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Sunday, 1 May 2016


Know your day.

'Your social life is set to soar and you'll become popular with opposite sex'  Neeti stared at the lines.
Could it be... well going by her zodiac sign, it had to be true. She folded the newspaper, staring out of their balcony. Her social life was a mess and being popular with the opposite sex was a distant cry. Why... she herself was not sure why. She was average looking and mediocre in academics but that could not be reason enough. Neeti had finished her graduation with lots of hiccups and heaved a sigh of relief once she was done. These were not meant for her. Ma and Baba did stress for some post graduation... just to think Neeti had headaches. She did not mind sitting home, sleep, watch television , help Ma sometimes when she felt like, may be catch up with some girls of their small town locality in the evening, giggle , talk about boys, catch soaps with Ma at night and settle for a blissful sleep while parents would  look out for a groom for her.

That was the life of most middle class girls in their locality, she had watched her aunts and cousins go through this, then get married and visit home once or twice a year with kids following. But it seems her parents were not interested in groom hunting and tried to persuade her for further studies . Just when she thought she was done with this tedious task, there was this pressure to take the plunge again. She wondered why...that's what women were upto in their families, why this pressure to ram the notes and reproduce them in exam! She had seen Sheetal aunt flooded by marriage proposals and was whisked away by an engineer groom even before she could complete graduation. Yeah yeah she was pretty and tall and light eyed. Well studying means she can go to class everyday, buy new salwar suits and kurtis, meet friends, have gol gappas from the street vendor,talk about boys. And would her social life soar this time... and opposite sex take interest in her...should she succumb to her parents' wish and fill the form for university. But the exams and assessments...Neeti was in dilemma.

She had no intention of working, hardly any women in her family worked for a living, all were looked after and pampered by husbands. They do cook and clean, boss their husbands around, minds their kids... then why were her parents not looking for a groom for her!! Arya,s wedding  date was fixed after a month, Neeti had made sure the news registered in her mom's ears, brain and heart.  But no, she hadn't even overheard any conversation in whispers regarding any match for her. What a fiasco. She didn't ever dare to think of having a boy friend, nor were boys interested , her hope was after her graduation the procedures would start like in case of her aunts and cousins and the prospect of having a man in her life finally. Guess parents had messed with all her hopes.

Thankfully Neeti did not qualify for any post graduation course entrance exams , much to her parents' disappointment. Though Neeti did express her displeasure and disinterest at pursuing higher studies to her mother, she could not be upright about the reason... Mom i want to get married , love a man, look after his house, go to honeymoon. Her Baba had consoled her... perseverance and dedication would help her crack the exams next year!! Seriously!! With persuasion and nagging all around, Neeti enrolled herself in some basic computer course in one of the many institutions mushrooming in her town with some girls of her locality. At least that would ease the pressure off a bit. Classes would start in a week, would her social life soar...

' Na Meena we must not force her'  Neeti heard her dad speaking in a hushed voice as she finally rose with the newspaper in hand.

' Nitesh, the match would be good and almost perfect, even the zodiac signs match.Let us speak to Neeti at least'

' Meena let her study, settle down and then decide' Baba spoke ' We always hurried in our family. I want her to excel, may be decide on her own, find her match... and not blame us afterwards like the others do'

' Hmm' Mom,s voice was not heard any more.

Arey listen   Neeti wanted to speak out   What about the perfect match... zodiac signs match. It is written in my zodiac forecast, opposite sex would take interest.

She did not find the voice of course. Her mouth twisted in distaste. After all the women in the family it fell on her to settle with a job and as if that was not enough find her own man!!! She slumped in her bad in utter hopelessness. The next week forecast would bring something better, it would... no social life upsurge or opposite sex attraction, just change Baba's mind... let them fix her match and all will fall to place.

She waited for next week,s newspaper.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Year of solitude

Dear Ninni

It is over.. our time at Barapani..and we are on our way...and since I could not complete writing on the go..I  just  thought I would finish it in the sweltering heat of Delhi. Yes this has been our home for a year. You, me and your Pishi and sometimes your grandpa grandma.Nestled in between hills, bathed by rains , swept over by clouds at times..and lush green all around was our ' home' a year.


This is how you looked when you followed your Ma to office with the invisible umbrella in hand.

