Heartbreak – At 28

Life can be surprising, even scandalous, but somehow we manage to surprise ourselves more.

I am aware that as an single unmarried woman I should wait until marriage to write this, or to share anything related to love for that matter, like all good girls do. Now that all of us are over it, let’s move on.

The first thing you do after a heartbreak is remove all of what were your songs from your current playlist. Otherwise you run the risk of Spotify selecting it randomly from your list, and you breaking into a fit of crying while driving on Interstate 20 at 8.30AM on your way to work. If you don’t want to lose the songs, move them to a non-current playlist so you can play them at a future time when your heart is mended, the memories have been overwritten and the songs don’t poke you anymore.

Today morning I woke up and was watching a video on Insta, as you do on Sunday mornings, and somebody mentioned something about drooling. It hit a nerve and reminded me of the time J once drooled on me, and both of us broke into laughter. For a moment my still-foggy and freshly heartbroken brain couldn’t place when it had happened on our timeline.

It struck me that it’s only been a couple of weeks since then and I’m already forgetting details. We had such a short time together, and if I don’t want to “lose” these memories I should probably write them down. At some point. But do I want to “keep” them?

I’m a huge believer that we all have only a short while in each other’s lives (well, ideally more than a couple months which was the case with J, but anyway), so I tend to keep my love close and my memories closer. This time, I don’t know if I want to keep them, let alone keep them close, which is very, very unlike me.

I remember once going to Pious Achan and telling him I’d learnt something about myself. Pious Achan had replied, We’re always discovering new things about ourselves. That was five years ago.
Life can be surprising, even scandalous, but somehow we manage to surprise ourselves more.

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Introducing BYOTP : Back-to-Office Town Hall

Single-ply, multi-ply – you decide. All that we ask is to show up in office Mon-Wed-Fri. A conversation with the CEO on the new Bring Your Own Toilet Paper policy.

Disclaimer : All incidents are made up, none of the featured characters are human etc. AKA I hope I don’t get fired.


In Conversation With the CEO

Welcome and thankyou for yet another year of great performance and stunning margins. First things first, in keeping with the times, my title will be modified from Chief Executive Good Boi to the more inclusive CEO.
I presume you’ve all read my Back to Office email, I appreciate you showing up here today, we sure are one goodlooking pawnch. (There goes my one and only dog-pun).

Now we have an exciting announcement in store based on feedback we received from you. Before that – Sam, could you run us through the top-voted response to our Back to Office story?

Sam : “Of course. With 578 upvotes, top comment by HoomanIsBae with an o-o reads- “Didn’t we exceed expectations working from home these two years? Not looking forward to returning to the single-ply office TP that tears off after 2 pulls. A puny feline couldn’t work with 2 sheets of that abomination -”

“Thankyou Sam, I thought you’d be giving us the TLDR. Anyway, to answer the question which appears to be of chief pertinence – I understand your sentiments about returning to office.

And we see you being independent, responsible adults here – walking on the grass like it’s nobody’s business, picking up after yourselves – we see all the good work. I ASSURE THAT WE SEE YOU. (It’s a security problem if we don’t and I’ll have I.T. fix the CCTV cams).
And we’d love for you to continue the Good Work! Which is why we have news for you!”

Necks craned, pupils dilated across the room in anticipation and hope as Mr. CEO continued.

“To address what was pointed out from YOUR end, we are initiating a BYOTP policy. Whether you’re furry, bald or thick-skinned, Bring Your Own Toilet Paper!
Single-ply, multi-ply – you decide (and you buy, obviously). All that we ask is to show up in office Mon-Wed-Fri.

The clumsy, rhyming lines appeared on the large screen behind him. Audience exchanged quizzical looks while a few loyal tails wagged ferociously. Clearly he’d missed the point HoomanIsBae and 578 others tried to make, or did he not and was this the best he could do? Corporates are a mystery to me.

“Second row, raising your paw – You have a question for Mr. CEO?”

“So you’re rewarding us by removing Toilet Paper from washrooms?”

“No, we’re rewarding you by letting you bring your own.”

“Erm sure, how about Bring Your Own Bidet (BYOB)? The Afghan Hounds and Asian Shepherds feel 73% more at-home with it. We just ran an audience poll in the last 20 seconds.”

