Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Small town syndrome

As it usuaually happens, Suman called me at around 5 in the evening to see if we can meet up for a drink.

As it usually happens, I relish at the possibility of discussing the world over a quater of fav whisky, gobi manchurian.

As it usually happens we meet around 7 at one of my favourite hangouts in town. Brigade fuel.

located right opposite guzzlers and right next to pecos.

There are some real pluses about Fuel. Firstly, it is a place where you can order your quarters without being given the shocked look. You get personalised service, cos we know the guys very well. The music is managable atually you can hear the other person talk. I even heard "Ellodhagoppa ninna aramame" once. There are two t.v.s playing the latest in sports.

There are a ton of things one can keep telling about such places, but the truth is "Its got a small town feel". That is what I decided to blog about today.

What is a "Small town Syndrome" ? People from the dusty small towns of India who generally migrate to big cities and countries often leaving a trailblazing path in their wake. They never tire, never stop, never pause and certainly never rest.

Never think someone having the "Small town syndrome" is an easy pushover. Most of these guys are driven like V8 engine, acidic as vinegar and most importantly risk takers the likes which vegas blackjack players would respect and be proud to call as one of them.

They are people who have a higher dream to pursue and achieve it with plain, brute force. They have a tremendous appetite for learning, a dogged perseverence to feed their ambitions and a street smart approach which would make the rest of us look like wayside admirors. Some of us may even cry horse and say "Its not fair".

Small town India stretches across the vast hinterland like hubli, madurai, chitoor, coimbatore, satara or Ranchi, Gorakhpur, Gaya. These are the places from which people with dreams and people with a real desire to achieve something greater than what fate seems to ditate for them gatecrash into the big league with impunity. Generally these are people who have a sense of confidence, sometimes bordering on cockiness and arrogance. They have the attitude "Nothing can stop me from reaching my destination". The arrogance and cockiness apart, these guys are toougher than hibernating spore. They cover their insides with a tough protien compound which renders all other distractive elements of city life useless in derailing them from the goals. They have scant regard for existing norms and end up redefining them.

Pasha, A muslim friend from coimbatore with English skills only in the written and the reading world arrives in mumbai. A phone call the day before warned me of his coming and I was notified that I would have to provide him with a place to stay for a while. Till he got a job in bustling mumbai.

I knew pasha for 3 years in coimbatore and for the next 3 years I had no contact with him. Another friend of mine, located my number through a quick investigative search and called me at my on-location office. Imagine my surprise when I heard Vijay's voice over the telephone telling me "Machi, Pasha is coming, do the needfull". Small town guys can track look upon themselves as a community and would never shy away from returning favours. They live by an honour which makes them remember their roots, yet they fly free unconstraint by their roots.

Pasha's stay at my place itself was interesting. He would have tremendous humility at our place always concious of the fact that Vasu is not the same Vasu I knew. I tried telling him, that nothing has changed except the fact that I spoke hindi well now.

What really surprised the hell out of me was, it was October and my US Visa was in process when Pasha came to mumbai. October 1999. Pasha could not talk, english, or hindi and all he knew was a tamlish urdu and tamil itself. Hardly helpfull if you want a job in the shipping industry. But the way he went about the process of getting a job and achieving his dreams was just too tremendous.

Everyday he would be up before 6 and off to the harbour scouring every little dingy export/import company near the docs. Deligently compiling a list of names, contacts and addresses he would follow them up with clockwork regularity. Never losing the hope that one day, he is going to make it big.

Somewhere in december, Pasha calls me and says that he has got a job with an Aircargo company in mumbai and he would work out of their Andheri office. He even takes all of us out for a drink. A small town guy, feels a sense of gratitude for whoever had helped him. Its actually not a great help, we shared our room with him. Where it was 3, we were 4. No big deal actually, but Pasha would never agree on that.

Most importantly small town guys, never forget. A helping hand or a stinging slight. They never forget. The drive and focus is so high, very soon you will find yourself in a situation being paid for your helping hand or the stinging slight, pretty handsomely.

months passed and my US visa had arrived. The ides of march were there and I was standing outside the US counselate in Walkeshwar in stinging unseasonal rain when I heard a familiar voice. Pasha was standing along with his cousin just 2-3 steps behind me. We spoke a lot about our lives and the way this great city had altered it forever, when Paasha interrupted me with an announcement.