You were closest to earth as you ever could be..

Gudia was the first friend you made in your life. Some months elder to you, moody.. she looked just like a doll. And both of you spent hours playing..I was so happy that Gudia was there and I could leave you comfortably with her and go for some badminton in the evenings.

This black one.. she gave birth to twins.. one black as her another grey.. they were so weak..we fed three of them.. fish, rice...biscuits..

                                           Ma's office was the best place to hang out


You loved Shillong.. you could always blackmail into getting unnecessary stuff for you

We are posing in front of the Centre Point restaurant Shillong..

 This was ma's FB profile pic..:) Taken at Elephant Falls Shillong

We had several visits to Orchid The Lake Resort

                                                   This is ' Gungun' another friend of yours


                                   Thanks to the few jigsaw puzzles and   cards ..kept u busy

Ma spent her time in SUDOKUs why would you be left behind....

                                                          Baba was there too sometimes..

                                        Cherapunjee with Baba , we were stuck in incessant rains... 

She brought you up....

We are so thankful to her..sometimes I used to get irritated..I still do..but at the end of the day she did a great job.

It had been a short stay may be.. but an eventful year for you and me..from a tiny two bedroom apartment locked from inside.. we were somewhere where stepping outside was being close to nature.. the hills and the greens..where getting daily vegetables and grocery and keeping sufficient inventory level was a matter of awesome management..' managing' a trip to the near by army shopping complex in the office vehicle.. or hand over a list of groceries to anyone going to ' city' or the shopping complex.. aww it required some management, the place where there is no other option but to walk two kilometres for a public transport or procure a decent packet of biscuits. And you know after many days I talked the way I used to.. the languages I have known throughout my childhood.. though I don't know how you picked up Hindi so well... Grandpa grandma ( my parents) made regular visits here.. they won't anymore..  how my dad and i would walk some kilometres for a handful of veggies or some fish, or a gas connection!! How my colleague and i would go for walks in the woods and farms!! So many stories to tell.... we have moved on from Barapani to Delhi in the maddening heat and madder crowd but the year of solitude wrapped fresh in my memory.

Just tried to assemble some pics so that when you grow up and look at me blankly when I speak of 'Barapani' .. that magical land where we stayed for a year.. I have something to remind you..

Yours Ma

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X.... unsolved

The unknown has to be X. You work your way out and evaluate X. And there lies the answer. Was life as simple as that! Priya was helping her eleven year old with the newly introduced algebra. Surely it could  be so simple... whatever we do not know was  X and once you find out X... voila  your job was  done.

Ahan was solving the problem with full concentration. It gave her pleasure to look at her son, his face beaming with the thrill of learning something new, discovering X to be precise. The whole week mom and son was caught up with x, assuming x, multiplying x, dividing x and then discovering x. Like unfurling a mystery, an enigma Ahan was hell bent on assigning a value to x and Priya was enjoying every bit of Ahan's restlessness. The boy was sharp, Priya knew and she did not need hours of teaching experience she left behind to tell her that, the thrill Ahan feels looking at the numbers was enough to have fun Maths sessions with her son everyday.

Like many women in her country Priya had to quit her job after Ahan was born. She tried everything to keep her job, no they won't allow her leave  and Ahan was so tiny and nor anyone was there who could look after him. She did not have the heart to put him in day care and she knew her job was not worth all 'the trouble' she would have to take, apart from a decent salary it offered nothing more, no growth, no leaves and besides as everyone advised she could again find another job when Ahan grew up. It was way difficult for Priya to settle at home, initially Ahan took all her time and she knew being a mommy gave her a joy nothing else would. Priya adjusted slowly... what they call to a stay-at-home-mum, household chores never gave her the adrenaline rush as her Maths books did... if she could have cleared NET , six months of maternity leaves and additional leaves in a college or university she would never have to be a stay-at-home-mom or whatever.

She did try for a job once when Ahan was sensible enough, but with problems galore, mismatched timings she could not make the ends meet. Frustration, managing the chores entire day... making life easier for Shubham and Ahan...Priya almost lost hope to find herself between her students again. Finally she had joined in Ahan's school as a junior teacher...the gap she had in her career no one was ready to take her for senior classes now. Priya had settled for that.It was difficult with the young kids and the easy lessons but she needed a beginning and this was it may be.