Okay this was tricky and as they say, any stat ending in a 3 must be true.

“I hear you… Let’s start with BYOTP and we’ll get to BYOB eventually. One step at a time, together.”

Awoo’s rose to the ceiling. An Indian Pomeranian wiped their happy tears, nodding, “What a leader.”

“Let’s hear another one, Sam. I know we definitely saw some folks excited about the Return to Office.”

Sam : “Here we go again. StopAskingMeToFetch69 with 6-9 in numeric says – SO GLAD to be back in office, I missed the Chipotle. But now there’s less steak in my burrito cos of long lines at the counter!”

“I’d like to commend StopAskingMeToFetch69 on diversifying to human styles, but my limbs are tied on Chipotle. It is what it is.”

Scattered boos permeated the conference room. “Well now you sound just like John, nobody likes John,” a wizened Husky from the front row flailed and dropped her arms.

John?

“The HR, he no longer sends us bowl treats and our bonus this year was meat flavored gummy bears. We love those but it doesn’t begin to cover inflation.”

Jeez, his own bonus wasn’t gummy bears and even that didn’t cover inflation. Mr. CEO glanced at the floor briefly.

“I see we’re at time so I’ll ignore that completely unless you want a generic managerial response from me. We’ll take one last question.”

Husky wasn’t done, “Can we atleast have a Bring Your Human to Work day? I worry for my human when I’m at work.”

“No, and that’ll be all.” Mr. CEO stepped to the edge of the podium. “To close, we know you had fun at home these 2 long years. Now we let you have fun twice a week. Isn’t that fun?!”


As the crowd walked out, the Pomeranian wiped their eyes still wet from animated glee.

“You know, I might just bring my bidet to work anyway. He told us to have fun at work, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, I’m not leaving my showerhead at home either. Hopefully his cameras don’t work.” LadyBird winked at Jessy, the IT admin.

#24 Postcard – Spring 2022 : PARADISE LOST.

Ugh, that word. When did she start using it? Virtually. For all practical purposes. Bottomline.

It was the later part of the shower and there was hair stuck between the butt. Long even when curled up – definitely came from the head. Add Get a trim to a new list maybe?

It feels so weird to not keep a list after so long. Maybe a visit to Portland would be nice, Portlandia was a good show and Fred Armisen is awesome. Come to think of it, even that guy is a sex addict and a cheater. People lose it when celebrities ask to be treated as humans, unless it’s Mithila Palkar.

Sunday loomed over her to the point that even Saturday shower turned dull. Of course it was still fun if she was out and about. But that was part of the problem. What about the inside? She was now one of those people she always had suspicions about – is there too much or too little going on in your head that you either can’t nor need to sit down with your thoughts?
Why didn’t the therapist hear about this?

There were two guys she was meeting, they didn’t know about each other but it didn’t matter. In this age of parents owning up to occasionally despising their little monsters and of loyal spouses that keep mind-whores, this was allowed right? RIGHT? They all begin with the same Any luck on the app? (nobody has met anyone nice ever, where are all the good folks?). Each one ends differently. That should be a writeup – a hundred ends to the same beginning. But really they all had the same abysmal end. Virtually.

Ugh, that word. When did she start using it? Virtually. For all practical purposes. Bottomline. Favored by ends-justify-means folks, invalidating experiences and events. Used often to draw comparisons, oftener to talk business, or to close with a ruthless fact. Virtually needs better contexts.
Why is the adverb so different from the adjective anyway?

There is a bit in John Mulaney’s standup – the one good thing coming to Texas this March – where he says I don’t even know what my body is for at this point, other than to carry my head from place to place.
Sounds about right. All the scrubbing, peeling, moisturizing, epilating and washing up only to carry a head from place to place seems absurd yet almost true. For dancers the body is their device so that would make sense. What was it to her at this point, anyway? And the body definitely couldn’t keep up with her mind.

Mulaney was 35 (and married) when that comedy special came out. 35 year old men regardless of their marital status shouldn’t be treated to an audience for their chaos, unless you’re Mulaney and/or funny. At least virtually.

#23 Postcard – Driving and Grocery Store Dates

There’s a scene in LadyBird where LabyBird drives a car for the first time through familiar streets of her Sacramento home. She talks about how everything feels different when you’re driving past them.
I had that feeling last Sunday as I drove through my neighborhood streets.