Machi.. next week nan dubai poren. (Machi, I am going to dubai next week).

My jaw dropped literally and the first words out of my mouth was vow!!!.. Apparently his boss had shifted companies and took him along with him. this guy was so good at his work, he offered him 10 times the salary he was drawing. A somersault from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 45,000. All within a matter of few months.

The one thing about small town guys are, they dont complain about hardships. They just roll with good and bad till they reach their spot. Mumbai I have a feeling has been made of a million small town guys. Not Delhi, Not calcutta. Small town guys make the best rags to richest stories. Is that a right definition of small town syndrome ? A need to break the ceiling so desperate that they not only break the ceiling but tear the sky.

Small town guys are pretty naive about social norms. They would jump ahead of a waiting woman into an auto and there is no place of chivallry. Their sheer naivity and ignorance gives them the license not to conform and most people end up accepting that.

A conversation I overheard at a friend's engagement party. This friend worked with MX as a sales executive one of the most cut-throat workplaces.

Miss X: "You know, Joshi ?"
Miss Y: "Ya, that ghati (slang for someone coming from maharashtra. Usually used as a derogatory reference to lack of sophestication), who doesent have any sense of decency ?"
Miss X: "Ya, he is the top performer for this month. He is going to spain for a vacation. Company paid".
miss Y: "Spain ?. You must be kidding me. What does he know about spain ? bloddy unpad, gawar.. (hindi slang for uneducated)
miss X: "Ya, but he beat Pramod in sales. Thats no mean achievement."
Miss Y: "so what, he doesent deserve to go to spain. I mean what does he know ? He cant even speak english.".
Miss X: "The best part is he is not going. He is encashing it out. I find his raw drive very very sexy."

I burst out laughing, the whisky-soda combination almost exploding in my mouth. As the scorching glares passed through me, I could not help but think "These guys dont have a clue as to how to handle someone who is brash, unaware of his non-conformance and infact self assuredly ignorant of his rock bottom reputation. Infact joshi was a good friend of mine and I had to reveal to him, that Miss X found him sexy. Maybe he will get to score. Pretty surprising how small town guys appear as romantic to some of the sauve women in corporate mumbai.

As suman and I wound up our drinks, we agreed that for being a 'small town guy', you dont need to be from a small town. You just need the attitude to go get your dreams or die trying.

Some examples of small town guys.

1) Dhirubhai Ambani
2) Shehwag
3) Dhoni
4) VG Paneerdas (of golden beach fame).
5) Don Vito Carleone (remember the godfather dialouge ? "The weakest, of the weak will one day become stronger than the strongest of the strong", In response to sony caroleone's exasperated questio to Don asking him why he patronised such common folk like the cobbler, baker and the butcher.

This list is endless and certainly pasha does figure there. But then I was left wondering have I become sophesticated, become a little more of a conformist ? Have I become someone who can agree with someone even when I disagree about it ? Can I play ball and do the dew, to get my share of the booty ? Do I agree very easily when the whole world says something.

Important questions which need answers. It was pretty clear. I cant think the way the conformist world does. I cant, wake up and say "Yes, How can we sacrifice merit and quality for reservation ? chi chi chi" and nod my head in mock disapproval.

I cant do that. I am a small town guy and that makes my life interesting.

Its hard to define exactly what it is to have a "small town syndrome". Even with all these disjointed thoughts put togather, we cant get accurate. Afterall as you are reading, some small town guy is on his way to mumbai to become the next new kid in town out to change it all.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Britney spear's new avtar

Just bumped into the story and was amused. How does it matter what relegion Britney spears is following ? The Indian media's obsession with the west is more than obvious here. It appers as if the western perception of what Hinduism is, seems to be the measure of the idea "look we are a great relegion, even Britney is joing us". I am not saying they say that, but it appears very evident, especially with Times of India. Ofcourse the common argument is, "Britney sells. The very fact that you are looking and commenting about it proves so are you not hypocritical ?".