The maths lessons with Ahan reminded her of the lessons with numbers she had with her father and the fun they had. Then why she could not turn up brilliant, Priya did not know the answer. What if she tries again, Ahan was big enough, she has a responsible domestic help, may be a doctorate, may be NET... was it possible. Ah she was crazy did she imagine she could open her books again and catch up from where she left!!! Could she decipher the theorems and postulates , Laplace and Fourier, Calculus and what not! If she tried , tried real hard... where were her books and notes, which rack exactly...tears blurred her vision.

' All solved mom' Ahan gave her a hug, jubilantly.
' X am not scared of you, figured you out totally.'

I could not Ahan, figure out the X, figure out a living from what I love, I could not solve anything damn it.

'Let,s have dinner mom. Uuh this X making me hungry.'

With malice towards none...

The girl gang was waiting. Messages beeped in the whats app group, confirming where all of them were, if they have started from home and in between what was the outfit chosen. They were five, within a span of ten years in the same job and...friends...yes Rima hoped so. There were sub groups within the group and she was closest to Aastha, the youngest of the lot, remaining three were friends of course but Rima knew they were more friends among themselves and two were closest out of the three. Let it be, she adjusted her palazzos , pulled her crop top, put on her danglers. She knew she would be subjected to a scrutiny, an acid test and coming out unscathed was almost impossible specially from Shreya, the most successful of them among all and they all were very smart, waif thin and creamy skinned. 

As a teen, Rima consciously made an effort to avoid the pretty popular girls as friends, she wasn,t sure because she was jealous or simply because it made things easy for her, it helped her spare any effort to look chic and updated. Things began to change though and Rima,s friend circle had expanded and had all sorts of persons and for her it was a great leap when she began to wear jeans, trousers, dresses at ease and salwar suits took a backseat. That was when she guessed her friend circles began to include all types of girls she avoided consciously before.

It took a real lot to dress up and sometimes Rima just wanted to give it up all, but it was not possible by any means now. She screamed at her domestic help to take out a clutch matching her outfit and of course her help screamed back.

' I can,t... always you will shout in the last moment.' 

Lots of tussle, clutch pulled out, rejected and ultimately she settled for golden a sling bag.

'Didi , put my wallet inside the bag and my cell as well' Rima asked her help again. 'And didi please click some pics before i go out.'

Didi shot back with a volley of answers to which Rima paid no heed. She was almost done now, a touch of gloss and kohl, dabbing powder at cheeks.

'Didi those golden heels please' 

Rima was on her way now,  to a plush mall in the city, that's where they go to celebrate birthdays generally. Honestly Rima was a bit bored of mall hopping and eating the same old stuff but the group rules. And come to think of it she didn't know much of their personal life as well except for the tit bits they shared with pleasure. For instance she had no idea Aastha  was engaged before two months until she spilled the beans a week back! Was this friendship.... Aastha had sited uncertainty as an excuse she could not disclose!! Oh really but Rima had mastered the art of nonchalance , coat some layers above where it hurts and there she is cool and breezy off to lunch and shopping.

Five of them met, hugged, touched up their make up in the washroom, complemented each other, subtly pointing the flaws ( ah how she hated this) .

You could have skipped the danglers.

They clicked lots of pics, posed and reposed, pouted and giggled.Lambasted the male colleagues, made sub groups, gossiped and shopped. Shreya tried to control the herd but the girls were wild. Lunch was another dicey affair, they were conventional veg eaters all except Aastha and they would survive on minimal food guess that was the reason for their petiteness. Rima ended up not liking the lunch at all at most of their gatherings!

I will make up when i go out with Shekhar.

She thought of their sinful sumptuous meals with lots of meats as she had naan and potatoes quietly. Even ordering for herself and gorging alone wasn't fun so she complied with the group. And as usual the petite girls would be full after a few bites and a piece of half naan would do the rounds until she or Shreya ( who did have an appetite after all) would gobble it up.

They shopped for Preeti whose birthday they were celebrating and eventually tried loads of outfits on themselves as well. Evening coffee, some more clicks and they were ready for home.

The process was repeated five times a year on five birthdays , most of the times all could make it, pictures uploaded on facebook....likes and comments.

