowd, the staff had all the time to give us their undivided attention. I could feel their curious glances and speculation. For once though, I couldn't be bothered.

As with all good things, the meal came to an end too soon. He drove me back to my office. As we parted, he called out "Thank you so much for your lovely company - I think I was the most envied guy in that restaurant!" I thanked him for the lunch. He held my hand and continued "We should do this more often, Nilu. It has been so difficult to steal such private moments together in the last year or so. But now that our daughter is almost two, we should go out more often." I understood what he said. I had been too occupied with my work and our daughter. Such small pleasures as lunch outside with my dear husband had been unthinkable for me until now. I vowed to take out more time for the two of us moving forward.

The cricket match

My nephew is nearly the same age as my daughter - just a month younger. Due to this, I and my sister-in-law could not spend a lot of time with each others' babies when they were in their first year. Part of the reason was also due to the facts that my daughter did not like it if I played with my nephew and she herself wouldn't go to her maami.

Once they started walking and communicating, it was fun to watch the two toddlers together. Also, it was great to see that the gender stereotypes surface at such a young age! My nephew is quite loud and not at all shy around strangers. He loves to play with bat-ball and throws things around. My daughter on the other hand, is painfully shy around new people, very clingy, loves to feed her teddy bear lovingly, is not noisy or rebellious and puts her toys away after playing. This could be because of their inherent natures too, not due to the gender - but it is amusing to see the differences :)

Just when they were getting to the interesting age when they like to play together, look out for each other and care for each other - my brother had to relocate to the States for a long-term assignment. A few weeks ago, we had been to their place to enjoy a sort of final bonding time before they left.

While his parents were partaking of their dinner, it fell upon me to entertain the kiddos so they would let the adults eat in peace. That's when I came up with the idea of the cricket match. My nephew chose to bowl and handed me the bat. My daughter was content to chase behind the ball or field. My dad acted as the umpire and mom was a spectator. And so began the famous match!

My brother has been obsessed with cricket from a very young age much to my irritation. It certainly showed in the skill with which my nephew was bowling - he had good genes and rigorous training! He bowled me out several times and squealed with joy, clapping his hands, whenever my dad called out the verdict. Soon though, I started anticipating his balls and played them so that they did not hit anyone, yet scored well. The excitement of the event was catching up with everyone. Hubby made a comment that he was impressed with my batting skills. That sure pleased me - for a guy to comment on his girl's sporting skills is a very big compliment in my book :) I took my batting even more seriously. The game went on for quite some time with everyone joining in the fun. Hope it registered as much with the little ones as it did with us adults.

Love you both! Hope they get to spend more time with each other once my brother is back from the States in 2 years....

29 September 2011


Both hubby and I enjoy watching the Bones crime drama series. Season 6 is almost ending on Star World.

The series based on forensic anthropology has won our hearts. Jostling for space among other crime series such as CSI, Criminal Minds, Numbers etc., this series stands out owing to its remarkable characters and well-written script. The concept of solving crimes based on just bones and no other physical evidence, is a novel concept at least to me. The series seems quite gory at times, definitely not for the squeamish. But once you get used to it, the story itself keeps you riveted. The two main protagonists - Dr. Temperance Brennan aka Bones and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, who are partners in solving crimes reported into the Jeffersonian Lab, are adorable! Their romance has been brewing since Season 1 and viewers (including us) are eagerly awaiting them to acknowledge their feelings finally. The other characters too make the serial an interesting watch.

The character of Bones, especially, who seems robotic and unemotional is very well-thought out. She has problems emoting and appears detached and overly rational. The ups and downs faced by the protagonists in their lives over the series and their special friendship and caring for each other is very touching. Both are scared to enter into a relationship at one or the other point in time with the result being that the viewers are left craving a happy ending. Hopefully, with the season ending this week, there will be some traction on this front :)

The strangest part is that my husband first started to watch it as it was based on crime drama. I got hooked onto it due to the romantic angle. But now, even my husband loves the romance aspect of it! He was quite furious when they introduced another lady in the male protagonist's life some time ago to speed things up:)

Love you Bones and Booth for making our evenings pleasant and giving us something to look forward to on the Idiot box!

26 June 2011

Social Network

The movie The Social Network disturbed me. It talked about the founder of Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg (brilliant performance by Jesse Eisenberg) and the many controversies (read lawsuits) surrounding his invention. If the allegations against him were true and he was guilty of stealing the idea of fellow students to found Facebook, I questioned myself if by using Facebook I was somehow supporting him .Also, his betrayal of his only best friend left a sour taste in my mouth.

