Saturday 31 December 2011

Looking forward to 2012

This year has been quite eventful in every sphere of my life, I should say. For the first time in my life, I got chicken-pox; After years of toiling, I submitted my Ph.D thesis and I also willingly gave up my single-hood. Well, the aforementioned were the highlights, if I may say so but there there have been other aspects of the year which gave life a wholesome effect. Blogplicity, an interactive blogging community gave me lovely blogger pals and their blogs, this year.

Looking back, I am older than last year and younger than what I will be next year but that has not hindered any process and progress, of course, I have changed my moisturizers and lotions. I have lost touch with people with whom I used to correspond and interact when 2011 began. I do miss them but then life had other paths which were already carved out, for me and them. They will always be on my mind and I wish them good health, prosperity, wholesome life and above all joy in every sphere of their lives.

Learned to compromise in a big way and also learnt that compromise is the only way in which life can go on without much breakdowns. Well, I don't like that word now. It irks me: COMPROMISE.

Reading the variety of blogs that are littered over blogland, I realise how much topics are out there and how much is left to explore. I must say that 2011 has been a boom time for many blogs. Well, well,  . . .

For the first time, I was stranded in a train while the cyclone Thane passed. When I read of the many deaths and destruction caused by the cyclone in today's paper, I realise the intensity of the situation.

I don't know whether I have become wiser this year but I know for sure that life is full of surprises (perhaps, shocks) and those arrive at a time when one least expects them. And that the phrase, 'I have moved on,' and 'Move on with life' is quite overrated. Even some institutions which have been held dear by many are quite overrated. Well, some people don't realise that truth. Good for them. A little funny for people on the other side, like me, for instance.

The world has lost many artists that have coloured my growing up years. Though their deaths didn't affect me personally, I do miss their presence in this world. That they lived in the same world as me gave me solace. But now they are no more. Maybe good for them to have escaped this life.

Inspite of everything, the new year holds promises and new beginnings and I look forward to it with the same child-like pleasure of my early years. The new year does have something, isn't it. William Arthur Ward is just right when he said:

“Another fresh new year is here .
. .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!” 

Image: Internet

Monday 19 December 2011

Wishes for the season

Dear Readers:

It has been wonderful to interact with you in the past eleven months. I will be away for about ten days now and shall see you just before the year comes to an end. But before I leave, I leave you with best wishes for this lovely season. 

Image: Internet

Saturday 17 December 2011

Moths and related thoughts

When the day slowly fades and dusk appears, many moths make an appearance in my home. These moths are dull looking creatures which sometimes irk me and sometimes don't make any difference to me. Yesterday, a dead one was lying on my kitchen floor and while I was looking at it intently, my thoughts meandered to many things related to moths, one of them being the film The Silence of the Lambs (TSOTL). And, TSOTL is always Hopkins, Hopkins and Hopkins. I remember when I first saw the film, I was smitten by the personality of Sir Anthony Hopkins. His suave dialogue delivery, his intelligent observations, his philosophical demeanour, his love of fine food and the way he responds to Clarice saying, "Good Evening, Clarice." I wondered if any man could be as polished and splendid as Hopkins. I would weave imaginary dialogues with Hannibal and enjoy the witty repartee.

Whenever anyone mentioned TSOTL, I would rattle off about the excellent dialogues of Hopkins, often to amused looks by the listeners as Hopkins was a cannibal in the film TSOTL. Many times I have observed that people tend to look only at one aspect of the character in question. Hannibal, being a man-eater, blinded people to other facets of his character. Inspite of being appalled by the manner Hannibal eats human brain in one of the films, his character in the film and the two sequels, have never ceased to enthrall me.

Anthony Hopkins' signature on a photograph of a still from the film,  The Silence of the Lambs

I don't know how many have watched the film TSOTL and reveled in the finer aspects of the film like the dialogues and the way the mind works. I have watched the film several times now and time and again, I seem to enjoy watching just the dialogues between Hopkins and Foster. I like films which have cerebral dialogues delivered flawlessly and smoothly. I don't remember any other character as well as I do this one.

As for the moth, I swept the place clean and returned to my thought of Hopkins. Now, if you haven't seen the film, you might wonder about the connection between the film and the moth. I guess, you have to find that out by either watching the film or reading about the same in Wikipedia.

When one thought leads to another and another, one can get quite comfortable and rooted to a place, say the couch or the bed. After all the thoughts are done, time seems to have gone by effortlessly. Reality strikes hard and seems dull like the colour of the moth. One cannot have imaginary dialogues with Hopkins forever.

So, what are your thoughts after reading this post.

Image 1: Internet
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Thursday 15 December 2011

Meandering on my calling

For a long time now, this thought and related thoughts have been filling my mindscape and I haven't been able to arrive at any conclusion. Teaching is a noble profession. It is indeed . . . until I began officially teaching at a University. Now, this is ambition and calling for me. I had always imagined that if one has likes to do something and pursues the same, it will be fulfilling, wonderful and all that jazz. But nurturing an ambition and actually pursuing it are two different paths. Hope you get what I mean. I had assumed that since I like being with young adults and also liked literature, teaching would be the ideal occupation, if I may say so. Well, the whole world also thinks that way. And, teachers are always looked upon by almost everyone. This rosy bubble coupled along with my desire made me a teacher. I have also shared many tales of my occupation as a teacher in this blog, which many of you have read and commented.

But somewhere down the line, I realise that possessing a love for something alone does not keep you going. The practicalities of the real situation sometimes wriggle the initial enthusiasm and drain it drip by drip. I had always presumed that the industry of education is quite a sane place. Time and again, I have been proved wrong. Back-stabbing fellow teachers, cut-throat competition for popularity, messing up marks in favour of a favourite student, and many more tales fill the education industry. Now, when I think back, I seem like a fool who thought that all was fair in the world of teachers and students. I wonder about my calling. But mind you, leaving a job which pays a salary at the end of the month, is not easy. When lovely quotes which says, If you don't like your job, QUIT, I wonder. I wonder whether it is as easy as the quote makes it out to be.