Rima loved it all, to stand with them and get yourself clicked and almost looking at par was an achievement! At least for her. Only sometimes she was stunned at the friendship part....she did not know of their crushes, of their secret dreams, she did not know why Aastha did not tell of her engagement, for what reason pretty Preeti chose to be single...why Diya stays with her mom.

The entire office knew of their camaraderie and gossips apart appreciated the girl bonding and efficiency they brought to work apart from glamour and seizing the best work slots from the men around or thats what men felt.

It wasn't all fake the cohesivity but not all true either. But who cares really, since she knew to coat herself with extra insensivities it did not hurt. Or does it...na Rima was way past all those days of yore when she would be in tears if she was pushed to a corner of the bench they shared and  Devika and Mithu giggled and whispered. She would know every secret they had and threatened her to keep all to hersellf!

Rima had come of age. She was already planning her outfit for the next gathering.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016



'Didi what will happen!' Minati stared at me with horror struck eyes, tension writ large on her face.

I of course did not have any idea what will happen but continued to stare at her with sympathy.

' How could she!'  Minati's expression was a quick shade of anger before changing to horror and frustration.

I was tampering with my cell phone out of habit. Checking update status of friends, browsing their pics. Not sure how to respond to my domstic help's predicament, her much younger fifteen year old sibling has eloped with a boy from her village! Two days of extensive search hadn't yeilded any results and going to police was the option
left now. The boy was the brother of her younger brother's wife who had been staying at their village house promising to help them with some plumbing.

'Look at me didi....i have been staying alone for so many years... and look at her'

Indeed abandoned by husband, Minati had to walk out of the void relation and learn to survive on her own. I had wondered often how was her lone walk and why she didn't settle down again. She was young, attractive.... yet...

' Why your sis had to  elope Minati.... perhaps all would have agreed for a wedding'

'Don't know didi' Minati sighed.

The air on my house was heavy with the tension and the repeated calls from her home. It piqued me at times but the thought of the young naive girl exploited by some rogue, police and the condition of the hapless family and  the life of the girl which was in a way ruined...school, studies all gone for a toss. I heard her plight whenever i was free enough, her father had tried to file a case in the police station and the boy's family had given word to bring back the couple on the run to save arrest of the boy for kidnapping a minor.

A few days later she had informed me her sister had returned home. The couple was brought to police station after few thrashes and warnings they let go of the boy
and Minati's father withdrew the case and got his daughter home.

'The end to her school then....' I had asked.

' What else didi...who would take the chance...if she runs off again'

That was the end to the girl's school, being youngest of all the siblings Minati and often me sent her goodies and ensured her studies went smooth. Indeed it went damn smooth...how fool girls can be!! Did she believe that the plumber was the key to her happiness, was worth giving up family and school for!! These girls were a pack of fools eloping with a man gave the forbidden pleasure! I was filled with disgust or may be the older boy misleaded her, painted rosy dreams around her... who knows.

All seemed normal in Minati's life after some days. It seemed they had managed to keep the episode hush hush and the girl was back in her family without much drama.They had to take off her bangles forcibly, bangles of her so called wedding and the girl was kept busy with household chores.

It was a year i think when i could feel the tension in my house once again and the flurry of phone calls . Minati kept mum and i tried not to pay heed...let her speak when she is comfortable.

It came after a day or two.

'Didi what to hide from you' Minati looked crestfallen. ' She... the wretch had eloped again'

' What!!' I was shocked. ' With that boy only na'

Minati did not reply. Her silence confirmed the doubt i had.

' My god Minati!!!! With someone else you mean.'

I think they had rescued the girl again with all the means they had, thrashed and slapped her and Minati did not mention but gossips had it they had to take the girl to some local clinic to get off the life forming inside her.

Minati blasted her sometimes when i asked about her little sister. Fallen, loose girl was the verdict.

' Look at me didi, i did not look at any other men'

Sometimes i would smile ' Why didn't you Minati'

Someone has given the verdict she was a righteous woman and here she was happily paying the price.

' Are you crazy didi!!'

Monday, 25 April 2016


Air Traffic Control Tower

Utopia... that,s what i felt when i first joined the airport.