Then again, maybe the guy is perfectly innocent. Its just that some folks got jealous of his tremendous success and decided to claim a piece of the pie for themselves. But the way the story is portrayed in the movie he sure comes off as a villain rather than a victim. His snobbish behavior with his girlfriend, his callous disregard for the girls of his college when he comes up with the application 'Facemash' and his petty comments to his friend on learning of his admission to the Phoenix club exposes the chinks in his character.

The irony of the movie is that despite being anti-social, Zuckerberg obviously cares about fitting in. He also understands what exactly people, especially college students, look out for in their social lives. No wonder Facebook became a whopping success overnight! True to one of the movie's taglines, you don't get 500 million friends without getting a few enemies.

The Social Network is not just about the making of the website -Facebook. It unerringly underlines the fact that every human being wants to be accepted by others and some go to desperate lengths to achieve that.

23 May 2011

Sweet are the fruits of success!

My cousin was ranked 42nd all over India in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) this year! In addition, he was ranked first in the city and fourth in the state. More than 1200 aspirants appeared for the exam this year out of which only 900 would get placed in various fields. After two unsuccessful attempts, he says he would've been happy just to get some rank to qualify for IAS, IPS or IFS. This result was far above his humble expectation and immediately brought him into the limelight. 

The days after the result passed in a blur for him and his family as reporters kept hounding them for quotes and interviews. Their phones did not stop ringing for days. I felt proud, and touched, to watch him on TV, radio and newspapers talking about the entire experience.

My cousin has been staying in Delhi for the last 3 years preparing for this exam. The competition is tough and study time was 18 hours a day. He stayed away from home for the first time and the experience itself was an eye-opener for him. He slogged uncomplainingly and whenever he was in town he used to demand complete privacy in his room to study. His parents were not allowed to entertain parties at home as it took away from his study time. He barely ate during the days - hated to lose time in eating. 

I remember a year ago when he was to attempt this exam for the second time. He had high fever. His parents forced him to board a train and come home. He was then admitted to a local hospital. The diagnosis itself took more than a week. After diagnosis, he had to spend more time in recovering his vitality. Precious time was lost from study in all this. The result - he did not clear the exam. His mom (my aunt) used to cry all the time for the loss of his tremendous efforts. How many astrologers and temples she must've visited to pray for his success!

Then there were those who nodded their heads in condolence in his presence but immediately judged behind his back that he simply did not have what it takes to succeed. 'Its a rat race out there', they said. Many pitied his parents for their blind faith in him. All his friends from college were well-placed with highly-paying secure jobs - some of them overseas. At 25, he was perhaps one of the few from his batch still studying (not earning). All of this changed overnight once the results were out. He is now the most eligible bachelor in town! 

Incidences like these reinforce one's faith is the maxim 'There is no alternative to sheer hard work.' My cousin's steadfast belief that he wants to do something for the nation and not migrate to another nation is finally nearing fruition! I was amazed and impressed by his determination to not be tempted to go abroad for work or studies. He even rejected an offer from a well-known IT firm after his engineering degree to pursue his ambition. Well-done bro! You deserve this.

08 May 2011


On the occasion of mother's day, I'd invited my mom and sis-in-law for lunch today. My nephew and dad too were with them. It was a fun occasion with us cooking, eating and cleaning together.With two toddlers of similar age in the house, the usual quota of liveliness was doubled :) There were hoots of joy whenever my nephew 'discovered' a new toy. And it was fun to watch my daughter busily stirring virtual ice-cream into her toy cup and feeding her cousin out of a spoon :) She was obviously imitating us adults.

With two kids, usually one or more adults has to entertain them during meals else the mothers never get to eat. So while hubby, my sister-in-law and I were eating, my parents were looking after them. My daughter wanted to be taken for a ride in her car. And my nephew was intent on pushing a chair around the hall. Having just finished a heavy meal, my mom did not relish the idea of pushing my daughter around in her car. So she innovated. She made my daughter sit in the car and made my nephew push it from behind. Lo, they were both getting to do what they liked and my mom watched them at leisure!

Being part of a product development organization, innovation is something that is talked about eternally around me. However, this is the first time I saw it being applied by someone from the older generation so effortlessly at home!

16 April 2011

The woe of an employer

Its hard to lose a trusted and long-standing employee. I recently lost a maid who served with me for seven years. She had become almost a part of my family by then. Everyone assumed that she was a permanent fixture in my home. She was what her family says a 'kalaakar'(artiste) among maids! It is similar to what we know as the 'high performing' employee in the corporate world. The ones who come with the label 'handle with care'. All managers who have such employees will empathize with the experience I went through with her.