Another thought that niggles me while on this profession is drawing the line between being emotional and professional. I always tend to relate at a personal level with most of my students. I laugh when they are happy, pat when they are down in the dumps, nod when they walk with their love interest and advice when they want me to. But this attachment always sends wrong signals to the students. They tend to assume that if I am close to them, then that will earn them more marks. But I just cannot give marks freely. I give them the marks they deserve and that strains the relationship. The student assumes that I have two sides to me: the friendly one and the that of a strict teacher. And, off she/he goes about telling everyone how I gave him/her very low marks. Phew!! What do I do?

Only this job gives you two months holidays and you can come home early, blah, blah. Well, I do accept that fact but in the term days, the amount of pressure and stress that is loaded on the individual is enormous. The students' faces always clears many a cloud and gloom - Well, I accept that as well but how long? Sometimes, I think that it is quite early to arrive at such thoughts as this post carries. I have been teaching here only for a year and before this I was in a dreamy residential school called Rishi Valley, which I blame for my higher standards of expectation.

I also understand that wherever humans are present, there is bound to be jealousy, competition et al, but then enlightened souls in the education department ought to be different from the others (so I thought/still think).

Sighs. Such a long post. Tell me, what do you think.

Image 1: Internet
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Wednesday 14 December 2011

I cook, I click, I post . . .

The recent avalanche of food blogs, pictures of food on Facebook and the delight in exclaiming, "I love to cook" has had me thinking. Decades ago, feminists outcried against the fact that cooking and kitchen were the rightful place for women and during those times, women tried liberating themselves from the kitchen and other labels. But now the woman of today has risen up to the fact that cooking is a skill which she wields quite efficiently. Displaying the various items cooked on social networking sites, lay claim to the attention that she needsfor her rightful skills.

But has this phenomenon reduced woman again to the confines of her kitchen? But if she is enjoying the glory, what is the problem? And, I am also wondering if the media with its glossy cookery shows and glamorous chefs has again pushed the women to the same old place albeit a bit classy in the present day.

All said and done, I enjoy cooking as well as eating but have still not ventured into posting pictures of the food I eat everyday. Perhaps, I will never do it. Why should my private table be set in front of the whole world? Is it to prove that in spite of being a working woman, one can cook delicious stuff by effectively managing time or is it to prove to the world that exotic dishes is not the privelege of a select few or why should Nigella Lawson get all the drools and wows. Well, the whole idea of exhibiting food at social networking sites shouts out to the fact that cooking has once again become something that one should feel proud of.

Though unproven, it is for a fact that the kitchen is the brewing place of many a quarrels between the women of the house, that of the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law reigning supreme amongst the others. And as it has been oft said, 'The way to a man's heart is through the stomach,' it is no doubt that food and exhibiting food is a fashion statement in the present times and for now, it is to stay.

I forgot to mention, the word 'food porn' which is in vogue these days has me in splits!!! Who thought porn would venture into the world of food (chuckles).

Eat well. Stay smiling. What say, dear readers.

Image 1: Internet
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Sunday 11 December 2011

Stifled between cultures and world views

Growing up in the eighties without a television-set and certain other gadgets, life seemed to be very simple and devoid of the layers that now come to possess me. Long time ago, I wrote a post on how dualisms suffocate me and meandered on my identity which seemed to cris-cross several identities. I feel children growing up in today's world will face the nagging problem of being stifled between cultures and world views. And, it's not only children but many individuals like me who are faced with this dilemma. Let me explain.

Being born in India, there is a specific culture and value system which is present inherently within us. With the onslaught of globalisation and different cultural perspectives of the so-called West, one faces a crisis when it comes to adhering one's own culture as well as accommodating into the Western culture. I cannot draw a line of demarcation between cultures but there are some characteristics that are quintessentially Indian. One glaring example of this is the concept of 'space.' Years ago (atleast from the conversations I heard), there was nothing like, "My personal space" but now this phrase has become a predominant part of every second conversation. Perhaps that's why there is a conflict between the joint-family system and the nuclear one. Personal freedom is being underlined in red by every single individual but this was somehow not given much importance before. I cannot say whether it was good or bad. Somehow, it seems to me that India always put others first and then the self. The seeping of Western media, ideas and MNCs into our psyche has blurred the ideals and values that our culture possessed. Now, I don't mean to be parochial but this is a hard fact that one has to come into terms with.

In turn, the West is now turning to Yoga, spirituality and other quintessential Eastern systems for values and other gratifications while we, on the other hand are swinging between two extremes of the East and the West. Sometimes being caught between these two world views makes one hazy and nauseous. As someone, I don't recollect who, remarked that in today's world, religions, cultures and other systems are placed in the global supermarket and it is up to us to choose whatever we want and follow the same. But why choose something when we have something quite invaluable? Perhaps, it is another dimension of the global to embrace many cultures and practices. Well, I wonder. I, for one, cannot see the world as home!

This post was quite an existential rant, if I may call it so. If you make any sense out of this, please do share your views.

Image: Internet

Wednesday 7 December 2011

"You belong to the throwaway generation"

A few weeks ago, when one of my senior colleagues opened his lunch-box, he remarked: "Susan, I've been using this box for the past thirty years. My wife used this lunch-box when she was at school and then I used this when I was teaching at Madras and now here it is." I wondered about the years and the stories that the lunch-box carried. I asked, "Sir, didn't it occur to you to change the box?" He replied, "It was good so why change it?" Overhearing this conversation, another colleague remarked: "You belong to the throwaway generation. We are the keepers." Now, this comment unsettled me. "Do I belong to the throwaway generation?"

I have seen my relatives keep many things that belonged to their ancestors. I never imagined that it had to do with the generation. Forgive me, but America's sociologists like labelling each generation. For example, The Baby Boomers, The Rock-n-Roll, and so on. I have also seen documentaries which mention that the manufacturing houses don't make products that are intended for long-time usage in today's world. Throwaway products rule the roost. Looking around, I find that most products are intended so. But the throwaway tag directed at me, was disturbing. I don't mean to deny that sweeping generalised statement of the generation, but there are exceptions.