I used to watch from my tower as the tiny ATR offloaded its passengers..and reloaded itself  and most of the days the half empty ATR took off in the air from the deserted airport. A longing to be home..away from this land locked island..I breathed away my wish in the gusting wind engulfing the tower, gather my things together to go down, winding up the day,s job after the lone plane of the airport takes off. Few offcial letters , routine replies, routine data entry into the computer..routine jobs..routine smiles but outside office premises nature greets you with her open arms..some days a rainbow would glisten in the fresh rain drenched sky..some days the cows would bathe in the water logged fields..nothing routine about this world, a silent world..content with its simple undemanding dwellers..dwellers who haven,t robbed off all the wealth from her, dwellers who have guarded her,protected her against outsiders and chose to live a quiet merry life..life within these hills.

I waited for the local market day, colourful market with so many facets..a day when the village is busy with all the hustle bustle..village roads are full of vehicles...a day for whom I,ve learnt to wait whole 8 days....to get my fill of fruits, vegetables and fish for the week. It is almost like a festival for the villagers and soon I was caught in the spirit as well.. happily munching pineapples and oranges with the deadly local chilly powder with my colleague, packing different types of sweets available fried in God-knows-what oil, missing altogether 2-3 hours of office....(not to be mentioned of course)

Happiness has a little price to pay, this colourful market with fresh vegetables , lures me..makes me plan my entire week ' food programme' , strange but in this land where a proper grocery shop isn,t available in the near 4-5 kilometres, no goodies ,the vegetables are refreshingly fresh and seem garden plucked.I loaded my bags with vegetables, goodies, toys for my toddler..look around for some lift, if anyone is there with vehicle..try to shove in the over loaded bags..and don,t mind walking the lovely stretch with a packet of pineapple in hand and my dear colleague accompanying me.

The magic did wear off..like everything else..this place was losing its exquisiteness..it was just one of those small villages in our country..where newspapers did not reach except for a local one which some days found its way to the local shops..Khasi language in english script, one of those villages where children walked miles in search of a school,where nearest hospital is some 20 km away..where few vehicles (Tata Sumos) run with people hanging behind as means of public transport,where girls went to the river for washing clothes,where children collected drinking water from roadside taps..huddle containers of water in make shift carts..where men drank in evening and night..where concept of street light is totally redundant..where women gave birth to half a dozen babies within the four walls of home..wherein within the long stretch of unpaved road..if any little shop you could find would definitely have 'kowai' (local betel nut) if not any trace of other bare necessities of life..

In this land I stood partly disillusioned partly grounded..partly lonely wondering if I was missing out on life where..but then what I was missing out on..a fiercely competitive manipulative professional life in the city..where relationships even if  manage to find a place, longevity gets shorter..nothing survives here save a hunger for success..and a family life..where baby husband maid parents friends all strive for a place and I long for space and continue with a super balance act. And here in this land one can have all the space one longs for and more..so much space that loneliness creeps into the soul in one form or other.. That,s it then..solitude and bliss turning to hard hitting loneliness from which there is no respite..there I go.. sounding frustrated , lonely lending substance to the term ' tenure' or ' unpopular posting'. The lush green of August has given way to a hazy dusty February..where spring is hardly tangible wrapped in warm sunny days and cool chilly nights.The hills seem to long for rains, pine trees looking high in the sky..and to me the magic of the hills do not work any more..like magic of new found love giving way to routine indifference..a nonchalance owing to the loneliness bug digging into the soul..the Wanderlust giving way to a longing for ' home'

I was 'home' soon after my term was over and the residue of ' Wanderlust' in me in lone lost moments would build by bits and parts..a picture an image of a bewitching beautiful lonely airport in the laps of rain kissed August green hills..my tiny tower and the thatched ' Meera,s Tea Shop' lurking behind..providing oxygen to one and all..ironed uniform clad airliners..kowai chewing red lipped labours...lazy without work Sarkari babus...hunger thirst driven passengers searching frantically for a cup of tea in days where flight gets delayed indefinitely...

Utopia.... it was. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Time and tide

Just wonder about relationships..where do we begin from and what do we end up with . Pointless wondering yes but..we all do pointless things in one stage of our life, some do it often , some more often.. some are just plain unlucky.

