Follow by Email

Sunday, 15 November 2009

hello winter...i am 50% there

Our life as it stands overlooking another winter…this winter is the fourth one we will be sharing. As winter is my favourite season, unlike the Europeans…I love the idea of snow as I am Indian. Winter is hence my most favourite weather to monologues. Not that I cease dialogues to the self everyday…but winter time is really special to do that…curled up in a rajai and sipping hot masala chai some 10 years back…and book would keep me mesmerized for idle hours in my hostel room. A brisk walk early morning by janpath was a chilly but so different that I miss them eternally here in dubai. Yes winter gets me mostly nostalgic of delhi if I sit down to do that.

This winter I want to rate my self-efficiency…it so happened that I was mail chatting with a friend and this topic cropped up. As a person of my age and profession…I am well-settled with a reliable job and a more reliable partner…both of them have been by my side for almost four years now.

I think I am 50% self efficient. It is very difficult to do everything I want but something gets done in the meanwhile…and that something is more often than not – very important

Thursday, 8 October 2009

secret obsession

that is a brick brown press release folder that i newly placed on my desk a colleague who sits close by did some spring cleaning and wanted to get rid of box files and folders from her drawers. and guess why i decided to keep it? not because it has a silk cloth cover to it or because the golden letters of secret obsession obsess me with the want of finer things in life, but because today we received a very unreasonable mail from the boss asking us to remove all things stuck, stapled or pinned on our workstation boards...and down came the charts and ready reference a4 sheets that i had on mine...

so there they rest in the brick brown press release obsession to order is no more a secret

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

the great grandmother's death

tday morning my hubby lost his grand mom...who was great grand mom to so many in his family that stretches from god's own country until america. she was a special lady. an institution in herself. 'forget and forgive' are the last words i can remember having heard from her when i visited here few months back, as she was brought back to life through ventilator, catheter and what not. she insisted to her children ‘forget and forgive’ and reminded them yet again that they are all one. elders chided her unnatural self murmuring that she must be losing her memory and strength to the illness. they observed it must be the lack of oxygen in the brain etc. it was painful to see her living on tubes that might have made her old age miserable. infact it was the most true to life experience that i had lived, by staying by her side in the hospital when nurses rushed in an out at a gap of every two hours to check her pulse and chage the bottle of medicine that dripped to reach her body through those many needles that pricked and stayed beneath her skin as that was the only convenient option medical science had found to keep the medicines and the essentials running to her veins. it was crucifixion - to be bandaged, pricked, pierced, and oddly postured to keep the heart beat on and on. i prayed with all my heart and wept out at her plight in the bathroom while under the shower cos my tears would have weakened her further. i begged god for mercy, to take her life...or rather relive her from this bitter pain. it is a real plight to be the senior most in the family and be left at the mercy of those whom she nursed to able children and at the hands paid help who shirk a thought at cleaning a mess that she would cry in embarrassment to let people know of. our seniors are precious as they live to pray and bless us. but the tragedy of life will come no matter what. loss of personal life always accompanies many mixed worries, finance is just one of them. but the only thing that must remain in our heads is that we can always make that money which is spent but the truth is prevail that she is now just a memory. ur babloo will miss u amama and i am not sure if i told you that i really love u with all my heart. will always. hope u will still love and bless us from the golden abode above as you now give company to apapa...

the power of chanting

those bright yello beads could only mean a fancy bracelet me, which followers of a certain religion kept in their palms to chant off something that their relics advice them as wise to do...during a visit to vatican i also got some chantful beads that caught my attention more because they looked so appealing. i carried a few home for keep sake. i donno if it is blasphemous and i care less to get all that checked...i used to wear them cos some days my dress matched. i would preen at its intricate floral design and get hypnotically lost in the miniature petals that formed the concentric pattern of the rose's centre. the beads were so smooth that anyone would want to keep touching them always. well enough of literature, taking flight here...what i wanted to say was that though these beads were instrumental in starting a chant that you can keep count on...i have got this new habit of chanting in my head with no beads but just mental maths. don’t ask me what i am chanting...i can assure u it is not blasphemous for one simple reason that it is not something that will evoke a wrong thought or deed while i am engaged in it. pure bliss in other of vodka or the lime

wishful world's fantasy

whenever we rise to challenge where we give it all...what should remain ever so grounded in our heads is that we shouldn’t expect a bit of response in our favour. the moment we forget that the world becomes full of hurtful people...who swing by throwing venomous spears at you. those which you can never try and stop from piercing your heart cos there is no way you can follow the direction that it can come from. just like while you are trekking on heavy dig deep with hammer and then place your foot on it ensuring there is no thin ice or a deep hole that can swallow must watch every step...anticipating a fall anytime and thus geared to not fall fatal. this is the real struggle in life. or you can chose to live a cocoon’s life cutting yourself of from the direct glares of friends, family, society that you know of and peep out only to give a hint of what a happy life i have despite whatever you think should affect me...

it is good to stop wondering at a way out of this circus called life...cos by the time you finish the trek you can hope to have reached a summit from where world will be such a wonderful place to have been...this is what i call the wishful world's fantasy not the other one which people associate with gains and bargains in life, work, money, material, brownie points...

the world is a stage

really it is. we all expected to play and parts and get off. sometimes...actually most of the times the thought the rattles in my head is that while we r on the separate roles assigned to us by choice or otherwise...what sort of justice are we doing to ourselves as people who are what they are without the roles. don’t we all lose a bit of ourselves while trying to fulfill the roles that become overwhelmingly larger than what is supposed to be when it all started and kamabht society and the set up is such that it crushes yourself and makes a new you which you might not quite be fond of in the first place...but will try to hook on to as an image maintenance strategy. i was trying to rediscover being from my country by reading a few good books on the making of the nation i belong to and i found that no matter far you travel you come back home...and actually home is where the heart is...and perhaps that is also the reason why despite so many winding roles we wind them up for the sake of the homebound association that is so powerful that it promises to keep you even while it threatens to break you and make you yet again...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

thank god it was not the popular flu

whip me i say...8 days of nonchalalnce since i swore into making the most of blogging everyday to get rid of the wirter's block...huh! anyway i have a good reason to blame on...the flu that had me down for four days and then onam this time was a blast...
last few days i bonded more with my buddies through fb ofcourse... so rest was on fb lol!
everything at home, work and personal stuff came to a standstill...u can call it the power of flu. so today i was doing everything that i must and had today's date assigned on i guess the flu got sorta bugged and kind got out of me...almost :)
nothing is  interesting unless u r interested in it... and u can get rid of anything...even flu without a fludrex if u wish to...