There are many references to clearing away clutter from our houses. And if one observes, the objects that add to the clutter are those which are kept for the sake of sentiment. And, after a period of time, the objects add pride to the owner. It is not without a feeling of pride that one remarks: "You know, my great grandmother used this towel/bed/fork/spoon/napkin/knife . . . and so on." Well, I respect sentiments and if the object is in usable condition, there is no need to do away with the same. Now gradually, I am sounding like one who is the rightful member of the throwaway generation. I find that keeping things that one does not use is absolutely unnecessary. Maybe, I don't know where to draw the line.

This discussion here, brings to my memory a few lines from Pamela Redmond Satran's quote, "Every woman should have."

a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…

Going by the quote, I realise that sometimes having objects owned by others carry the negative energies and failures of the previous owners. So why not possess new goods when one moves into a new home and life? Do I still seem to belong to the throwaway generation? Maybe, I cannot deny that fact. But I do confess to having keepsakes which I cannot part with easily.

So, what do you have to say on this topic.

Images: Internet

Thursday 1 December 2011

By any chance, are water and creativity connected?

Maybe it is just another of the many coincidences, but I am beginning to think that there is some mysterious connection between water and creativity.

Let me explain: Three places that drive my mind to uncountable thoughts: potty, sea-shore and bathroom. If you ask me what is the common denominator present in all the three places - Yes, it is water! Water is present in the potty, sea-shore and the bathroom.

Of course, being alone in a place forces oneself to concentrate on one's thoughts and hence the creativity puzzle is partially solved. But in the sea-shore?!?!? Even when I am with friends and family, thoughts just gush within and I'm forced to give in. I think it's the influence of water. Now as I am writing this post, another thought just crossed by. Yes, the water present in alocohol. When one is under the influence of alcohol, one gets quite creative and imaginary. Well, now that is another line of thought.

Coming back to water and creativity. This post was born out of two potty sessions and developed while at the shower. You see why I am growing stronger into believing that water and creativity are connected.

Well, what is your take on this? Maybe it is the same for you as well.

Image: Internet

Monday 28 November 2011

Encouragement as opposed to giving a false sense of self-worth

Being a teacher and a human being with an acute sense of observation, some points just cannot be missed. Increasingly, in my profession I have observed fellow colleagues who for gaining popularity and fan-fare feed the students with a false sense of self-worth in the form of encouragement. This led me to look into the nuances of encouraging an individual. How does one define encouragement?

Instead of looking at the meaning, I thought I will look into some of the synonyms of the word encouragement: boost, goad, spur, instigate and so on. Well, all the listed synonyms give a sense of pushing the individual to perform to the utmost of their abilities. But there is a catch here, sometimes there is a fine line that divided words of encouragement and empty words which instill a sense of false self-worth. If a student x is lazy and not focussed, I could encourage x to dig deep into herself and bring out her true qualities. But I could also do something else: I could attribute the feeling that inspite of not doing well, x is the best. By doing the second, I would lead x to believe that x is the best, inspite of knowing that x is not.

Well, sometimes in the pretext of encouraging a student, one should not attempt to destroy the knowledge that a student has limitations. Limitations are part of every individual and overcoming those limitations and moving ahead is a challenge everyone faces on a day-to-day basis. But to feed thoughts into a student's head that says that there are no limitation, leads to a very fatal outcome.

A teacher's greatest killjoy is when a student challenges the teacher that she/he is not respecting the student's worth. A teacher/individual ought to respect each person for what he/she is and strive to encourage in order to stimulate the students but sometimes this encouragement is done in several neagative ways by some individuals, who are gradually engaging in instilling a false sense of self-worth in a student. And I for one, cannot tolerate empty words of false self-worth.

What are your thoughts on this subject? I hope you get what I mean.

Image: Internet

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Incest, imprisonment and revenge

When I last did a post on a Japanese film, a reader, A. J. Poliquit commented: "Films from the Far East are slow and calming with memorable music." Having AJ's comment in mind and the backdrop of the movies that I have already watched, I sat down to watch the Korean film, Oldboy. The film was definitely slow (in the beginning) but not calming.

The protagonist is locked up in a cell for 15 years, without knowing why he is locked up. I had tremendous difficulty in following those parts as I was completely oblivious to what was going on with him. It almost seemed that along with the protagonist, even I was perplexed and confused. The film's narrative was also a bit confusing as it went back and forth between what happened before, during and after the 15 years of imprisonment. In fact, one had to pause, go ahead and then resume the movie, in order to understand the narrative scheme and the plot. Movies like this one, though keep me glued, exasperate me.

It is after some time that one realises that the imprisonment is an act of revenge for something that happened in the past involving the protagonist and two other individuals who were students of the same school. When I came to this part, I understood the title of the film (Ahhhhhhhhhhh. A long sigh). It is after this part that the movie gets exciting. What's next? What's next?

Then the story rapidly moves forward with shots of the past cradling the present. A tale of incest is revealed. After sitting through all this, one is left wondering about the different nuances of life, relationship, crime and emotions. The film is definitely a thriller and it thrills you in different ways sometimes leaving you with a bitter taste.

The film has some distasteful scenes. Let me mention two. In one scene, the protagonist eats a live octopus and in another he chops off his own tongue. 

This film from the Eastern world shook my sensibilities and I am short of words when it comes to praising the craft of the director, Park Chan-wook.

Watch the film if you can digest incest, imprisonment and revenge sprinkled with some gory scenes.

So, what kind of films do you like watching? Will you watch Oldboy, if given a chance?

Image 1: Internet
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Monday 14 November 2011

This thing, that thing, which thing

The word thing, I guess, should be the winner of the contest "One word for all." It is much easier for anyone to say 'that thing' rather than the actual word that should be used in a particular context. Take this example:

X: I like that thing in your T-shirt

Y: Which thing?

X: That yellow thing

Y: You mean that smiley?

X: Yes, that smiley thing

Well, every object, emotion, idea is reduced to a 'thing' or 'thingy.' Lets's see another example,

A: I think I have a thing for Josh Groban

B: Same here. Even I have a thing for him. Do you think we should write a thing for him?

And, it is not only young people who use the word 'thing' as a substitute for words but also adults. And, I must hasten to add that yours truly is also found guilty of using the T word for lack of memory of the original word.