On my way back from office today, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now started playing on the radio. I had just taken the final turn from a 6-lane to a 4-lane to my apartment, it was a long 5 mile stretch. I didn’t need the GPS anymore which meant I could finally enjoy the music playing – if you’re a baby driver taking on traffic on a war footing everyday, you might relate.


There’s a scene in LadyBird where LabyBird drives a car for the first time through familiar streets of her Sacramento home. She talks about how everything feels different when you’re driving past them.
I had that feeling last Sunday as I drove through the streets near my place.

It wasn’t extraordinary. I missed being able to halt by neighborhood roads in the morning (because there’s no shoulder here for the most part and no parking on the sides, ugh first-world problems). It was Halloween weekend, some of my teammates were in office with families and that was probably a more interesting place to be. I came to know from Bryan later that that was on Saturday.

But it is magical at night when I drive the roads at 15mph.
The city is almost shameless in its sprawl, yet the narrower byroads are too charming in Texas, like suburban paved streets interspersed with familial nothingness. They feel like home, the church-fronts are filled with kids in the morning (or a wedding party), and the extensive parking lots are empty and welcoming at night. Lit-up reindeers smile from front lawns of houses tucked away from the main roads, and family cars crowd the streets on weekends. On a related note, some of the houses also bring to mind Virginia the movie with an unkempt front porch, but I’ll let that one slide.

On Sundays, I clearly match this town’s energy.


Everyone dresses like it’s Sunday everyday here, but especially on Sunday. (I’m constantly overdressed in this state).

In Atlanta we’d visit the local Target, a 10-min walk away, a couple of times during the week. If you’re remotely well-dressed, some also-welldressed guy would try to chat you up or a 5’3” dude would ask if you needed help in reaching the shelves. (I’m 5’2.5” for context). There’d always be someone who had clearly just moved to the city, their trolley overflowing with dinner sets and soap dispensers. My local Target here though is filled with young moms and working women like me. All dressed up still, but I miss Atlanta. I was clearly too cocky for my own good during my time there.

Also we need more dates happening in grocery stores! My own Modern Love chapter, I am positive, will be during a run at Target.


Afterwards, Chandelier by Sia came on. I was 2 minutes away from my apartment complex, in the two-lane towered by tall trees and houses with large front porches.

I sometimes dread our parking, but this time I got a nice spot on the 3rd floor. Here we are ๐Ÿ™‚

#16 Postcard – The not-so-retired life of Madam S

A Nevilsville curveball was something the old woman could live with, but it would only be a matter of time before the past caught up with her.

It’s a summer afternoon in Texas. A dull wind blows through empty streets as AC generators whir mad at work. Sun-lit balconies stay deserted while TV sets play Sunday cable within, only lazy church bells ring attendance by the hour.

Madam S is busy trotting about her backyard with a shovel, she had to fixate the patch between the oaks every week or the damned pug would dig his way into the ground. (Soil got loose this time of the year). Otis watched from the patio, drooling.

The hammock Maddy and Madam S put up last evening swung in the breeze. It’s still sweltering, they had to wait till at least 8 when sun went down to enjoy it. If Maddy visited today she had to remember to give him Bob’s contact. A Nevilsville curveball was something the old woman could live with, but it would only be a matter of time before the past caught up with her. And good people are hard to come by.

It was a foggy winter evening when Madam S landed in Texas. The trees in her backyard garden had turned skeletons after shedding. Hell, skeletons lined the way from airport to her new cottage – an ironical welcome to her retirement life.

At her age Madam S didn’t have appetite for the foolery that people indulged in the name of socializing, definitely not of the Welcome to Nevilsville Night sort the neighborhood folks threw her. So much for a reclusive retirement, wasn’t this town supposed to be boring? The two of them would resort to silence in the company of others, and Maddy instantly became her favorite.

Later in the evening when air cooled down, Madam S and Maddy sipped tea in porcelain cups from her cupboard, the soaked marble cake leaving a brown trail after each dip.

“Do you want some to take home? I baked one fresh last night.”

“You should let me hang that in the patio, chandeliers weren’t meant to lie around dirty garage floors…”

“Eat cake kid, I’m old enough to know what they were meant for.”
“I’m hoping to get rid of it, soon.” She added as an afterthought.