She started off with the humble duties of sweeping and wiping the floor. But over the years, her diligence and integrity won our hearts over. She soon took over the kitchen reins and other aspects of housekeeping to a certain extent. So much so that she became indispensable for me. But as she grew into this key role, so did her ego. Somewhere along the line, I had started bowing to her demands. At first, I did not even realize it until my husband pointed it out. I used to silence him saying what did he know about handling maids?

I had a baby last year. I was so occupied with the baby that the maid's presence became even more essential in my life. She started dictating her timings, her pay, her duties...everything. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, I saw it happening with my own eyes. Her vacation days, her demands for loans, bonus, gifts... everything increased. Which was still acceptable had the quality of her work kept up. However that had somehow dwindled over the years. I kept putting it down to her age though she is almost my age.

There were many times when we almost ended the relationship. But such discussions were usually very emotionally wrought with a lot of crying on her part. Every time I relented thinking she needs this job and I cannot do her out of it. This was against my husband's dire warning that she was simply taking advantage of me. Finally one day my patience snapped. When she threatened to resign I actually accepted her resignation. That was the end of it. I never thought it would end so abruptly. She stopped coming since the next day. She had been extremely attached to my daughter or so I thought. The fact that she hasn't asked after her even once since her departure shows that it was a sham.

We come across such employees at work too. At one point they are the most devoted, loyal and dependable employees. But they turn into a thorn in the side. What makes people so bitter? I do have another maid now and am actually paying less at the end of the month for her than before. But I still keep asking myself if it is a better bargain - after all I had invested so much in the other one.

08 April 2011

Priceless moments

Its amazing to watch one's child grow. My daughter is now a hyperactive and sharp 15 month old. She really surprises me sometimes when she emulates my expressions. When I'm watching my favorite soap on TV and laugh out loud, I am taken aback when I hear an echoing laughter from the other room! Then there are those times when I'm working in the kitchen and she is playing in the hall. I cough and immediately my darling tries to force out a cough too :)

Today I saw her trying to put my hairclip on top of her head in an effort to tie her hair! She has lately taken a teddy bear under her wing. Its amusing to see her try to put him to sleep or make him drink water from her sipper. Infact, I overheard her scolding him because he was not sleeping just the way I scold her when I put her to sleep:) She cannot speak most words yet, but her tone of voice is almost like mine. It is scary that my every action and word is being minutely observed and stored away for future reference by her. It is flattering and humbling at the same time.

Keys and cell phones are her favorite 'toys'. There is a big container which holds all her toys. Whenever she finds some 'treasure' such as keys or a cellphone lying around, it inadvertently finds its way into this container. She riffles through all the items in the container from time to time to look for a desired toy in just the same way I look for stuff in my handbag :)

Just the other day, hubby and I were having a heated discussion on some household topic. We were not arguing or fighting, just got carried away in the discussion so much so that we forgot that our daughter was playing in the other room. We were reminded of that when she came running to where we were and cried to show that she was disturbed by our 'fight'. When we both smiled at her reassuringly, she went back to her toys happily.

My daughter sometimes takes a long time to go to sleep. The ritual is that we retire to her bed armed with a bottle of water and some milk. She then drinks some milk first and settles into her favorite sleeping posture. But almost immediately she gets restless and tries to play with some toys that are nearby. I then sing to her and pat her forehead rhythmatically. However, even then she just lies there without completely going to sleep. This whole process takes more than half an hour sometimes. Nowadays, I just carry a book and lie down next to her reading it while she goes through the usual rigmarole of sleeping. As long as I am next to her, she is perfectly happy to wait for sleep to overcome her. I wasn't aware how observant she is during this time too. I realized it when I saw her carry one of her books to bed the other day and hold it just the way I hold mine. She then tried to read very seriously out of it!

And finally, the moment that takes the cake - when she fell down while playing (which happens quite often, by the way) and immediately cried 'Mummy!' I was so overwhelmed then - how do kids know to cry out for their mother when in pain? We as adults do it even now. Truly, mother-child bond is a unique one.

27 March 2011

Of weddings and funerals

There was death in my family a few days ago. My grandmother, who suffered from a weakened heart condition and multiple other ailments, succumbed in the early hours of rang panchami day. She was to celebrate her 75th birthday on Apr 5. She suffered much in her life, but achieved a lot too. May her soul rest in peace.

Weddings and funerals are the time when families - immediate and extended- come together for a common cause. While I've attended many weddings, this was the first death(and funeral) I have experienced. Understandably then, it has left an impact.