The usage of the word in certain contexts almost ends up in double meaning. For example, the T word is used as a euphemism for sexual organs and sex itself. People saying, 'my thing is itching' or 'we did the thing' is not quite uncommon. But it does get hilarious when people say, 'My book is on your thing' (here, thing refers to bed). But the beauty of this kind of 'thing' communication is that the speakers who are part of the conversation perfectly understand the connotation of the word 'thing.'

Using the word 'thing' for almost every object or feeling, the literal meaning of the word is forgotten. But, that is secondary because communication is what matters and so anything is fine!

Now, let me leave you with the video of the song That Thing You do! from the movie of the same name. And why did I choose this song? Well, you guessed that one, quite right.

What do you think about thing and do you do the thing thing (winks) always?

Image: Internet

Tuesday 8 November 2011

What's your worth?

Clothes maketh a man says a popular adage but sometimes this adage is taken a bit too seriously by many merchandise sellers. Sales personnel at many retail outlets literally try to guess the worth of the customer by the way he/she is dressed. Now, don't get me wrong here. I am not propagating shabby dressing sense or pleading the cause of people dressed carelessly. I am just trying to say that a person should not always be judged by the manner of dressing. Some people just don't care about their dressing. Period. Take this professor who is my colleague. He is an intelligent academic scholar who is well read and quite quirky as well. He has his own eccentricities like we all do and can be a perfect illustration of an 'absent-minded professor.' Once he happened to visit a popular upmarket book-store and at the entrance, he was warned, All the books here are very expensive. Well, the security would have no idea that the person in question holds a PhD from one of the most prestigious institution in the country. All that mattered was that the professor was dressed quite shabbily.

A person's worth is determined by his/her clothes. And, if one is not well dressed then it is assumed that the person cannot afford 'decent' clothes and hence a poor man. Well, if that that is the case then is monetary worth determined only by the appearance? History records that many geniuses never cared about their presentation in public: unkempt hair, dirt-filled nails, different footwear for each leg, button-less shirts and an open fly.

Having said all this, I would also hasten to add that it is quite impossible to blame the security as he with his limited knowledge of the world matches the outward appearance and the monetary worth. His world is limited to the equation: money=well-dressed and poverty=shabby clothes. He cannot estimate that sometimes there are also individuals who do not care about how they look for their mind is preoccupied with things that are far more important to then than smart dressing.

And, I also don't negate the fact that well-dressed people do have an edge in this world which gives importance to sheen and outward looks. Afterall, Clothes maketh a man in the world and Bacon's Reading maketh a full man is only limited to certain circles.

So, what is your take on this. Do you make first impressions based on clothes or do you wait before arriving at a conclusion?

Image 1: Internet
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Saturday 5 November 2011

When the graduates protested

Yesterday I was at one of the oldest Universitys of the country, University of Madras, to attend a convocation. The governor, Dr. K. Rosaiah was there and the guest of honour was the UGC chairman, Prof. Ved Prakash. Normally in a convocation the degree certificates are given and then we come back home. But this time there was some extra zing to the whole affair. There was a fight and a resolution along with a promise.

First, it was announced that only one student from each department would come to the dais and receive the doctorate degree, as the programme had to wind up within an hour. For some time there was no much flutter and then it came. A PhD graduate who had come to receive his doctorate protested that he didn't want the degree just handed to him. He wanted to receive it from the governor. His point was valid. One comes from afar off to only find that the degree would be handed over to him not on the dais but where he is seated, will definitely cause irritation. When that man rose in protest, many graduates joined him and protested the plan. But through all this, there were many graduates who were just seated. For them it did not make any difference. If I was there in their place, it wouldn't have mattered to me. For me, my degree would matter and not whom or where I got it from.

 In the picture L to R: Registrar and Controller of Examinations (in yellow) Dr. Leo. T. Alexander, Vice-chancellor (in purple) Col. Prof. G. Thiruvasagam,  Governor and Chancellor of the University (seated) Dr. K. Rosaiah and a graduate receiving his PhD degree.

The Vice-chancellor and Registrar came into the picture. They pleaded with the graduates to return to their seats. Their plea fell on deaf ears. Phone calls were made and there was visible tension in the eyes of many officials. Finally the VC announced: All of you will receive your degrees from the governor. There was an applause and peace had descended on the faces of the protesting PhD graduates.

Seeing all this, I wondered that many times we are quite content with whatever is thrust upon us. Sometimes it is assumed that people will accept whatever is doled out to them quite willingly. Even in the convocation, if one man hadn't started that protest, none of them would have. This goes for everything. I think of Auden's poem, The Unknown Citizen. A citizen who is quite invisible and does not have his/her individual voice. How many years we have been so and will continue to be so, I imagine. And, having said all this, even I am like that citizen who accepts and conforms. After all, life goes on.

Image: Internet

Monday 31 October 2011

An ode to a trusted companion

For the past few months, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, (hereafter TLOTR) had been my faithful companion, never leaving my side except for the time I spent at the University and few hours on food, sleep, conversation and other things. Now that I have completed the trilogy, I sense a vaccum. For long, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Peppin and others filled my time and I laughed as they laughed and was sad when something was amiss with them. When the fellowship of the ring was broken, I was quite anxious that the party should get together again. Well, let me stop gushing and continue with the post.

A book (both fiction and non-fiction, but in this case, fiction) provides an assortment of emotional vagaries within us. Not only we are transported into the time frame of the book but we also integrate the lives of the characters within our own. Their quest becomes ours, their thoughts colour ours, and sometimes their anguish becomes ours. And if the book is like TLOTR, one spends a considerable time with the book which has three parts, with each part consisting of few hundred pages. The characters no longer belong to the book alone but are very much part of my waking time.

Not the characters alone, but one tends to imbibe the language and vocabulary present in the book. The evil characters in TLOTR, are Sauron, Saruman and the Orcs. At the time of reading the book, any student who gets on my nerves is an Orc and any person whose intentions are crooked and vile is Saruman. I don't know whether you notice but metaphors and similes are largely from the book which is being read. Ah, and how did I forget Mr. Gollum! Gollum-like is my favourite phrase now!