Sunday, 30 August 2009

pst pst pastrami

that was what i named a pc to pc debate on a nonchalant afternoon like this. everyday this hr it is an urge to sleep that over rules all other sane intentions to stay up and do a good job.

so we thought of this lil past-time engagement that revolves after food and called it the meaty pastrami… a pc debate among the three of us who sit close by at work. but the debate almost died before it started as girls wana chat rt!? i suggested a quite click click of the key board and heads so that we don’t engage curious passers by in this recession doomed season to nip in a comment in the party circle that subs don’t work at all u see…but my idea din seem to impress my pals i guess.

but i wish we discuss the topic that is hot and absolutely today’s. why don’t we save money in dubai? i was reminded of the movie bedazzled…where the devil liz gives everything to brandon fraser but with a heavy penalty. perhaps we r living a bubble life where we are lured to spend and ofcourse the price is what we all are aware of. a penniless retirement is unfathomable…and the stress mounts back to the day’s time and events already…and it is a circle of questions that will inevitably follow. why do we grey so early? why are we losing hair? why am i bloating? let me fix it at that new place down the block and there goes ur precious money…and again…why do we not earn enough money? why don’t we eat right? why don’t we plan a future? why don’t we invest? when will we do all this? is vegetarian good or non-vegetarian? how about ayurvedic to allopathic treatments? should we keep a household maid or not? if yes, a full time or a part time? how many times should we travel out in the name of vacation? we should eat less out and save on medications but then after long hours at work and long hrs in the traffic what do you expect? we should live in the heart of the city or away!? do you have your parents to look after? have they saved money for you? all this chitter-chatter leads to nothing accountable really …like this pst pst pastrami that is on hold. unbelievably time-pass stuff...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

fish like people

stone like people is a better word perhaps. how do you deal with them? my sister was mentioning someone who has turned cold for god knows what reasons. i have atleast a truck load of coldies. but what to do. they warm up to you only when they need something outa u. how do you deal with such bums!?

i said it...they are why the bother anyway.

but am thinking, atleast in my sister's case the one who has turned cold is jealous of her. must the same for most...cos they just cant stand me...for the good that i hold! haaa...whatay way to start the day with the self shabashi i say...v funny :)

creative challenge

a friend's friend in america will be wearing the same black dress [er...i hope she has a quick dry button in her washing machine ;)] for 365 days as a creative challenge in fashion, which also serves as a fund raising program for schooling of slum children in India. she invites any designer to send their original piece to her as well and ur profile/website would be published. her project is apparently getting good attention and my frind was wondering if i would like to contribute as well cos it'd be a good publicity.
she was talking about the i passed on the mail to a bunch of journalists who might be interested and a few got bk with interest...and one got bk asking 'hey do you design clothes' as well. it rang a bell. a bit late though. actually my friend wanted to know if i would want publicity on the dresses/clothes that i design. my poor friend doesn kno i don anymore, on that scale :(. i miss died long ago.

am not so much into the art scene like i used to... these days a bit of the smoky do on my eye lids ...or wearing the same accessories on the hair one day and on the neck the other day is to where i have limited my creative inputs. forgot...sometime i practice creativity in cooking too...especially when i do not want to waste that flavourful chicken curry gravy...cos just an egg and a few spoons on parmesan gives u an outa the world omelet which u can place on a slice of bread and have as a snack with ur hot cup of tea.

10 hrs of work, 8 hrs of sleep, an hr in the kitchen... 20 mins at the pool is the only me time i have anyway, i was thinking how black posed challenge to design. i live in the middle east and here black is but custom...all their lives....especially for the women here.

and am also among those who collect black as balck is the black every season. call it the black fetish or whatever. i love black. blackberrys and black forest [cake and the one in germany from where you buy cuckoo clocks] too for that matter!

Monday, 24 August 2009

king of lokhandwala

today my sister sent me these ganesha pics from her locality in mumbai. when i see ganesha i feel like taking a stomach full of air…and breathe easy…he has such a divine and ‘I will take care of everything’ element about him…truly…must be the obstacle remover i guess!

ganesha’s in north india are white and painted bright whereas in the south of india u have him in black stone. there are many ganesha collectors whom i know. once upon a time my mother had more than 100 ganeshas in the house. one heavy metal ganesh fell from the top shelf in the prayer room and landed right on my head when i was 14 years old. if i take centre parting i can see that patch which shines without having sprout a hair ever after there.

i missed the modakams once again this year during chaturthi. my mom makes the sweet ones and granmom makes the salty-spicy ones…both apparently are ganesha’s favourite. mine too. talking about ganesha…i remember being hooked on to ‘ganesh says’ column by astrologer bejan daruwala during school days. ya, even i wondered why someone would have a surname like that…daruwala and all. then i heard of peacock, engineer, sardar as surnames. and guess what [guess not]…i have a memorable surname too. i am ‘king’ u see ;). not the kind of lokhandwala though! ganpathy bappa morya...may his blessing shower upon all...and remove obstacles from their lives!!!