Grief and regret are the most common emotions when faced with a death. Regret is usually in the form of 'if only I'd met / called her yesterday'. Or 'if only we hadn't fought the last time we talked'. Grief is a powerful emotion that takes even the strongest ones by surprise. Actually, its a bit confusing - those who you think are the 'strongest' are totally devastated by grief and others whom you regarded as 'weak' astound you by their stoicism and composure.

When a family is large and spread across various cities, it is a challenge to get everyone together for giving a final farewell to the departed. Someone has to take charge of the practicalities such as mode of funeral. Everyone has their own interpretation of what the departed soul really wished to be done after his/her death. It is further colored by their own preferences and beliefs.

The sheer physical effort involved on the part of family members - especially the one who performs the funeral rites, was a revelation. My perception was probably due to what is seen in movies where one usually sees the male protagonist lighting the pyre with a flaming torch and then spreading the ashes in a flowing river. This perception too was laid to rest as I saw my dear father (eldest son-in-law of my late grandma) perform all the rites without a murmur of complaint.

The best part of both weddings and funerals is that everyone comes through for each other in their hour of happiness or grief -be it neighbours, friends, family and extended relatives. It is at times like these that the true nature of people is revealed. There were some who could not help stealing a glance at the cricket score even during the funeral. And then there were those who traveled across the country to be in time for the funeral. As they say, it takes all kinds.

09 March 2011

International Women's Day

The significance of Mar 8 has gone up manifold off late. So much so that not wishing a woman in your life on this day is tantamount to insulting or neglecting her. Even in big corporates, there is a lot of emphasis on promoting gender diversity. There are various publicized advantages of this such as different perspectives are brought in etc.

Frankly all this hullabaloo leaves me more confused rather than elated. Is it something to be proud of that the world celebrates an entire day for us women? Is one day enough to justify our importance? Some men say - aren't all days women's days? This year is the centennial year for the women's day celebration. Does that mean that for last 100 years, the status of women in society has remained pretty much the same? Is it something to rejoice over or ponder over gravely?

Flash back a 100 years and we can see that women the world over have risen remarkably in esteem and power. Today's woman walks shoulder to shoulder with men in all walks of life. At the same time, she still rules the roost on the home front. Many men have ventured into the feminine domains of the kitchen and childcare but there is still a long way to go. Working women had to be literally superwomen to be able to juggle all their responsibilities earlier. Nowadays the rules have been relaxed a bit on both the home as well as work fronts. With husbands helping out with household chores, parents pitching in with childcare and employers allowing work-from-home policies, women can balance their work and home lives much better today. They no longer feel guilty and unfulfilled. Infact having a career is not considered taboo for a woman anymore. She can drive, operate complicated gadgets, handle her own finances and supervise a bevy of support staff - be it maids, cooks, nannies, daycare staff to ensure smooth running on the homefront.

Men on the other hand do not seem to be doing anything drastically different from what they were doing a 100 years ago. They still love to follow games(earlier over radio, now on trendy 42" LCD TV), meet up for gossip over beer or chai, discuss the latest gadgets, share financial advice, crib about wife and the mother-in-law and rail at the increasing taxes and inflation.

Perhaps it is time to have an International men's day? They too need the tender loving care and focus that we women have enjoyed for the last century.

26 January 2011

What does it mean to be an Indian?

The Indian identity
The underlying theme of the R-day this year (as with every year) is patriotic. It made me ponder what exactly does it mean to be an Indian? Having grown up listening to mythological tales of Lord Krishna and Ram, and political legends such as Gandhi and Nehru, I thought the entire world identified us Indians with these names. In contemporary times, its Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan who were among the first Indians to be 'waxed' at Madame Tussaud's after Mahatma Gandhi. Much to my surprise then, when we arrived in the USA about a decade ago, I realized that people associated India with elephants, snake-charmers and the Kamasutra. One of the most well-known cities of India was not Delhi - our nation's capital, but Goa(!) for its beaches, feni and rave parties. 

Lately, in the wake of Deepak Chopra's remarkable rise to popularity, India is also in the limelight for Ayurveda and Yoga. Sadly, among the Indians living abroad, India is still defined by corrupt politicians, filthy roads, loud noise during weddings & festivals; raucous, nosy relatives and spicy, tasty food. Despite being a civilization that is hundreds of thousands years old, with a rich cultural heritage; though India enjoys enviable unity amongst diverse religions, communities and languages- sadly, it has no definite identity for the world at large. Known as 'Sone ki  chidiya' (golden sparrow) in ancient times for its abundant crops and spices, it was reduced to one of the 'developing' nations of the third world post numerous invasions and plundering. 