In more than one way, the book becomes one's companion, leading one through strange lands, people, language and experience. Now that I have parted with Sam, Frodo, and others, I am restless for laying my hands on other works of J. R. R. Tolkein's. And some works fill us with wisdom that comes in handy during unexpected times.

Before I end, let me leave you with a quote from Part I of TLOTR.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring 

Now, what do books mean to you, dear readers?

Image 1: Internet
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Tuesday 25 October 2011

The innocence of not knowing prices and value of things

Long ago, when I was a kid, it was wonderful to think that everything was possible and easy in life. For example, it was quite common to think that I will have a house by the sea and have a large telescope in my living room which would enable me to view the craters of the moon. Alas! the world from the eyes of a child is seldom based on practical calculations and pragmatic decisions. That world is Utopia, I reckon.

It is quite amazing to observe that as children, we don't estimate wishes and dreams through money. But that innocence slowly fades when one enters the teens. The harsh reality of money and value seeps into the thoughts and slowly the wishes disappear. All that one wants, as a teenager is something removed from the fantasies of a child. The "house by the sea" slowly vanishes and what is visible is the great idea of a 'career.' The becoming of something (I mean in a profession) is the ultimate beacon to be reached. Parents, teachers and well wishing adults remind us to remember what we have to become in the future. Even the path to a career needs money but that can be attained, anyway.

In the meanwhile, the child that we were talking of in the first paragraph, starts attaching a price to everything material. A house costs a lot of money and a house by the sea costs even more. Dreams have to be dreamt based on the cost price. Then the wishes no longer remain wishes. They become pursuits.

The other day I was thinking of how as a child, I wished for so many things. The wishes were just wishes and not something that I should possess. Wishing is one and possessing is another. I hope you get what I mean. We wished because we liked to pass our idle hours in thinking of something. It used to be a lovely pass time before sleep folded us up in her loving arms. But now, when sleep eludes, I calculate the price and wonder when will I be able to accumulate money to buy X or Y. It is at this juncture, faith enters. As a child there were wishes but no faith but now there are wishes and faith.

I guess the cycle has to go on.

Well, I don't know whether I made sense in this post. If this post kindled something within, then would you care to share what was kindled? I would be all ears . . .

Image: Internet

Thursday 20 October 2011

Cannot let go . . .

Let me tell you a story: In the Mahabharata, Parashurama was the instructor of the warrior Karna, born to a Kshatriya mother but raised as the son of a charioteer, or lower class of Kshatriyas. Karna came to Parashurama after being rejected from the school of Drona, who taught the five Pandava and one hundred Kaurava princes. . . . One day, Parashurama was sleeping with his head resting on Karna's thigh, when a beetle crawled up and bit Karna's thigh, boring into it. In spite of the bleeding and the pain, he neither flinched nor uttered a cry so that his teacher could continue his rest (Sourced from:

Well, I told you the story so that my post becomes easier to relate. Like the warrior Karna, who did not budge when the beetle was biting him so that he would not rouse his master, I find it extremely difficult to budge when someone holds my hand and falls asleep. This mostly happens in the context of younger kids and cousins who come home. 

The young ones hold my hand and drift away to sleep. In spite of sleeping soundly, they don’t let go of my hand and this causes immense conflict within me. When I sleep, I always like to toss and turn until I fall asleep and hence would like to be free of any physical contact. But some of my cousins and sometimes even my sister tend to hold my hand which restricts my movement. Somehow, I think that if I move or try to disengage their hand from mine, their sleep will be disturbed and so I continue to lie motionless. Many times it has so happened that when the person holding my hand tends to snore, I think that I can safely but gently disentangle my hand. But it seldom happens so. The person immediately stirs and also awakens. When the person’s peaceful slumber is disturbed, it causes quite a furore and hence I tend to avoid movement of any sort. I patiently wait for the time when the person turns to the other side eventually letting go of his/her clasp on my fingers. Until then, I somehow try (sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully) to unclasp my fingers from theirs. Sometimes even when mosquitoes tend to bite me, it is difficult to unclasp the fingers.

Though Karna’s sacrifice was quite an extreme one and mine cannot come anywhere close to his experience, the basic premise of the argument is movement. 

Well, how comfortable or uncomfortable are you in disengaging yourself from another’s clasp while they are near-sleep or sleeping? 

Image: Internet

Saturday 15 October 2011

Signature and related thoughts

Our signature speaks for us. I don't mean the way we sign our names but the words we use to end the post comments, mails and letters. For about three years now, my signature line has been "Joy always" and the reason for that is a wee story that I would like to share with you. But for getting wind of the story, I would direct you to my dear friend Corinne's page, where I have the honour of writing a guest post titled Joy Always.

Corinne's blog which is titled Everyday Gyaan (Gyaan translated as knowledge in Hindi/Sanskrit) is a place where one could find inspiration for living life amidst the ongoing stress, tension and niggling emotional downsides. Corinne infuses wisdom and knowledge through her personal stories, which in turn leaves the reader with warmth and calm.

I leave you with the pledge which is found in Corinne's blog. Be refreshed and strengthened at her place.

Joy always :)

Images: Sourced from Corinne's website.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

A worthwhile journey this far

It has been quite a journey and how! This day, the 12th of October, 2008, my first post titled Coversations while traversing on a rainy day in an auto was written. That day I just knew that I had to write down my experience of that travel and the platform provided by Blogger seemed ideal. I didn't even know about comments, followers, templates and other things. I just chose a name for this corner and typed in my first post and hit the 'Publish' button. The thought that people would read a post by me did not enter my mind. I imagined that this wee place would be the one where I would record my insignificant observations and personal reflections.

After I wrote the first post, I didn't even check my blog. I had forgotten all about it until November, when something painful happened. I wanted to escape the pain. I wanted to divert myself. I wrote . . . and wrote. I never looked back. Blogging has come to mean many many things now than the first time I wrote that post on a rainy day. That post was published in the morning at 07. 09 am. I wonder how I got to writing something that early in the day. And that post received only two comments :)

The journey has been wonderful this far. To all my followers, commenters, blogger-friends and anonymous readers: THANKS. You have been the best part of this endeavour.