A good question and a valid point. I dont seek here to deny that even my eyeballs raced, when I saw that news item. But then, does it take away the right/honesty to comment about it, even at the risk of being called a hypocritic ? I dont think so and lets say by making that loaded statement I am being self critical "Damm why am I so attracted by that stupid news item". Maybe some busty pics of britney or an exciting possibility of what will pop out when the page finally gets loaded. Besides, If a brain dead article on britney can sell 4 images of brtney's generous bust (cant comment on weather it is au`naturale though), why not use her to sell the idea of what I think being a hindu is ?

I smelt an opportunity, an entry point for me to give me my gyan of what is a hindu and who is a hindu. There are n number of definitions going around, but I thought this is a good time to talk about that.

Every man is born and as soon as he is born his death is certain. What he does in between is really not going to alter that reality. The perception of what happens after death and why the things that happen, happen is what drives man to look beyond the physics of living. There are no one single truth / holy-grail / messiah / morals set on stone in this. This "looking beyond the physics of things" is what we often call as being spiritual.

A spiritual quest is purely an existential quest in figuring out an abstract which is not apparent but impactfull. Therefore there is no one way or one guide book to figuring out this abstraction. Remembering and paraphrasing the famous words of Herman Hesse from his book Siddartha. Siddartha looks at Budha and says, "I know you have reached nirvana and you are in a blissfull state. Your face radiates a great sense of calm and peace. I also know that you cant teach me how to reach there."

Spiritual progress and the quest thereof cannot be denied to anyone irrespective of the path or morals upon which one lives. The morals of how we live and what we do is purely determined by the person's physical view of the world and her/his level of comfort.

Cave bound humans shared partners and mating rights. Some of the Hunting / gathering societies are cannibalistic in nature. In the eyes of a catholic way of life, the cannibal and the philandrer would both be viewed as aspiritual practices. All aspects of sex, food, actions are deterministic only within the confines of physical ties. To make it simple, what I eat would depend on what is available as food and what is valuable enough not to be frittered away by eating. Of course, personal taste plays a big part in the scheme of things. Some people would not be comfortable eating a meat, maybe because of taste or a strong sense of right/wrong. The action itself in that context assumes an underserving profoundness.

A seeking mind unable to ask the right questions seeks to establish a structure which is prescriptive about what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong conduct, hence is limited in its usefullness. It doesent achieve much beyond social conduct and personal comfort. When I was a kid, I used to cycle to school every day. There were two routes from home to school and for some reason, I would prefer to go by one of them and not the other. For some unexplained reason (for which I would later invent justifications), route A seemed more favourable, even though route A was longer than B. The reasons that I came up are funny by themselves. Route A is empty. The roads are wider. Priya's home was on the way somewhere there.

To me, this is the true meaning of hindu. A spiritual progress based on a curious mind seeking to understand the whys. To be a hindu, you dont need any pre-requisites. Contrary to the belief which many (once including me) hold (held), it doesent require ordaination, it doesent require a god, it doesent require a belief system, it doesent require going to the temple or doing rituals. It also doesent require any changing of habits or cultural practices. All it requires is waking up and walking up.

There are no moral prescriptions either. If your society allows for free and unrestrained physical sex and if it pleases you, by all means indulge. If you are a prostitute bartering body for money, you can be a hindu too. What you do in real life doesent deny you spiritual progress. There are really no rules. Thats what makes me so damm comfortable to live by. What lessons you learn and how you conduct yourself in your own life is purely the result of what your spiritual path teaches you.

simply put an action say "sex" may be spiritually regressive and retrograde for person A. That in no means translates to the universal dictum "Sex is immoral". It only means that person A does not have the make up to spiritually be stimulated by sex. Maybe it is meditation for him. For person B, sex might be a highly spiritual experience. There is nothing immoral with that either.

Modern morality of life really is a product of victorian principles of conduct and Brahmin principles of sathvik life and bakhthi mode of spirituality. Love, devotiona and renounciation. That may be a valid path no doubt but certainly not the only path. There is one other path.

"Left hand path" or Vamachara. The goals are the same, the path may even criss-cross and borrow tools and techniques from each other, yet they are all meant for our progress. Understanding all paths and chosing the one we like is the key thing here.