raw nerve

very harmless and funny thoughts sometimes irk people whom you might think are the coolest ones around. actually when u prod deeper...the shell cracks, and you know that it is a totally stolen attittude they throw around. anyway i have a few v cool friends whom i barely meet on a daily basis but get all the fun of keeping in touch through short and sweet mail chats now and then.
tday one such friend, who will again ofcourse be unnammed [what did u think, my blog is my blog yar] popped up replying to a swine flu awareness fwd mail of mine...he quipped 'so u think am sick?' the following tete-tate got qt cheeky...really cheeky...from his age to cooking to god knos what all etc etc... it was such a rejuvinator on a mundane evening...i was all charged up despite many issues to look forward with fresh energy... and that is why i guess i like cheeky people...they help sharpen your grey cells and they start behaving themselves when they kno it is heading not their way...nor my way...but the high way! :) i am lovin it. [no i don promote mc donald all...except for their yummy apple pies and french fries - ofcourse...cos they are the best]

mother of all faux pas

guess what tday i recieved a mail from an unknown person [she is not my friend so shall remain un-named anyway]. this mail was a reply all mail to another friend's 'may prosperity come to you' fwd. and this reply mail had juicy bitchy details of my friend's inlaws. unbelievably f*** a**. and why was it a faux pas...the friend's hubby was also in the mail list. oops! one should watchout for reply all mistake button while sending mail. and the moral of the story is that pls bcc fwd and let not the not so common circle get some itchy-bitchy details you will have to deal with later on.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

the new old friend

i found her after a long gap of 6 years …it was a surprise invite... last weekend on fb and she is a designer for b-wood. we have shared hot vada pavs on monsoon afternoons…walked around with colourful bandanas and shared some juicy secrets to giggle about.
she has changed a lot. her pictures suggest she has a new body. a very nice one which she has attained with lot of patience, yoga and special diets. her smile is bright but the zing is lost. when i asked she just types lol! lol! again and again… she says she has come of age and hence the expressions change. but i wish her all the brightness that her smile holds despite the heartache she shared with me. i wish her success in her business that sells talent and art. i wish a her world full of love…the zing must come back!

the lonesome candy

it is that time in the afternoon just after lunch and you know what i mean. i did not what to gulp down another coffee. sometimes a desk job can make you wait endlessly…but it is blasphemous to say so or that it is a boring job at times. so will not do that :)
plus, it is also not allowed to believe that surfing net and reading interesting trivia about your favourite author or movie star is adding value to your editorial inputs. yes a lot of things that are fun related and really good to be paid for feature in a job like what am doing right now…is least mentioned and are sidelined as wasting time by those who read too less to be even qualified to read the copies that are passed through them for cross-checking. yes that was dig!
this is what mostly afternoons are meant for especially when you are waiting for a pending page plan to get started on the next title.
so i look around. argumentative indian is smiling from my drawer…not so inspiring for my mood. I ignore it with a chuckle. The second drawer has my candy box…thank god there was one lonesome katti keri candy there waiting for me to pounce on. Tcha!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

for my shy friends

i have a new shy friend who will remain unamed. let me try not to give away the gender too :)...and this blog is dedicated to the shy ones who love to dress up.
the most profound thing i have heard to get rid of stage frights or stares is that:
the stares may be uncomfortable, but they will not actually harm you. and when you are sure that you are doing your best - dressing up and keeping ur coo...the starers will wander away. so be sure and letthem stare anyway...that is why god has given them a pair of those button like organs that blink!

Title Case

the newspaper i work for doesn carry a title case in its headline. fair enough. their style is that of the sentence itself...and i like the idea too. so in my blogs u will see a few names that have a capital letter and that will just mean that it came published in the paper...
i know it looks a lil inconsistent among the list of titles that sit in a neat row and a style...but i guess it is ok.
if i change my mind on that...u will see that...ofcourse!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

and the new name...

babloo'sworld is now blu is the world. blu is the short form of babloo. my friend roona thangam varghese christened me with the new shortened version of my pet name on one of my birthday cards [not an e-one...a handwritten, paper rose card] and i completely fell in love with was B'lu...which now i have accepted and carry as blu...i really do not like the upper case or the apostrophe [hope i have spelt that correct...incase i have not, then let me wish that my editor is not reading this ;)] i also do not like the dots that feature between the initials of a name. the only thing i can bear as a breaker is actually a full stop or may be a coma.
anyway as masters of english grammar and punctuations do not really care what i blog about...i feel quiet comfy here.
how about calling my blog as blug...eeks! i don like it!

a new beginning

today i have finally changed the look and feel of my blog, which remained so for a long time...ever since i started blogging...i also wish to read through my old blogs and see what was running through my mind those days when i started blogging.
i realier had a description of myself as a simple human being who wishes to live and learn every day as it comes...but i feel actually i am some who would rather not speak cos my humour can lead to something...hence i amended that bit also...
as fb gives me a chance to do the scribbling as randon as i wish to... i would like to assert the point that my blogging took a back seat ever since i got on to fb. and actually fb happened only cos orkut was banned in uae. now i can access orkut also. that is a big open secret as most of us in uae knows how to get on...i rather not speak about it rt :)

Saturday, 15 August 2009

king khan's 9/11 adventure

i love shah rukh khan like most of us do... he has an image that is likeable and a talent to hold you with his intense eyes. and also he dances fine too. why is in news today? cos of the 9/11 attack and his detention at a US airport...cos he is a khan. and that too on indian independence day...whata chak de plot...i say! it is really sad that world over a group of people are detained and questioned like they were terrorists cos a few years back a few terrorists who bombed a building in america followed the same religion. i say, america must really open their eyes and grow up to the rest of the world which in non-america. really, it is sad, to now that they cant think beyond themselves. they spend all their intelligence, money and future in mundane thoughts that revolve around their security. why do they live in such an idiotic super-ego...why do they think they are the boss of all? and that the world is scheming their down fall? dont we all have better things to do? and fill te media with insecure bull shit? the rest of the world are lamed when america flexes muscle even today, despite the growling recession that has pulled down the nation from its erstwhile financial prosperity. a lot of us still believe that america can take our lives and that we should live a shameful, hopeless lives that they bestow on us. our pitiable upbringing in international politics...what else can i say!? old habits die hard. they cant stop policing. they just cant get over themselves. fools - them. fools are us - who follow the news as we have nothing better to do i guess! but khanji hope u are ok...despite what media looking forward to read ur blog and mr bachchan's...if at all he comments on this...let us see ;)

bollywood kids

i really am outawords once again. i hate reality shows...especially the one that are there in the indian media...let me boil down to the one i hate the most...hosted by two very smallchildren who give bollywood gyan. horrible!!! yesterday a friend sent me an invite to comment on her 14 yr old nephew's bollywood movie review. the boy has commented on the acting capabilities of bollywood a-liners [perhaps] plus have suggested comments in a style not different from those in film columns online and on print. each and every possible family member who knows the kid has gone gaga over his armature attempt. i guess this is the best way to let the kid float in a super ego which will get him behave like a grown up and actually not grow up at all. i feel it is definitely innocence lost at such a pace which no one is ready to agree upon. lost in doing the shabashi...which is so much easier to draw with tools like fb and others...i wonder where the grown ups are heading to...what are they setting up as ideals for their children to reflect upon. i wonder if hardy boys and mill & boons will ever hold the magic...while kids exchange twanged-bollywood masala over fb, you tube links and mobile ring tones. i lament the loss of innocence. earnestly...