Image 1: Internet

Monday 10 October 2011

SLR clicks, stale jokes, a big TATA Grande and lots of bloggers

For the second time, I bravely attended a bloggers meet alone. The last time, I attended one organised by Indibloggers, I met some good bloggers with whom I am still connected via blogs. This time the meet was at The Hyatt Regency and Tata Grande sponsored the event.

Though less apprehensive than the last time, I put up a bold front as I was a 'veteran' blogger and one blogger meet old. I slowly walked in and registered myself and got a stamp on my wrist which confirmed my registration. Picking up a tall glass of juice, I scanned the room for familiar faces. I was disappointed as I could not spot any (either no one from the last meet had come or I had forgotten faces). I settled beside an animated group and after few awkward moments of silence, I barged in: "Can I also join you guys?" I was warmly added to the group and then on I began non-stop . . .

All the while we were in that ball room of Hyatt, someone or the other was clicking pictures, either in posh SLRs, or digical camera or through mobile phone cameras. For once, I did not mind the flashes though making myself unconsiously ready for the angles.

Some bloggers were given 49 seconds of fame which allowed individuals to talk of ther blogs and other things. The Tata Grande people were also there to promote and sell their 'grand' SUV. Well, people were given test rides and so on before the actual meet took place.

After some time, I did spot few familiar faces and I was genuinely glad. It was wonderful reconnecting with Websnacker, Srivalli and others. In both the meets, I met a blogger who maintained 49 blogs!!! Can you beat that? I was astonished at his ability to prioritise time for all his blogs.

The food was sumptuous comprising of blueberry tart, chicken roll, potato croquette, chocolate . . . (I don't remember what it was. Maybe a pudding or a cake!) and tea/coffee. I met some more bloggers over food and chatted about their blogs and interests.

The clicking and flashing of SLRs were still going on. I bet I am there in many photographer's pictures (I hope that people do trace me and send the photographs).

Like last year, we were all given free T shirts. This time it was a grey one unlike the last time which was black. And, again like last time, I walked out with a lone kid who was working at Amazon in the books section.

I came alone and went home alone, just like last time. I guess this would be the norm for me.

Friday 7 October 2011


When sloth determines our actions and words, we do the most funniest of things. And these actions are funny not to the doer but to the observer. My friend, let's call her Z, always has the habit of picking the clothes that are right in front of her, in the cupboard. She never finds it necessary to look thoroughly for other clothes that are neatly folded inside. She just picks the one that is in front of her. This could be said of undergarments too. What is arranged in the contact position of the eye is the one that is immediately picked.

I have observed this trait when men buy vegetables and fruits. When I say men, I am of course generalising. Not all men have this trait. Well, . . .. Men tend to pick the veggies that are just in front of them unlike women who dig through the basket and look for the 'good' ones.

My students!!! How can I possibly forget them. Any assignment or any essay BANG, they go to Google and pick the very first link, which ultimately happens to be the great Wikipedia. And when that 'wikipedia' essay comes to me, I promptly mark PLAGIARISM and ask them to revise the same with an original analysis.

This habit also talks of something else. The act of complacently picking what is RIGHT THERE. If only one digs deeper, there could be the possibility of getting better things. I can understand that on certain days, one is too lazy to look for better clothes hence, selecting something which is right there in front.

Similarly, when one is not too bothered to cook food, every food item that is readily available on the table is eaten, and the person in turn, gains a lot of extra calories.

So the key word is time here. Lack of time, zest and interest paves way for picking up something which is right in front. The extra step to find out if there are better options is usually overlooked.

Well, are we grabbers of what we see in front of us or are we diggers of the unseen.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Monday 3 October 2011

"I feel as if I was inside a song"

If you've read The Lord of the Rings, Book I, then you would remember the lines that make the title of this post. Sam utters the line to Frodo, after listening to a song. After much thought, I realised that there are some songs which leave you much with the same thought: "I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning." Some deep baritone voices have this effect on me. I can almost picture myself within the song and after the song is long over, the trance remains.

The genre of the song does not matter for this experience. The song could be a spiritual or a romantic love rendition. Whenever I hear Denver crooning You fill up my senses . . ., I always find myself inside the song, almost feeling Denver singing to me and telling Like a walk in the rain . . . The same feeling happens when Presley croons, Wise men say, only fools rush in . . .


I wonder what gives this feeling? Is it the voice of the singer or an experience or the effect of the lyrics. The song, voice and lyrics envelops the being and one is transported into a different time and environment. Sometimes film songs do this as well. Probably that is why many Indian films have songs to describe a particular emotion. When love happens, the girl and the boy are transported into a place where the scenery is lovely and both break out into a song filled with thoughts of love, longing and desire. And laymen, who fall in love, take refuge in those songs, imagining themselves instead of the actors. Like Sam, common people get "inside" the song.

I am sure that many songs also have the same effect on you. They pull you such that you find yourself inside a song. Have you felt the same way as me?

Image: Internet

Thursday 29 September 2011

Tell me

It has been a long time since I thought of this question to ask you. Let me ask you now.


Image: Internet

Friday 23 September 2011

Teacher talk

Where do I begin . . .

There are so many intricate things that make up a significant part of a teacher's life. I thought I would record some of them here.

A teacher is supposed to be impartial and give equal status to all her/his students. I agree. But I also cannot disagree that there is this one student whom the teacher likes. The reasons may be varied - a helpful attitude, an ever-present dimpled smile, a thoughtful mind and many more. But the catch is that the teacher should never single out that student. Afterall, the teacher is someone who respects every student for what he or she is. Therefore that special student brings a smile to the teacher but is never singled out for any sort of preference.

Some students' attitude and behaviour is very similar to the teacher in many aspects. This kindred behaviour brings an enthusiasm to the teacher but the teacher has to supress those feelings and go on.

Certain students are cleverer than the teacher in terms of analytical thinking. Eventhough, the teacher might not admit that in the class, the teacher is quite in awe of that particular student. The teacher should also be able to maintain the levels of appreciation, in case the other students might fell inadequete.

Laziness and refusal to work can be tolerated to a certain extent but if that is the usual mode, then I just cannot help but be highly sarcastic and irritable. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain a demeanour which oozes patience, kindness and positivity.