It would seem that life was filled with irony. After his father’s death last year, Maddy had been spending more time in her backyard. His mom didn’t want him around, the fourteen year old had too much energy for her to handle. But the kid was a sweetheart.

The chandelier lay there alongside Madam S’ garden sickle, drills and her tool set. That reminded her –

Madam S jotted BOB on a piece of paper followed by ten digits, and handed it to Maddy.

“Call this guy if Molly locks you up in the attic again, he lives by the highway. I can’t always hop to your house when you get into trouble.”

“You worry too much. Mom’s glad I’m away, not been herself since father died.”
“On second thought, can I have another bite of that cake?”

Madam S headed to the kitchen table, Otis tailing after her. She did feel for Molly – life is hard. Couldn’t have been easier with an abusive husband in a town with naked trees for company 9 months of the year.
Well that had been taken care of. Partially.

Madam S turned around at the back door to see Maddy leap onto the hammock, hoisted right above where his father lay, between the oaks. She smiled. Bob was a good man.

#14 Postcard – First day in Office

I joined work remotely in early January. Today was my first day at our office campus. It was a warm day, I probably got as much office work done as I usually get done during WFH. The difference I guess is that at home, I usually get other work done as well.

But of course that’s not what today was about.

Our Fort Worth campus is very green, it also drizzled a bit, and in the evening one of my colleagues gave me a ride to his home (because I don’t have a car and he is too kind), where I met his very warm wife. His home reminded me of my home in Trivandrum after a light evening shower – cozy with a TV playing in the background, and that home feeling – of knowing every nook and corner like the back of your hand cos, you know, you’ve spent years of your life here. I suddenly missed returning home after work. Although in Tvm I always got home tired after sunset and never got to see much of evenings. It’s going to be a new routine ๐Ÿ™‚

The client orders’ associate who printed my photo ID told me I have good style – I solemnly swear I did not write this post to brag about this one thing.
My manager was really warm as well. When I got home, I made myself a glass of (oat) milk tea. I usually drink milk tea only in the morning, but I was a lot more exhausted than I usually am after work, and needed it. I am looking forward to being in office more often, it’s just nice to be around folks ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is an afternoon drizzle around 3.

#12 Postcard – Choices and the Roads not taken

They say everywhere you go becomes a part of you somehow. But don’t you also leave a bit of your self behind, every place you leave?

They say everywhere you go becomes a part of you somehow. But don’t you also leave a bit of your self behind, every place you leave?

I cannot think of any city I have lived in without feeling that lump in my throat, except Trivandrum. And maybe that comes from the knowledge that Trivandrum is home, it’s where I’ll always go back, and there is no leaving, really.

I’ve lived in Delhi, Georgia, Texas. And there are different, younger versions of myself residing in all these places. I only have to go back to see them.

When I visit Rajiv Chowk, I see the 22 year old me on my way back from visiting Valyamma or Achu Annan, waiting for Dwarka line on the other side of the rail. My backpack is filled with the fish fry Valyamma packed for me, or all the Haldiram’s Achu Annan bought me. In December that kid is preparing to become an IAS officer, in March she’s decided she will do International Relations in JNU, and in 2 years I’d be there for my visa interview at the consulate before I leave for Atlanta.

Years later, when I moved from Atlanta, I was sad. I was leaving behind my grad school friends, a place I had grown to love and that I could see becoming my home, a college that gave me my graduate education, a campus I loved to walk around in, gardens and shops I grew to enjoy visiting. I haven’t gone back, but I know I’ll find that 25 year old kid walking the bridge to Target, smiling mindlessly at dogs and the sunset and the dressed-up women posing at the Memorial gate.

There is comfort in familiarity, and I embrace that fully.

To think that we’re where we are because of choice, chance, and the associated what-if’s I grapple with if I ponder long enough (and I’ve had the privilege of choice for a few years). What if the 22 year old me followed another trail of thought to discover something else, what if I’d stayed in Atlanta and not moved?
But we could spend the rest of our lives playing What If, and then some.

Today I was walking back from the Indian grocery store, and I realized I’m growing comfortable here as well, and I’ll miss stuff whenever it is that I leave. I’ll always miss Delhi because it has some of my happiest memories, and that happy innocent kid that I can never go back to. Atlanta, because it gave me so much. Texas, too.