Unfortunately hinduism is also losing its open character and is falling into the trap of prescriptive conduct. It might not be the best suited thing for many of us. For some of us who are indulgance seekers, spiritual progress is very much important and is possible within the confines of our apparently decadent lives.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cheerleaders - Bob's confession.

I often wondered, how would the life of a cheerleader be ? I am not talking of those who cheerlead for basketball matches. Not those flexible, agile and artificially voluptuous women. I am talking of men and women in suits, glasses, rolled up sleaves who jump up and down when the space craft returns home (also read as when the aliens start catching a cold and start dropping dead).

I am sure thats one cheerful job. "Its not an easy one", says bob who goes on to give me some valuable insights about what it takes to be a cheerleader.

"You got to get hysterical in an instant".
"You got yo have a good fore arm, so that when you pump your fists it looks good." "You got to to have good legs so that you can jump up and down. Its bloddy competitive", goes bob. So what is bob's secret mantra for success in a competitive market like cheerleader actors ? "My pot belly, grey mustache and bald head. My USP (Unique selling proposition) is I look like a common American 50 year old who works in NASA". In any given season for movie making bob works 3 shifts a day for over a month cheering all kinds of things.

"Some of my specials were Adam Sandler hitting the home run in a base ball game wearing red sox jersies against the yankees. Oh, how can I forget the aliens dropping dead in 'war of the worlds'. That day, I smeared half a ton of ash on my face just to blend in the back ground. Directors dont like cheerleaders to have a strikingly beautiful face. They dont want to get distracted away from Tom Cruise. As it is Tom distracts the director from his acting by praying to the scientology god in the middle of the scene. I mean the dialouges go for a toss and the director has to yell 'cut!!' every five minutes. Off late Tom and I have become close friends".

Doesent bob ever feel sad in his life ? "ya I do sometimes, but then I take vitamins and do meditation. I dont know weather it works or not. But If I take drugs my obsessive scientology friend tom would jump up and down.".

We all know he jumps up and down. But obsessive ? I dont think he is obsessive. "Dont you see he literally clutches on to Katie ?", goes bob. Bob has a point but this one stumps it all. "According to Tom, everyone in this world is crazy except for him, katie and me.". "What does tom do when he gets depressed ?", I dig sensing a scoop. "Well he has a whole crew waiting to re-shoot a scene where he kills the alien queen by seducing her and he saves the world. Tom has this storyline that his DNA is poisoness to Aliens. Katie ought to watch out". Bob can get very discriptive as he goes on in great detail. "I get the best cheermongers (excessive cheerleaders who can pull a person from the pits of post natal depression to the heights of ecstatic nirvana within minutes) to cheer him when he seduces the alien and kills her. Many times these episodes are taped for maintaining authenticity of a shoot and Tom has a whole house full of these dvds. I have a faint feeling he likes to watch himself.... errr.. saving the world in his own unique way".

I remind bob, its a talk about him and not Tom. I was a little curious. Where did he learn to laugh and cheer like he does in all those climaxes. "Well its a family tradition. It all started with war films made way back in the 40s, 50s and 60s. No one back home really wanted to believe that the battalion which won the battle of the bulge came back to the base camp and had no cheer leaders. What kind of a nation would america be, if not for the cheer leader's tradition of cheering others. My cousin was the cheerleader in Rambo. We make America's overseas screwups appear heroic back home.", he adds with a sense of supreme purpose and pride. "Even ,my mom was a cheerleader in the movie 'Revenge of the moms'", he boasts.

"What about when you dont have a job bob ? how do you practice ?", there were a zillion questions cropping up in my mind. "Its easy man, I practice every season watching hockey, football, baseball, basketball even in spellbee contests.".

Spell bee ??? is he crazy ?. "Come on man, everyone needs my service",Bob reads my mind. Bob is now looking up with dreamy eyes. "Imagine the scene. The underdog boy hero with nerdy glasses and underconfident face. He has been bullied by his class, the whole world including the gym instructor. The bully king is another kid in his class who is competing in the competition. Imagine the bully's girlfriend, hot and sexy and independant. She has a good heart and takes a liking for the underdog. Imagine, the final word to be spelled. 'Popoalopulous'"... a long pause and a sigh. "Is there a word like that ?" I ask.