I am a graphical person, which is translated as I can imagine doing gory things to students sometimes when they tend to rattle my nerves. Let me demonstrate this trait: If a student gives absolutely out-of-the world stupid answers, I would like to lift that student (in my mind, of course) physically and throw him/her outside the window. When the student sits still inspite of my 'performance' in class, I would definitely feel like shaking that student hard in such a way that I could hear his/her bones rattle. Well, obviously I cannot do such things but sometimes I do tend to act that out much to the amusement of my students.

It is interesting to observe students when they are in love. The student sometimes cannot balance his thoughts. At those times, the teacher admires the state of the student but also knows that being in that state forever is not advisable, hence . . .

Do you feel the same? Do you have any other similar feelings/instances to share with us?

Image: Internet

Saturday 17 September 2011

Pray, keep me away from china and white

I can spare a passing momentary appreciation for delicate cystals and china but possessing them is something I cannot imagine. While I could even manage to drool over the delicate figurines of birds, angels and shepherd boys for five seconds, I quickly move away for fear of breaking them. Well, I have never had buttery hands which drop things but when I see swarovski crystal figures, I run. I cannot imagine myself holding those glassy figures or letting them adorn my house. They just demand too much care and soft handling. One has to constantly be wary of the fact that if there is a slip of the fingers then the precious figurine will become smithereens. So, I stay away from such objects that require extreme care which again requires patience. Hence the preference of wood for jewellery and art. Wood is more earthy, easy to handle and does not seem delicate such that even a slight slip would yield a crack on to it.

Similar to the delicate crystals, is the colour white. Though it is deemed for its purity and lack of blemishness, I am slightly apprehensive when I pick that colour for a dress, table cloth or any other thing. When I don a white outfit, I am very conscious that I should not spill anything or I should not sit in a place which has even a small iota of dirt. This niggling feeling does not allow me to enjoy the present. If I take coffee, instead of savouring the beverage, I think: "My white should be careful. If coffee spills, then it will leave a stain." Even if I let go of my 'care-taking' for a few seconds (which does not happen), I will return to the old thoughts of staining my white dress.

Sometimes I console myself saying: "When one has had heart breaks, why worry about breaking pretty dolls." But that thought is not helpful. While broken hearts are not tangible, broken china and crystals are.This argument can be extended to whites as well. People take great care in preserving their whites and in the process turn the material into some sort of a prized possession. Well, if one has maids to take care of every single chore, then whites wouldn't pose much of threat, I reckon.

Black is lovely: no tension, no ironing and no conscious thoughts of spilling liquids that stain. In fact, it so happens that when I am wearing black, I don't ever spill anything. Without being conscious, I carry it off quite well. And, I look good in black as well :)

Well, blame the whites and the chinas and swarovski crystals. They rob one's peace of mind.

So, learned readers, as always, I am awaiting your two bits on this topic. I bet you like black better than white.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet
Image 3: Internet
Image 4: Internet

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Driving without being in the driver's seat

Please keep in mind that this post is not about the metaphorial driver's seat but the real one. I am quite an aggravating passenger if you are a slightly rash driver. Sitting inside the car (with all the doors locked and the glasses raised), I can bend if I see a truck arriving at a safe distance. In spite of not being at the wheel, I act almost as if I am driving and start panicking. Worse, I start alarming the driver and make grunting noises as if I am instructing her/him to drive carefully.

It always seems easy to not be in control and act as if the controls are at my mercy. This happens even while watching a game on telly. Some people get quite agitated and start saying, "If only I was there, I would have . . ." While I bend and make noises sitting in the seat next to the driver's, I tend to forget that I AM NOT IN THE CONTROLS.

Similarly in life, we enjoy giving directions to people in their lives and advice them how to live and conduct their lives. Though it seems easy to act and shout while being the observer, the real test arrives when one is in the driver's seat.

While the cricket player playing elsewhere cannot hear the moans and groans of the audience sitting thousands of miles away, the driver sitting next to you while driving gets quite bugged when he/she hears the exaggerated sounds from the passenger.

Sometimes it is better to keep the mouth shut. It saves a lot of energy and trouble. I need to remind myself that I should be a cool passenger sitting next to a confident driver.  

So, what kind of a passenger are you?

Image: Internet

Monday 12 September 2011

SHIT!!! Yes, you read it right

A month ago, our University inaugurated its first Film Club named 24. We invited director R. P. Amudhan and also screened three of his films, out of which one was titled SHIT. And, in case you are thinking of the swear word, please change gear as the film is about the literal shit. The film carried a social message on manual scavengers in a place called Madurai in Southern India. The camera follows a woman, Mariamma, who cleans the shit of people in a street adjacent to a temple in Madurai. In a country where people don't even use the left hand for any thing except for cleaning shit, here was this woman whose occupation was only cleaning shit with both her hands. In spite of herself feeling disgusted, she carried on the job as it was her source of income. A country which is seen as a developing one still has pockets as these which speak of parallel histories, a far cry from the "developing" status quo.

I must admit that I could not bring myself to watch the film closely. I was appalled, disturbed and felt disgusted seeing the visuals in the film. The director had used close-ups and the camera followed the lady as she was cleaning shit. The film was in complete realistic mode and believe me, there was no trace of any neo-realistic mode. I think you can imagine what was shown on the screen. Shit, in its raw form, could not be seen by me. This documentary brought several questions to me: Does art create a nauseous feeling? Can art be so brutal on my senses (esp. the visual)? Why couldn't I watch the documentary, after all, it's human waste?

Later, in the discussion, the film-maker revealed that one of his objectives in making the film was to disturb the viewer, and he did succeed.

Another film by the director was on the happenings at a crematorium which showed dead bodies being buried and cremated. While the images of dead bodies did not create any nauseous feeling within me, shit did. I thought that I am quite comfortable with death rather than shit!!! And, many like me, agreed that death was more aesthetically pleasant.

I'm not one for scatology, as art or anything else. But I must say that when I saw the woman manual scavenger cleaning up after everyone had finished their business, made me wonder about my disgust. I am still left confused and disturbed.

I am not providing the link or any material on the documentary SHIT but if you are interested, you could google the name of the documentary and watch the trailer. A complete version of the film is not available on the internet.