So maybe what we leave behind is our present selves, because we know there’s no way to hold on that comfort even if we want to, except in the form of memories.

But whenever I visit, I know I’ll find those younger versions. They never ask, How are you? Because they aren’t curious, somehow, they’re happy right there.

That Delhi kid still lives somewhere around Karol Bagh. She looks forward to finding out what’s in her evening tiffin, shuffles her way through the loud crowds of CP and reads her yellow Vision IAS notes on the long metro rides home. In Atlanta, Crash Into Me still plays in my room on a dark, rainy evening while Uma hums a tune in the kitchen, putting the chai on.

And maybe we like to think there was something more there, something we missed out on by leaving, that we can’t get back to. That secret, the answer to the what if, only the version that stayed behind knows. Yet when you visit, they only offer you a naughty smile. It’s a secret that will stay there, stay there with that version of you that you left behind. ๐Ÿ™‚

#11 Postcard – MidWeek, MidYear, Back to Office

I cannot believe it’s Wednesday night. That was fast. The week went by quick because we’ve had Nvidia training all week at work and I had a deliverable to be completed today. There were also events that happened in my family and my friends circle, so taking time out to write this post is a breather really.

It’s also almost mid-year, incidentally.

My office opened up fully in-person on June 21st, and I’ll be visiting my campus for the first time on Monday. After 6 months of virtual conversation and catch-up over audio meetings, it’s going to be nice to meet my team mates in person. I hear they might not be in office for regular in-person work, I do prefer working from home myself, considering how there’s time for life-stuff after work-stuff.

I also do not fancy the idea of wearing masks in office, though it is comforting to know everyone has to wear it when there’s no room for social distancing. Looking forward to see how it turns out to be!

#7 Postcard – The librarian

Saturdays are good because you can leave the library an hour earlier than usual. Saturdays are also Bring your kids to work day. If Miss Dena from admin office brought Bella Anne to the library, Mโ€™s two girls would be upset to leave by 5.

Saturdays are good because you can leave the library an hour earlier than usual. Saturdays are also Bring your kids to work day. If Miss Dena from admin office brought Bella Anne to the library, Mโ€™s two girls would be upset to leave by 5. After saying their goodbyes, the children would run in circles in the outside lawns until Miss Dena raised her voice, and M would have to put on her stern face.

The downtown library crowd was more engaging than the South East branch where M was posted the first six months. There, the crowds were mostly parents dropping by after work to pick up books for their kids, always asking for recommendations (the South East branch stayed open till 8).

In downtown, the weekday crowd spanned university students, retirees and stay-at-home parents with their toddlers. They were also more patient in the queues to drop the books, actively participated in workshops, and took their time to learn the automated check-out and check-in machines – even Carla who was 84, one of their oldest patrons, and still visited regularly during the pandemic. It was partly why she enjoyed working in a library, a similar crowd at a Walmart line would no doubt form a disgruntled bunch.

So many of those self-help counters had stood empty for over a year now. The staff still regularly stacked the New Releases shelves, updated audio books on the website, and had recently refurnished the top floor lounge, although occupancy was down to less than 20%.

Saturdays were more idle because there would be no inventory arrivals, no new Interlibrary Requests to process. M sat at the reception with Bullock, the young assistant who had recently moved from the west coast, and talk about the California housing crisis (It was home, but I already love Texas). The kids would spend time in their section on the third floor without bother (except that time almost two years ago when they first tried to open the Emergency door, sending alarms and the security running, and her heart almost rose to her throat as she rushed to the elevator). Most summer Saturdays they would be occupied in workshops – origami-making, marble painting and crafts – attended by the staff’s young children, pre-teens from town and a handful of sportive adults.
Hardly anyone had attended them in South East location, but who thought it was a good idea to open a branch near a factory site?


In the evening once the girls were downstairs, Bullock would let them grab office stationery from her desk – marker pens, custom HB pencils and colored paper. M would then take them to Flying Fish across the Museum of Art, leaving their bags in the car. The girls always got fish and chips with extra dip and a soda drink, she would have the catfish sandwich with iced tea. Sometimes they’d order a plate of calamari rings. (Only once, when the kids were off on summer camp, she had tried their margarita with the then-assistant).