" Doesent matter if its 'Popoalopulous' or dickshit", he retorts angrily. "This man is passionate about what he does", I tell myself making a mental note not to rub him the wrong way. A cheerfull Bob is any day better than an angry Bob.

"P-O-P-O-A-L-O-P-U-L-O-U-S ", he continues ignoring all other things around him. His eyes dialate widely and he is excited almost expecting some miracle. "The judges look at our boy hero and say, you are right and the timing is 5.8 seconds. 0.2 seconds faster than the evil-bully. The girlfriend dumps the evil-bully and flings herself onto the shy-nerd-hero, almost choking him in her grip.". Suddenly Bob jumps 2 feet above with laughter in his voice, victory in his demenor and anger in his face and his hands continueously pumping uppercuts. Tears stream down his eys that left me wondering. "Vow!!! this guy is something", I say to myself. Just then his phone rings bringing bob wakes up from the trance he had whipped up.

"Hey tom... how are ya ?... what ? now ?... no problems give me an hour, I will be there ?... Just wondering what is it today ? Oh ok... bomb diffusal squad ? last second bomb diffusal ?... Ok.. will be there in a jiffy.."

Bob is in a fenzy working himself up for another cheer scene.. he jumps up, stretches, claps and pumps in the air... laughing hysterically all in between.

"Bob, Bob... just one last question", I desperately interrupt wanting to grab a last piece of his attention. "do you ever cheer for yourself ?", I asked. "ya, when my wife got remarried.. I hugged the priest and one of my pumps knocked him out completely... ", he adds irritantly and not liking anything else distract him from the task at hand.

"NUCLEAR BOMB FOUND IN TOM'S BATH TUB", shouts Bob into the cellphone. "Get detonation squad ready and reach ground zero asap", he grunts.

A faint voice from his cellphone reveals a screaming crew from the other side of the cell connection.

"Oh no... Not again"...

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

New blog

Offlate, the humour mill has gone on strike. The social and rebellious old vasu has sprung up like spring bloom. Life has become serious (ok, dont laugh now). Some of my friends whom I met lately were complaining how I have veered away from what I used to be extremely passionate about "Management thought".

"What happened to your zest and zeal towards management techniques ?. What happened to the old vasu ?", asked one of them. Well they have a point and I have decided to better utilise the blog world to advance that side of me.

As a first step, I set thinking for the last few months about what I would be blogging about and how to go about that. After a few rigmaroles, the topic seemed a no-brainer. TOC - Theory of constraints. My favourite flavour of management. I remember the days in imdr days when life was simple, focussed and exciting. Reading books, talking to professors, arguing and debating about something and later applying all this on one of my pet research projects, filled those glorious two years on an enriching trip into the management world.

This conversation with old friends re-invigourated the old vasu and he needs his own space.

I have started another blog Jonah's way.

I think I will be blogging more there than I have done here. But this is the new Vasu's space and perhaps he will inspire the old vasu to blog more often.

Do go through Jonah's way and do give me your inputs.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

The year that went by

Ya Ya!!! whats the big deal. Happens every year isnt it ? for some reason, people become euphoric on Dec 31st. As if, your hand is on the flush handle. Irrational Exuberance takes over and people suddenly turn hopeful about the next year. They dont even know, weather they are going to live or not. Nonetheless the party must go on. How ironic.

One of my funnier friends wished me "happy new year" and asked me, what is my new year resolution ? I mouthed some old ones not having the creativity to come up with new ones. The same old shit. Will quit smoking, will keep my place clean, will go to gym. Nothing more was said when he burst out laughing almost at the same time, I burst out laughing. That was all that need to be said.

I am addicted to t.v. and between 9-11.30 p.m. no force on earth can shake thy will. You would find a body close to dead with just one finger doing some kind of motor action. The left hand index finger. Bobbing up and down, it controls the world. Teaming up with the dependable thumb, it dexterously manipulates a 100 parameters like volume, contrast, colour and clarity. Its almost a state of samadhi (in this context translates as deep penance), that I am in. My mind as empty as it can get. Nothing, nothing atall can alter that state of affairs. No hunger, no pain, no thirst, no rain. As I thumbed through the channels as always, I was wondering which loser in this world would spend a new year's eve watching news channels beaming in live pictures of the hottest parties in town ? Which loser is thee ? Hold your answer.