I would like to know what is art to you? Would you be fine in watching literal shit on screen and off screen? Maybe you could tell me.

Image: Internet

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Tell me what you think

Most people don't live aware lives.
They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts -- generally somebody else's -- mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions. 
Image:  Internet

Sunday 28 August 2011

Squeezing the creative juices but forgetting the filter

Writing blog posts has somehow become quite addictive. I see it as a means to squeeze my mind and force the thoughts to spill over as posts. But I come to realize that this exercise sometimes takes a toll on me. I find myself questioning the minutest things so that I come up with a curious post. There are days when the post presents itself to me that I cannot but sit and have to record them down. But sometimes these posts don’t arrive and knock at my door. On days when the posts don’t arrive, I am left with an urge to write but cannot do so as I find nothing interesting to me. On days like that, I am left staring at almost every plausible thing and wondering if ‘this’ could be the victim for my post.

Many writing gurus always remark, “Write something every day.” But what does one do when one cannot write anything. It is during those dry spells that I try to squeeze and extract the remains from something which has already been squeezed dry. Since there is nothing much to squeeze, the filter is discarded. As a result of the discarded filter, the posts don’t seem satisfying. 

Blogging saved me from a terrible patch in life (when I started out) and I’m glad that it is a worthwhile addiction but I also cannot disagree that everything has to be prioritized. Well, well, don’t get ideas that I’m taking a break or quitting blogging. This is a frank declaration of a passionate blogger.

Or perhaps, I forgot the filter when I wrote this post :)

What say?

Image: Internet

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Locked away memories

I wish I could slot types of memories in my mind/heart and have a folder for each set. Each folder will be labeled according to the kind of memories. Of course, some may overlap but that is okay, it cannot be helped otherwise. One folder would be titled ‘school’ where I will store all the memories that were part of my schooling years: friends, loves, teachers, exams and others. Another folder would be titled ‘betrayals’ where stories of lost loves would be carefully arranged. The folder, of course would slightly overlap the one titled ‘school.’ 

Some folders would last the entire lifetime while certain folders would require deletion as they interfere with the present. The past runs continuum in the present but there is also a need to gradually erase the volatile memories which have the ability to cause hazards in the present.
Some folders would be shared with friends, parents, children, teachers and certain others, while some folders will have a password which would prevent anyone from looking into the contents. Some folders need updating while certain others are preserved.

Memory is dynamic which is constantly changing. There are some memories of places which are better preserved in the memory alone. The place in the memory might be completely different from the present place and therefore it is better to leave the memory and the place alone. 

Songs form a greater space in every folder. I will store songs from each period of my life and connect the same with certain incidents in my life. For example, the song “My heart will go on,” will remind me of my under graduation, where I bunked class to see the movie “Titanic.” I will remember that I disliked Leonardo DiCaprio and adored Kate Winslet. But in the present, I have grown to like and admire the acting skills of DiCaprio. 

Sometimes I will rummage through the folders to exact that bit of memory which made me happy or sometimes I will crave for that smell which will lead me to a particular memory.

I will think of a certain time when the song “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by Eagles was playing but I wasn’t listening to the song but now when I listen to that song, I think of that ‘certain time’ with melancholy.

The urge to delete the folder named MEMORIES is strong at times but I am also aware that however I try to erase that folder, it will always remain in the system.

Image: Internet

Wednesday 17 August 2011

LaBels limit me but save time!

Sometimes for want of a better word and saving time and energy, we resort to already existing labels. In the process of using a particular label frequently, we deny ourselves the opportunity to think beyond that particular word. Conveniently we slot people, objects, places and other things. Therefore it requires a feminist to point out and condemn labels that define women, are sexist. If not for them, we could not have realized that we are slotting women into a particular category.

Just take a look around you and you find that there are labels for almost everything. It is these labels that slowly make way for prejudices and stereotypes. Spaces have to be either urban or rural/country side. But most of the times we use labels just because we can’t think of any other word. Most of the times, these labels are also historical and sociological. Things are simplified for historians and sociologists if groups of people are slotted into a particular label.

In academics, one can observe this trait predominantly. If an individual gets slotted into a particular label, then that one remains with him/her throughout the career span. Even if the individual has changed loyalties and prescribes to another, the tag is sure to follow. It is therefore quite difficult to remain in the academic circle and not be labelled. These labels can sometimes be the area of an individual’s research. For example, if someone is passionate about the theory of post colonialism, then he/she is labeled a poco (short form for postcolonialist). Unwittingly, one gets pulled into the vortex of labels.

Labels can be limiting and suffocating. I am trying to think an alternate to this. I cannot seem to find any. Perhaps, you could suggest something. I would like to read what you have to say on this. 

Image: Internet

Saturday 13 August 2011

Stars in my bedroom

The place where we are presently living cannot be characterized as urban or rural; it is somewhere between the two and could be called semi-rural and urban. Ah, sometimes these labels limit us from categorizing. Well, I hope you agree that everything cannot be slotted into labels. I am digressing from my topic, so let me get back into the groove.

Sometimes when sleep plays truant, I lay awake and wonder. It is at those times, that my eyes are fixed to the tiny sparks of light that flit across my room. The dark room gains a glow from these tiny fire flies which have somehow wandered into my room through the open window. Sometimes, I see the light through the mirror and I must tell you that the reflection of the fire fly’s light in the mirror makes a lovely sight. 

You should know that fire flies don’t dwell in urban spaces. They are found only in the country side as there are not many lights there. Perhaps the presence of many lights in the urban and semi-urban places has rendered our eyes blind to the luminous fire flies. 

The weaver-bird (Ploceus philippinus) which weaves its nest beautifully supposedly catches these fire flies to light its nest. Many villages have an abundance of these nests hanging from trees and sway gracefully in the direction of the breeze. One could spend a lifetime looking at those nests swaying back and forth. I am yet to see a nest in the dark. I am waiting to see that spectacle.

These flies spread light and warmth, niggling my senses and thoughts when I find that sleep has betrayed me. Looking at those stars that twinkle in my room, I slowly fall asleep and dream of weaver birds and their glowing nests.

Have you seen fire flies/ weaver bird’s nests? Does your living space bring you joy?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet 


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