Thursday, 13 August 2009


just got a fresh rush through on how and why blogging can enhance our newspaper...well i think it is a good idea that the papers gets a fresh new attitude to blog! i almost started with a lot of enthusiasm on this and then just forgot to get on as frequently as i used to when i actually began. i think i also had the regular writer's block... i tried writing with pen on paper to get over the block...but now god knows where that writing pad has gone...oops that reminds me it has a lot of gossips jotted...phew! with imaginary kinda ok... its the weekend and i wish to have a good one :) bye for now

Monday, 22 June 2009

By royal appointment

If you have tuned into The Tudors on Showtime, you will probably be familiar with the romantic castles and estates of England. On a trip to London recently, we took a detour to Leeds Castle. It was almost like revisiting history textbooks from my university days in the most romantic way. Days of intrigueSet on an island in the heart of the Kent countryside, this moated castle has a history framed in romance and intrigue, conflict and majesty. It is a great holiday destination for lovers of history and a must-visit for those with a penchant for dog collars. Built in 1119, it became the palace of King Edward I in 1278 but its most famous royal connections are with Henry VIII. In the times of the Tudors, Henry VIII transformed the castle into a palace to rival the beauty of French counterparts. The classic era was followed by the austerity of the Second World War, when the castle was turned into a military hospital and secretly employed to develop weapons and safety systems. The monument is a marvellous piece of art and reflects the English heritage.Henry VIII had the castle refurbished for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. His daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I, was imprisoned there during the reign of her sister, Mary I.‘Loveliest’ of the lotIt was Fiennes Wykeham Martin who redesigned the castle frontage, turning the Jacobean portion into the style Henry VIII wanted. The result prompted Lord Conway, the famous castle historian, to comment that this was “the loveliest castle in the whole world”.The last private owner of the building was Lady Baillie [also known as Olive, Lady Baillie], who bought it in 1926 and established the Leeds Castle Foundation, the objective of which is to preserve the castle and the park for the enjoyment of the public and enable its use for national and international meetings, particularly for the advancement of medical research and the furtherance of peace. The castle was opened to the public in 1976 and since then, visitors have thronged every year to the monument, which includes an aviary, a maze and an annual hot-air balloon festival. The museum was a surprise. The Dog Collar Museum at the castle’s Fairfax courtyard houses a huge collection of antique dog collars. It has almost 100 collars spanning five centuries and traces the history of canine neckwear from the medieval to the Victorian times and later.It was originally assembled by the medieval Irish scholar John Hunt and his wife, Gertrude. It was Gertrude who presented the collars to the Leeds Castle in 1979 in memory of her deceased husband. The museum is also a tribute to the castle’s last private owner, Olive, Lady Baillie, whose love for dogs inspired Gertrude to make the offering.Spike protectionCollars dating back to the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were designed keeping in mind the dangers hunting dogs had to go through. Wolves, bears and wild boar roamed the forests of Europe then. The collars — broad iron bands with spikes — acted as shields for the throats of the dogs.One of the notable exhibits are German and Austrian Baroque leather collars from the 17th and the 18th centuries, decorated with metalwork and velvet. The collection includes a typical example from the mid-18th century, which bears the emblem of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg. Also on show are engraved silver collars from the previous century, some designed by leading silversmiths of the day. These bear some interesting inscriptions.Getting married there would be a dream come true. Rising majestically from the still waters of its moat, with its beautiful black swans, Leeds Castle is an idyllic setting for the romantic event. A choice of venues both inside the castle and outside, on the grounds, are available for marriage celebrations.Photographer’s delightLeeds Castle is a photographer’s delight. Set in the valley of the River Len in the heart of the Garden of England, as Kent is also known, the castle is unrivalled in its spectacular scenery and backdrops. A trip on the hot-air balloon provides magnificent aerial views of the castle. However, I had to miss out on the opportunity because we were running late for an event at the castle, Music on the Lawns — The English Chamber Orchestra, that evening. Leeds Castle is undeniably the perfect holiday destination to make this summer regally special in your memories.Go there ... Leeds Castle ... From the UAEFrom DubaiLondon is the closest airport.Virgin Atlantic flies daily. Fare from Dh2,825Qatar Airways flies daily via Doha. Fare from Dh2,655From Abu DhabiEtihad flies daily. Fare from Dh2,035— Information courtesy: The Holiday Lounge by Dnata. Ph: 04 4380454Getting there
By road: Leeds Castle is located near Maidstone at Junction 8 of the M20 between London and the Channel ports.
By rail: It takes approximately an hour from London to Bearsted Station. A connecting service is available at a small charge.
Sea: Dover, 61km; Ramsgate, 77km
Channel Tunnel: Eurotunnel Folkestone Terminal, 40km ( ( has connections to Lille, Brussels and Paris.
Satellite navigation users: If you are using a satellite navigation system, please follow the brown and white tourist signs once you reach the A20.
Timings and booking
Leeds Castle is open throughout the year. Please check the website for possible closures during the year.Till September 30
Opens: 10am daily
Last ticket sold (last entry): 4.30pm
Gates close: 6pm
Castle open: 10.30am-5.30pm
Last entry to the castle: 5pmOctober 1, 2009- March 31, 2010
Opens: 10am daily
Last ticket sold (last entry): 3pm
Gates close: 5pm
Castle open: 10.30am-4pm
Last entry to the castle: 3.30pm
The office is open 9am-5.30pm on weekdays.
Pre-booking is recommended. There’s no payment required to made prior to the visit.
Things you just can’t miss
The gardens and grounds Relax in 500 acres of parkland, woodland walks and gardens, including the quintessentially English Culpeper Gardens and the Mediterranean terraced Lady Baillie Garden, which has exotic and subtropical flowers and plants.The AviaryThe Aviary, which offers free tours daily at noon, is an international breeding and conservation centre for rare and endangered species of birds. It is home to approximately 100 species of birds.The DuckeryA peaceful environment for the castle’s ducks, swans, geese and birds, visitors can also feed ducks.Falconry displays There are free falconry displays daily throughout summer, in which visitors can watch the birds of prey demonstrate their power. Weekend displays are available only from October to March. The Maze and Grotto This is great for visitors of all ages. Lose yourself in the yew maze as you spiral towards an underground grotto of myths and legends.The Dog Collar Museum This is the world’s finest public collection of dog collars, which features exhibits that date back more than 500 years.The vineyard Four acres of grape vine are located near the original vineyard site listed in the Domesday Book in 1086. ShoppingTwo traditional gift shops offer a wide range of products, which reflects the attractions and events at Leeds Castle.The golf courseThe scenic 9-hole pay-and-play golf course allows spectacular views of the castle. This is suitable for societies, corporate golf days and residential golf weekends.ArcheryThis is a new addition. With the castle as the stunning backdrop, archery provides an ideal group activity. Pre-booking is now allowed. The Castle Craft CentreDiscover your creative side at the new Castle Crafts Café near the Knights' Realm Playground and try your hand at T-shirt and pottery painting. These activities can be enjoyed by young and old alike.
HighlightsEvents to look forward to this year at Leeds Castle:Food and Drink Festival: September 5 and 6Tudor Flower Festival: October 7-11Half-Term Heraldry Event: October 24-30Festive Fair: November 21 and 22Christmas at the castle: December 12-24