I smiled and instinctively the channel changed. Discovery is my second favourite channel. Simply because, the narrator is earnest, educated, erudite (dont they mean the same thing ? ya go on hang me for repeatition), bespectacled, respectable and sinciere in the narration. I dont know, if its all an act but man I dont mind watching some shit which people have taken extreme pains to record. Like a camera capturing two snakes mating 30 ft. below the ground. There is some honour in watching that, than Amitabh Bachan trying to answer a totally dumb and stupid question with utmost profoundity. What is so profound about the question, "how does your rectum feel ?". one word would have saved 10 minutes of airtime and innumerable breaths for Amitabh himself. One word - "Sore". But then you can count on these brain dead morons called t.v. presenters ask with finnise and professionalism - "How sore ? can you describe how it feels ?". I am sure amitabh must be crinjing in shame. Imagine amitabh talking to his shrink with choked emotions.. "That journalist asked (chokes) me how my rectum feels (chokes and sobs uncontrollably like in black) ?". Poor man must be feeling violated.

My instincts are good, especially when I am hungry. I know exactly what I want to eat. A couple of days back, I scoured the city for "Baingan bartha" and roti. I literally biked 10 km. thinking only of that gorgeous purple egg-plant based dish. And when I had my fill, I was satiated. I know what I want to eat when I want to eat. Sometimes, this skill deserts me completely.

Especially when the three of us decide, its time for lunch and we dont have any instincts telling us anything more than "we have to eat". We end up asking each other in turns the following questions.

"Where do you want to go ?".
"I dont know ? where do you want to go ?".
"I dont know ? where do you want to go ?".
"I dont know ? where do you want to go ?".

These questions keep going round and round and round as we walk in some general arbid direction. Untill. H gets bugged and says exasperatedly "Each one onto himself, go eat wherever you want, whatever you want".

As if this really helps. We just dont know where to go for lunch and such exasperation takes us nowhere. P gets edgy when H goes balistic and responds quicker than usual. "Nandini ?", he goes with a siddarth-basu (quizzical) look on his face. A few cotntorts on Hs face answers the question. The key thing is no one wants to take a call on where to go and have lunch.

After many cycles, of exasperations, suggestions and intelligent reasons why not to go to "Gitanjali" and why go to "Chalukya", we end up eating drab food at "New punjab food zone" the friendly coloufull (I mean full of red colour) neighbourhood punhabi restraunt. The menu arrives and the questions change from "where to go?" to "what to eat ?". Five minutes of intense concentration and scanning of the plastic menu cards convinces us that we cant eat anything. But then we have to eat something. So the mystery is kept alive by ordering the most insipid and most personality devoid item. Veg Meals!!!.. Afterall no one knows (sometimes even after finishing the food), what veggies were there in the veg meals.

Point to ponder : Dont you feel that almost all the dishes taste the same in any punjabi restraunt ? salty, spicy, tomatoey. doesent matter if it is alu gobi or aloo mutter or rajma ? If you think so too ? Go see a doctor. Your tounge just died.

Anyway the best part of the lunch break is the after food smoke. Did someone just say "No new punjab food zone in the new year ?" Huh.. dream on.

Somehow I feel pretty calm and relaxed thinking about the next year. Life is such a drain and in such pits right now, "what can be worse than this ?" If you know the answer, dont tell me. But seriously, "what can be worse than this ?". I dont feel jumpy and euphoric about the new year. Which actually makes me feel better, because things can only get better from now on. Isnt it a good idea though ? have a boring new year and become progressively interesting as we go on ?

Am I saying somthing totally sacrilagious here ? Am I blurting out the truth ? Do I have to sound like my life is euphoric and damm interesting when it is not ? Am I being the spoil sport ?

I am done. I think I am flushing off all my left over grouchy thoughts. Up there its totally empty... Helloooo... Helloooo Helllooooo.. (echoes like the gol gumbaz )

And ya, I know.. There is still one more step in this mundane drill "Happy New Year". Go on, have a great year. May you become prosperous, rich, famous, healthy, whatever else that you dream off. Do I sound sarcastic enough ? Damm even my language skills are deserting me.

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