We are born with parents.. parents whom we can,t choose, parents whom we can,t change. Father.. doting, strict, protective, mean and mother loving, caring, friendly, nagging, bragging..types are many. Guess these two characters influence most. And these two people we love, they are the first to rebel against, first to accuse for our failures and they are many ' firsts' we will fail to count. Siblings take over next.... sharing, caring, jealousy envy, fighting for attention , discipline the younger, copy the elder. While my father has been and still is the one I have always looked upon in all phases of life from sharing any odd joke to comment on any book we read, I ponder over the relation I share with my mother..factious, complicated..arguing invariably, fighting incessantly, discussing at length the colours and prices of the outfits we buy, disagreeing vehemently on the same issues over and over again, swearing not to set our eyes on each other after each fight. And my reticent sibling who and I never agreed upon any single thing, for him I was always arrogant know- it -all -academically better -much elder sis ..and for me doesn,t - know-anything , spoiled -massively -by -mother lil' brother. We had hit each  other, manhandled each other and grew apart gradually with time except for occasional phone calls and had settled for an amicable truce with age.

I grew up in a joint family before I knew who was I , I was surrounded by uncle, aunt ,grandpa and a host of other relatives. My neighbours..I always called them aunts and uncles.. the youngest one was four years elder to me. In absence of  a sibling in my early days I just adored the three brothers and sisters, eldest one macho and hero, next one pretty and feminine, the youngest one my ideal and my guru and I followed her like a shadow. The games we played.. teacher student, train train, family family, Durga Puja games where we ended up making mud cakes as Bijoya Dashami delicacies, and those doll house games and the big brother after entry would play havoc with the dolls in a minute!! But the big brother rather the big uncle was the ticket to my love for old hindi film songs, those old unheard off songs..and the beginning of idolising Amitabh Bacchan just imitating him!! At home my real aunt replaced my neighbour as the next avatar.. independence finacial and personal for a woman was intriguing and I guess that was the inspiration when I set my feet outside my home in search for a job. And of course my uncle who reads my blogs, is active in facebook ,who would spend hours with me filling me up with historical mythological political  fables and my first insight into real world. He bought me the first map and taught me to browse the Atlas.. was the first one to fly with me to Delhi when I needed immediate operation.

And in my old home, nobody could miss her presence.. as if the house and her soul were entwined, she filled up the house ,was a towering personality among her peers and juniors.. and how she continues to live after her death..my grandmother. I remember her in white saree ( after grandpa,s death) , two pairs of glasses, the reading glass and ' Ananda Bazar Patrika', the command in her personality, the warmth in her heart, the magic in her food.. I have always felt few persons can live after their death.. she being one of them, her strong presence felt long after her death.

School , entry into social life.. friends, peers..pressure.. Before we know friends decide our clothes , food, they take precedence over everything else unless first crush hits. When crush hits all fades into oblivion..crushes , heart breaks, some hand at writing verses..phew school days roll over to college classes. First try at fashion, beginning of parties though in my time and in my case fashion was just trying another set of salwar kameez with dupatta, and parties meant getting together at someone,s place and cook together and eat!! Drab idea  of party but in our times that was fun.

Then the struggle phase after university days..and close friends drift apart..competition, struggle in the job market, smooth lovely fun days are over and the time to confront the world friendless alone.. Work place gives a new class of ' friends' , with money to splurge and options galore life seems great. But then work place ' friends' never turn out to be the innocent childhood friends of school and college though exceptions are there but they just prove the rule.

Romance, affairs and ultimately taking the plunge. Life gets a new epicentre to move about and the vision narrower, with an infant popping into the scene life is just me and myself.  Centre stage is home.. funny while youth and teens yearns for the entire world as the arena..conjugal life constricts it within the four walls... the toddler fills up life, gives it a new dimension. Life moves on juggling work family..maid plays a central role in life, and by that time one knows to handle the unique eccentricities of the relationship with mother in law.. the most demanding of all the relationships till date..every move you make and every breath you take..counts!!And soon toddler grows into a child and child to an individual and parents keep getting redundant to them.

Phew.. relations are many with varying demands and most change with time...like we ourselves do.. The golden days of childhood cannot be relieved only watched through the hazy veil of present, wonder years never come back and the grey days of  mid life overlooked , unaccepted take over...with aches, ailments, some amount of financial affluence, some recognition, some sense and some memories cherished and nursed in some corner of the heart.

The tides change with time. And sooner we learn to flow with it...peace follows.