Steeped in (oft debated) virtues of forgiveness, sacrifice and non-violence, we have nonetheless achieved significant progress on almost all fronts be it business, technology, medicine, education, entertainment, sport and even space travel. Today we are an economy to contend with, students across the globe flock to our universities, our films are respected and acknowledged at various premiere film festivals, our cuisine one of the most popular ones in international restaurants and our cities are coveted tourist destinations. India has finally arrived despite grave reservations (pun intended), natural as well as man-made calamities(read terrorism). 

Somewhere along the line though, our joint family system, our definition of right and wrong, our values of 'pran jaayi par vachan na jaayi' (Life will end but promises once made won't die) and simple living have become diluted. Exhibiting our famous flexibility and expansive nature, we have embraced the culture of other nations along with their daughters as an integral part of our families. Where else can you see people tucking into salads, sushi, noodles and pasta with as much gusto as with makke di roti, sarson da saag and aamti-bhaat! Shopping malls and cineplexes have replaced the chaupati and dhabas. But then where else can we find maids who tote cell phones yet clean your homes as if its their own! Indian culture of today is a curious amalgamation of the traditional and modern. A glass-fronted restaurant and paan ki tapri stand side by side and make equal business.

For me, being an Indian means growing up to the melodies broadcast on Vividh Bharati, watching the sole channel  - Doordarshan on television, playing hide and seek and carom during summer vacations, reading Archies comics, Asterix and Tintin, walking to school, corresponding with relatives over snail mail and eating a simple meal with very little variation every day. But for my daughter, being an Indian will be mean something very different. As the neurologist and philosopher Gerhard Roth observes, "Irrespective of its genetic endowment, a human baby growing up in Africa, Europe or Japan will become an African, an European or a Japanese. And once someone has grown up in a particular culture and, let us say, is 20 years old, he will never acquire a full understanding of other cultures since the brain has passed through the narrow bottleneck of culturalization."

23 January 2011

Catching up....

On the eve of Bal Thackeray's birthday today, his daughter-in-law appeared on a popular marathi talk show (Khupte tithe Gupte). Not sure if it was planned or sheer coincidence. Off late this show is gaining ground with the marathi viewers as it showcases some scintillating conversations with  Maharashtrian celebrities from the world of cinema, sports or politics. It is in the league of 'Koffee with Karan' and the host - Avadoot Gupte, is comparable with Karan Johar! However, whether its because of the host, or the guests, the regional show has more straight talk and less controversies :)

Yesterday's episode was insightful as well as touching. The other guest, alongwith Smita Thackeray, was the popular lady director and actor of marathi cinema, theatre & TV- Smita Talwalkar. Both ladies came across as strong and dignified. Both had fought their own battles in life and emerged victorious. The senior Smita T beat ovarian cancer and lives to tell the tale. Her stoicism is truly inspiring- she actually talked about her diagnosis, biopsy and treatment with great humor. Picked up some less-known tidbits about the formidable Bal Thackeray - that he used to be a cartoonist, has a great sense of humor and keeps everyone at home in splits!

The show has some sensational impromptu performances by guests. Yesterday Ms. Talwalkar's heart-wrenching performance had me crying toward the end. Avadoot Gupte too is a multi-talented persona - be it music direction, film direction, writing scripts and now a talk show host; he has his fingers in every pie. Inspite of being a maharashtrian, I've spent my entire childhood in Gujarat. This show. and especially yesterday's episode, reminds me of the rich heritage of literature, theatre and music that we have in Maharashtra. There is a lot I've missed out on while growing up and plan to catch up on in the coming years...

15 January 2011

2011 so far....

Just a fortnight into 2011 and I've already got a taste of what the year will be like! Its been a very busy yet enjoyable time. What with rejoining work after a long hiatus and celebrating my daughter's first birthday under the sun - its been a roller coaster ride. The days seem to have whooshed by. There were visits by relatives over the first two weekends of Jan. The birthday party turned into a dynamic bash. With so many kiddos teeming over the place, the venue reverberated with joy and warmth on a cold, cold evening. The shower of blessings from so many elders and gifts from so many friends - my daughter has been granted a rightful place in the hearts of many well-wishers. The house was resplendent with balloons, gifts and scent of a great accomplishment post the party.

The third weekend is full with invitations of Anu's newly acquired friends! Its a definite omen that our social life is now tightly enmeshed with my daughter's social life for some time. 

Work-wise too, it has been a struggle to find the physical stamina to last the 8 hours of work plus the time spent during commuting. The help of family and other members has overwhelmed me and given a lot of encouragement. And most importantly, the cooperation of my darling daughter has been the icing on the cake :)

A couple of lessons learned too in so short a time! Some things never change with time while life totally changes due to some things. Also, everything that happens, happens for the best. All in all, a blessed beginning to the new year !

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