The grill had a wall dedicated to polaroids of first-visits, there was a picture of the three of them pinned up there from their first day at the place. That was also the day the emergency alarm went off, there was no Dena or Bullock present, it had been a lonely rollercoaster Saturday with the kids. Nonetheless, having them spend weekend at the library was a huge convenience.

M listened as the two of them munched and talked about how many books Stephanie read that day (Paula did not like to read), or how they had dozed off during the recycling workshop. Some days they bumped into Mrs. Sanders on her way back from the university.

As they drove home, the girls argued about whether they should move to California themselves (everyone is pretty there like Miss Bullock, that must be real boring, it went on). M looked at the weekend or what remained of it at her disposal. Tomorrow she had to run the laundry, sew the pinafore sleeve Paula had torn earlier in the week, and get the long pending car-wash. But tonight sheโ€™d finish the dishes while water filled in her tub, proceed to light those bath candles thatโ€™d been lying in her bottom drawer for over half a year, and then she could attend to the new release of Murakami, waiting in her tote bag.

From the Origami workshop at Arlington Public library

Modern Love – What’s the catch?

So the roommates from his stories turned out to be his parents. On which date does the cat turn out to be his child?

For what feels like the first time, I am not thrilled by when Blinding Lights starts playing – just as he tells me he’s recently divorced after a five year marriage. As recently as in the last 6 months.

I see, I say, quick to add a not-too-intrusive follow up question after registering that I see’s are my go-to in Zoom meetings precisely because they are too plain, too matter-of-fact and definitely too insensitive for this first-date exchange. I am glad the lights at “the grill place” aren’t too bright, yet our faces were fixated on each other’s and one couldn’t miss it if I so much as slightly grimaced, which I didn’t.

It’s not an off-putting detail. It’s probably just something you might want to mention on your Tinder bio, or at least reveal in the early conversations.

Okay, I guess this is in fact early. He did get that right.

I’m over it already as we talk about the books we left unfinished growing up, and at length about our Harry Potter houses (he was definitely Ravenclaw). Yet in the 4-second pause before we resumed talking about our families, the skepticism bounced back briefly.

Yes it’s early, it’s theoretically the safest spot in the early spectrum to introduce the fact – I can now imagine upvoted Reddit answers to the thread When should I tell my date … ? Yet it’s a bit disenchanting when it follows another reveal of his roommates, whose lifestyles he had elaborated within the walls of Tinder, turning out to be his parents. On which date would the cat turn out to be his child? Too harsh perhaps but there’s a reason that stuff is usually on a bio.

But of course one had to meet to really find out : dress up, delight in fussing over whether to wear sneakers or light heels, change outfits since it says it’s going to be chilly at night, change outfits again to not appear too dressy yet not too casual.

We talk about prints and Tokyo and it’s genuinely fun. Once in a while my thoughts drifted further than my eyes did, as did his I’m sure.

I caught the father and kids sipping drinks from their tall straws at the table behind him, and I had the inevitable thought of whether I had a similar piece to compare to his –

What was my catch, then?

And was this the mirage of all dating apps? That everyone told each other How else do you meet people during the pandemic, but really nobody on there was pursuing good old love as they claimed they were? That all the seeming effort on real talk was in fact devoted to changing the narrative of real-life stories and setting stage for slipping in disclosures at the perfect time?
I am not an accomplice in all of this, surely?

For a brief moment I saw a fleeting image of myself as the protagonist in Modern Love’s Doorman episode. Except there was no Guzmin to disapprove of the guys, only me, ending up reading all day on park benches with my legs curled up and riding my bike to cozy cafes – alone.

The thought was more amusing than unpleasant, and I tried to grace a full smile to mask any other emotion. I think we were onto discussing the strangeness of allergies of freshly-cut grass and strawberries at that point.

I later wondered, as one must I assume, if there was something about my profile that conveyed to emotionally unavailable men that I’d serve as an accessory to their early healing/moving-on journeys (because this wasn’t the first time). I’m open-minded and we all have our own deals going on, but I’m not sure any of us want to mess with it unless it were worth everyone’s time.

It suffices to say we had a great evening, and for that I’m glad. I really should’ve asked about the cat. Too late.

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