Behind the scents

Published: June 12, 2009, 23:40
Perfumes in attractive bottles are one of the best forms of art that can be collected when you travel to places that epitomise the pursuit of beauty — such as Paris.It was not surprising to find a museum for perfumes in Paris, the city of museums. Last year, I stepped into Musée du Parfum, a palace of perfumes, located near the Opéra Garnier. Grand interiorsOpen since 1983, the museum is run by the scent manufacturer Fragonard. The sweet news is that they offer a “behind the scents” tour, absolutely free.The Musée du Parfum occupies a lovely Napoleon III townhouse, which was built in 1860 by Lesoufaché, a student of Garnier. The architecture and the interiors — a gorgeous mix of gold, white marble, dark wood, mural paintings, mirrors and crystal chandeliers — belong to that era and, of course, the sweetest of scents. The museum showcases the history of bottled fragrance through the ages.Our museum guide, Laurence, had an Oriental charm about her, although she spoke English with a heavy French accent. She drifted from one exhibit to the other. The museum taught us a lot about the sweet smells in attractive jars. There are elaborate displays of the tools used in the making of perfumes. Laurence told us about the various perfume-making techniques and the raw materials. Over the years, perfume makers have developed various methods to obtain the purest raw materials from flowers, plants and other natural ingredients. Today, with innovations in modern chemistry, it is possible to produce natural scents in laboratories. Laurence guided us through the procedures of extracting and bottling of scents.DistillationThis technique is based on the ability of steam to capture essential oils. It was first used in antiquity but was perfected by the Arab civilisation in AD8 and is still used in traditional perfume making. The flowers or plants are placed on perforated trays in the upper part of the still; the lower part is filled with water. which is brought to a boil. As the steam rises, it captures the scent-bearing components and carries them into a container where the vapour is condensed by refrigeration. The mixture of water and essential oils is collected in essence bottles, called Florentine flasks. The essential oils rise to the surface and are used to make perfume while the scented water left from distillation, such as rose water and orange-blossom water, is used for other purposes. AbsorptionThis technique is based on the ability of animal fat to absorb odours naturally. Depending on how well the plant matter withstands heat, this process is conducted at either hot or cold temperatures.ExtractionExtraction using volatile solvents consists of adding the fragrance-bearing part of the plant to a solvent, which is boiled. This was practised in the 18th century using ether. Some methods include supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, where a carbon dioxide by-product is used as a solvent. Since this solvent is easier to eliminate, production costs are lower. Raw materialsThe raw materials of plant origin used to make perfumes are sourced from all around the world. Raw materials of animal origin are not very well known and have been replaced by synthetic products. The first perfume to use synthetic products was Chanel N°5, created in 1925 — one of its components is an aldehyde. Synthetic raw materials obtained through petrochemistry have as high a quality of fragrance as those derived from natural raw materials.Plant of many partsAlthough not always cheaper than their natural counterparts, synthetic raw materials are more desirable from an ecological point of view and ensure consistent product quality. There is also a perfume map on display at the museum, with pictures and details of each raw material and its place of origin.Depending on the species, various parts of plants or trees are used to make perfumes: petals, flower or leaf buds, roots, leaves, stems and stalks. Although cultivated internationally, some flowers are still picked in the fields around the Grasse region in France and used in the local perfume industry. The museum also has some huge, beautiful copper vessels traditionally used by perfumeries around the world. Perfume bottles made of glass, porcelain and granite, with elaborate handwork, complete the vanity behind the precious essence they contain. Don’t be surprised if you’re inspired to buy some at the end of the tour. A lot of them have their roots in Asia and the Middle East. Shop for giftsThe boutique shop offers gift ideas presented in admirable pick-me-up fashion. You can shop for soaps, cosmetics, home scents and perfume sets.I was intrigued by the variety of perfumes in miniature bottles, especially the Soleil collection. Laurence said soleil means “Sun” in French. The bottle’s cap was self-explanatory. I picked some lovely perfume bottles in gilded sets. Some of the world’s sweetest perfumes from the museum lingered as we cruised on the Seine River that evening. The Fragonard bottle stands out among other sweet-smelling cosmetics, singing Paris, je t’aime (Paris, I love you).Blooms, herbs and perfumeThe main flowers used are:
1. Rose, picked only at dawn when the perfume is strongest. The rose most commonly used for making perfumes is the rosa centifolia, or May rose. It is cultivated in Grasse, Turkey, Bulgaria and Morocco. 2. Jasmine, the white flower most used for many perfumes, helped establish Grasse’s reputation for perfumes and is also imported from Spain, North Africa and India. 3. Tuberose, native to Mexico, was brought to Grasse during the 17th century and is also common in India. 4. Orange blossom is cultivated in Provence, Italy and Egypt. When distilled, it produces an essence called neroli. 5. Lavender, fields of which cover the plateaus of Haute Provence. It is mainly used in fragrances for men. 6. Mimosa, found in abundance in the Grasse region during the end of winter, is a flower without petals. Its little yellow florets are composed of stamens. 6. Ylang-ylang is produced by gnarled trees found in islands in the Indian Ocean: the Comoros archipelago, Mauritius, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Republic of Madagascar. Aromatic herbsThyme, rosemary, mint and basil are also used to make perfumes. They are cultivated in France, Spain, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, India and Madagascar. Fruits, roots and the restFruits and their peels add a refreshing citrus note or an exotic touch. Let’s take a quick look at where they are sourced from in bulk: 1. Lemon from Italy, California and the Ivory Coast. 2. Bergamot from Calabria in Italy, the Ivory Coast and Spain. 3. Orange from California and Spain. 4. Mandarin, native to China, is also grown in Italy. 5. Grapefruit from the US. 6. Vanilla, native to Mexico and cultivated around the Indian Ocean. Spices and seeds are used too:1. Tonka beans from Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. 2. Coriander, cultivated and distilled in Russia, Hungary and North Africa. 3. Badian from China. 4. Cumin, native to the Mediterranean basin and India. 5. Ambrette from India and the West Indies. 6. Cardamom from India, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Central America. 7. Cloves from Madagascar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Tanzania. 8. Fenugreek, with its smell reminiscent of walnut and celery. 9. Nutmeg, harvested from the evergreen nutmeg tree. 10. Pepper, used mainly for fragrances for men. Some leaves useful to the perfume industry: 1. Patchouli, cultivated mainly in India, Indonesia and the Philippines. 2. Petitgrain extracted from the leaves of the bitter orange in Italy. 3. Geranium from South Africa, Egypt and China. 4. Violet from the hills of Venice; the leaves give a very green floral essence. 5. Myrtle, native to the Mediterranean region. Roots are prized raw materials: 1. Vetiver from the island of Java. 2. Iris, of which Italy is the biggest producer. It is also grown in Greece, India and Morocco. 3. Ginger, cultivated in India, Japan, China and West Africa.Wood, barks and mosses are also used to make perfumes:1. Sandalwood from India, Timor, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. 2. Cedar from Kenya and the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. 3. Cinnamon, harvested in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India and Vietnam. 4. Birch bark from Russia and northern Europe. 5. Lignum vitae from Argentina, Paraguay and the West Indies. 6. Oak moss from the forests of the Massif Central in France, Morocco and Spain. Resins and gums, secreted by plants (or trees) are used to form a particular note in a fragrance. Plant secretions from which perfume is extracted are: 1. Galbanum from Iran and Afghanistan. 2. Benzoin, produced in Laos, China and Vietnam. 3. Opoponax from Ethiopia. 4. Myrrh, a gum drawn from spiny shrubs found in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula. 5. Labdanum, extracted from rock rose (cistaceae) leaves sourced from North America. 6. Tolu balsam from South America. 7. Frankincense is collected from a wild shrub mainly from Oman, Yemen and Somalia.Road and railFrom the Boulevard Périphérique:Exit at Porte Maillot and take Avenue de la Grande Armée to Place Charles de Gaulle, then Avenue des Champs Elysées to Place de la Concorde. Here turn left into Rue Royale leading to Place de la Madeleine, then right into the Boulevard de la Madeleine direction to Opéra Garnier. By public transport:Métro : Opéra station (lines 3, 7 and 8).

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

19 people lost their jobs

And most of whom I knew personally. I feel so bad and helpless. It is important that we accept change for continuity sake. But I feel bad for their shattered dreams, their helplessness, no matter how small it was.
Some say it is bad karma. Or is it the good karma? It is so difficult to say that. I think the challenge these days is to be sure of something. Anyone today who is sure is the boss. I don’t know what I am typing off, but I am perhaps typing off to do good to myself. To get rid of daunting thoughts.
I wonder if it was to do with the image that they carried as either not-so-good employee or the one as a difficult-to-manage-employee. Ofcourse the mail from the HR says that it was retrenchment due to some positions going redundant due to restructuring of the workflow etc, but I just cant stop thinking.
I cant stop thinking what am I being thought of actually. Come to think of that it worries me. Does my boss think I am good enough. Aw! It is so depressing to even tread that path. It horrible to be evaluated. I hate it.
Yes am sure I hate the feeling.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Where dreams crystallise

Last summer I was lucky to enjoy a visit to the sensual kaleidoscope of the famous showrooms of Swarovski crystals in Austria.
One of my all-time favourite movies, Sound of Music, was shot in many locations in the country — Schloss Mirabell with its splendid gardens where Maria and the children sang Do-Re-Mi, the church where Captain Von Trapp and Maria were married, and so on. This movie kept me dreaming about the Alps for a long time.
My longing to be in the lap of the Alps came true last summer.
Nestled amid alpine serenity and superb beauty, the crystal kingdom in Wattens was too good to believe.
All that glitters...
In the crystal kingdom, a subterranean landscape made of thousands of crystals, be prepared to embark on a journey that drifts between dreams and reality, where you will meet fairytale characters and mystical creatures.
The underground Chambers of Wonder that were built under the aegis of multimedia artist André Heller in 1995, houses a collection of fantastic installations and glittering works by great artists.
Since its opening, the Crystal Worlds have enchanted young and old from the world over with sparkling installations.
You can also find the crystal replica of Indian maharaja Rana Pratap’s legendary horse Chetak’s armour.
Jim Whiting’s mechanical theatre
This is a mysterious and magical movement that is synchronised with music and light to captivate the audience. Clothes, figures and other everyday items are brought to life as if by magic.
This macabre and surreally beautiful show combines many magical transformations with the artist’s love of mechanical precision.
Crystal Dome — nature reflected
What’s it like to be caged inside a crystal? Experience this feeling while stepping into this dome with a million mirrors.
Here, a thousand beams of refracted light dance around the faceted walls to the sound of music by Brian Eno.
This sea of mirrors gives the impression of a space that never ends. Standing in the crystalline Chamber of Wonder, with its geodetic dome made up of 595 elements, is like standing at the very heart of a giant crystal.
As soon as you step inside, you find yourself in a deep blue chamber, far removed from everyday life.
Crystalline works of art by Keith Haring, Niki de Saint Phalle, John Brekke, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol surround the centrepiece of this space, the Centenar — at 300,000 carats, the largest cut crystal in the world.
A wall of crystal, 42 metres long and 11 metres high, leads to a wonderland of even more mysteries.
Silent light — a winter dream
Freshly fallen snow couldn’t be more beautiful. Designers Tord Boontje and Alexander McQueen have made winter dreams come true with their sculpture Silent Light, which is made of hundreds of crystals.
A moment of complete stillness can be so very healing. Just lean back and gaze at the ever-changing crystal formations reflected in the 440 facets of the largest kaleidoscope in the world.
Crystal calligraphy
The poetry of light can say more than words ever could. This blue-green fantasy, written in light, was created by the American glass artist Paul Seide, who dedicated it to the Expressionist poet, Georg Trakl.
Crystal theatre
The space presents an iridescent as well as magical scenario by stage and costume designer Susanne Schmögner.
Your imagination can roam free in this world, with scents created by Jane Haidacher. Here angels are made of flowers, the sun dances with the moon and there is even a crystal devouring plant.
Ice passage
Trust your intuition to guide you along Oliver Irschitz’s dark Ice Passage. Each step creates light, sparkling crystals appearing beneath your feet. You create the trail as you follow it!
The giant’s magical story
A giant travels around the world, but he’s not alone; he carries with him a walking stick, a ring, his gloves and a gigantic accordion.
And who is this giant? Why is he here in Swarovski’s headquarters? The guide explains: “The story is that the giant is believed to be guarding the precious crystals.”
Poseidon’s puzzle — Expressionism of the deep
Brilliant colours and crystalline geometry pay tribute to Expressionist art.
Glittering pebbles and beautiful undersea creatures appear and disappear between floor-to-ceiling panels, allowing visitors to enjoy the play of light and sound.
A diva makes a special guest appearance
In the Crystal Dome, by the light of Swarovski crystals, world-famous soprano Jessye Norman sang Thy hand, Belinda, which is the final aria of the opera Dido and Aeneas.
Visitors can enjoy her performance in the Chamber of Wonder, where a second star, a giant mountain crystal from Madagascar, stands next to the artiste, unfolding its secretive layers of power.
Virtuoso interaction
A collection of names from the world of artistic creativity of the last two centuries is represented here in paintings, photographs, drawings and prints by Marc Chagall, Erté, Gustav Klimt, Peter Kogler, Joan Miró, Walter Navratil, Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol and other artists from the Swarovski Kristallwelten collection.
A gallery for temporary exhibitions presents works from the contemporary art scene.
55 Million Crystals by Brian Eno — the transience of artA place that feels like music, this is Brian Eno’s artistic intention.
In 55 Million Crystals, Eno has captured the transience of music in a video installation. This is music for the eye of the beholder!
Crystals for a bargain
Needless to say, shopping for jewellery in these showrooms is a must when you are here. I bought a crystal bracelet with edelweiss strung together in memory of the song in Sound of Music.
Art in the park
What would the Giant kingdom be without his garden? An aesthetic park landscape, with sculptures, installations, the famous green labyrinth in the shape of a hand and an adventure playground, is the place to make discoveries.
Driven through the Alberg Pass — the highest point of the Austrian Alps — which was covered in snow was anther high altogether.
Bus ran through the tiny independent principality of Liechtenstein and arrived in Switzerland, in the lap of another alpine beauty at Engelberg.
Go there ... Swarovski headquarters
From the UAE ... From DubaiInnsbruck is the closest airport to Swarovski headquarters in Wattens.
Austrian Airlines flies daily via Vienna. Fare from Dh3,460

For the people

Published: December 23, 2007, 17:16
I returned from my annual leave with two nagging feelings: a haunting nostalgia and a lost opportunity to visit Delhi — the epitome of India's glorious past and a promising future — during my recent trip to the country.
It's difficult to move on to Janpath — meaning "people's boulevard" in Sanskrit — from the bigger canvas of Delhi. Mile-long bazaar
Situated in Lutyens' Delhi, Janpath is popular not because Sonia Gandhi stays at 10 Janpath but for the mile-long haat (bazaar). The place is true to its name and feels like it has been around since time immemorial.
Here you will find the small market stretch bustling with activity. Shoppers and tourists explore the plethora of shops that sell goods ranging from clothes to costume jewellery and other accessories. Food stalls quench the tired shopper's hunger and thirst during the gruesome Delhi heat or spike the chill in the notorious winters with ice-candies. Adding to the enigma is a cluster of Tibetan antiques shops, which bear the typical mark of the kingdom.
The law that rules Janpath's lanes is: "Ask and it shall be given unto you; negotiate and it will be at the rates given by you". The market is frequented not by visitors but old-timers and tourists. The buyer-and-seller chemistry is fascinating and may seem like a tested relationship — a kind that exists between old friends.
Known chemistry
The friend who took me to Janpath for the first time interacted with the vendors there as if they had known each other for ever. The man quoted Rs500 (about Dh50) for a kurta (shirt), to which my friend snapped back: "What brother? Do we look like firangis [foreigners] to you?" And the following tête-à-tête finally fetched us the kurta for just Rs50 (about Dh5).
Some elements have long been associated with Janpath. There are the village women from Gujarat who sell embroidered wall hangings and hail customers in French, Spanish, Italian or German, much to the surprise of baffled passers-by.
The urchin, nagging shoppers to part with a coin or two while eyeing their milkshake from Dee Paul's, flashes a mischievous smile as he tries hard to hide his right hand inside his shirt to exhibit an ostensible handicap. Adding to this crowd is the blind beggar around the corner, who can see!
Between blazing summers and harsh winters, there is the occasional drizzle of rain as well as of luscious black jamuns (Indian blackberries) that pour down from the trees along avenues — an experience that belongs solely to Delhi.
When Kate Winslet, after the success of Titanic, visited India in search of nirvana (inner peace), she visited Janpath. And — can you believe this? — she went unnoticed. No one is a celeb here; this place belongs to the commoners.
Shopping and snacking from roadside vendors is typical of Delhiites, whether you are a millionaire's kin or a sarkari babu's (government officer) daughter.
Some people occupy their particular spots every day — the panwallas (who sell chewies wrapped in betel leaves nailed with a clove), chaatwallas (who sell a delectable sweet'n'sour mixture), golguppewallas (who sell mouthful-balls of fried dough with sweet-and-sour fillings), the chuskiwallas (sorbet-on-stick vendors) and tikkiwallas (selling hash browns with mint chutney). There are also kulfiwallas and jalebiwallas selling Persian sweets, reminiscent of the Mughal days.
Designed to please
Another unforgettable attraction at Janpath is the mehendiwallas (herbal-tattoo artists), who are sprawled out on the pavement and offer, for a pittance, to apply intricate designs on your palms. And, they do this within 15 to 20 minutes! The sweet scent of the ground mehendi leaves mingles with garlands of pearly white jasmines set off by deep fuschia-pink roses — the bouquet is sweeter than the best perfumes in the market.
One can spend hours just observing Janpath's motley crowd. I remember the fruit vendor who managed a windfall from an over-enthused foreigner who paid Rs100 (about Dh10) for bananas from the holy land of Benaras.
I searched in vain for a glimpse of Janpath while walking through Dubai's Meena Bazaar. Janpath is unique. For now, I tell myself as I look forward to my next annual leave … Delhi is not far.

A Bavarian adventure

Published: November 12, 2008, 01:21
A fiercely independent lot, the Bavarians have always maintained a strong national identity. I enjoyed their hospitality this summer as I cruised the Rhine travelling south through Germany.
From the valley we went down the Romantic Road of Rothenburg to reach Munich, the capital of Bavaria.
The Rhine valley and the road to Bavaria offer a spectacular view of the region's vineyards, castles and ancient churches. And in case you think beer is all the Bavarians can brew, a taste of their white Riesling (dry, white wine), is a must to dispel this myth.
While the countryside is a romantic mix of lush vineyards and fairytale castles across the valley and the countrysides you can also see train-lines and roads running parallel to the river, transporting industrial goods to the cities and ship yards almost throughout the day. There is no escaping the influence of the Industrial Revolution.
But aside from the purpose of modern living there is always space for legends, and the Lorelei rock is evidence of that. The rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine near Saint Goarshausen rises up almost 132 metres above the water-level.
Downstream the river is at its narrowest and deepest point, so the Middle Rhine at this juncture is difficult to navigate. This is also the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea and is infamous for its strong currents. The rocks in the area have caused many boats to capsize.
The fable goes that a siren called Lorelei bewitched the hearts of the sailors and when they looked up to the rock, their boats crashed and they sank to their doom. The main tourist attractions in Munich are Marienplatz, Glockenspiel, Saint Peter's church, Englischer Garten, Deutches Museum and BMW Museum.
Unfortunately, we (the gout of us travellers) couldn't catch a glimpse of the Glockenspiel, known to chime with life-sized statues rotating in a mock dance, as it was being renovated.
Instead we went to the café opposite, not surprisingly called as Café Glockenspiel, where we enjoyed some Bretzel and Bratwurst.
Day two in Munich saw us exploring Marienplatz and after a hearty Bavarian breakfast walking the quaint cobbled stoned pavements was just what the doctor ordered.
Once you reach the Marienplatz everything you need is within strolling distance. The Old and New Town Halls look down on the golden Mariensoul. Saint Peter's church, just off Marienplatz, is the oldest church in Munich, and for a fantastic view of the city, you could climb the bell frey tower.
There are local artists selling the city panorama in water and oil from the top of the church. The Englischer Garten or English Garden is a large park in the heart of the city and is famous for beer gardens and nude sunbathing.
Moving on from nature, in all her glory, to science and technology and a visit to the Deutsches Museum.
It is one of the famous technology and science museums in the world. Eight floors of displays from boats to telescopes to robots; which is a great stop over for scientists or people who love machines. The evening was spent outdoors, soaking up the last rays of the sun and the beautiful vistas of white houses outlined in dark wood.
And just before night descended in her inky blackness, the sky came alive with the vibrant orange and majestic purple hues of another day gone by.

List of good-byes

It’s been a while, years perhaps, since I got back into blogging. I was consumed in work and after work work at home. And then there was a sudden visit to India that left me shaken with many thoughts on one’s death, deadly decisions and future of retirement. Someone was almost on the deathbed but with god’s grace is revived and back home. Hospital can be such a dreadful experience to those tied down with oxygen masks and tubes running from and to so many body parts that need them there as per the doctor’s judgment. It is painful to see anyone in pain. More painful to imagine that helplessness strikes at an age when you are perhaps the eldest in the house. Yet more painful to know that the sick and helpless actually are more helpless than sick, actually! I will not bereave the dead so much from now on, but wail at the situation one has to put up before saying the final bye. In America you can opt to be put in tubes or not. Of course we all want our loved ones as long as possible with us. But I am sorry I think if it is my time to go, I must be let free.

Last week a dear colleague was terminated from work for underperformance and banned to work in the country for a specified number of months AND is not allowed to work for a competitor for 2 and a half years. Perhaps this is the only way the company can have its sweet revenge or retrieve the amount of time and money invested in flying in a candidate for the job. I don’t know what keeps the laws in place here. But I feel bad as it was a dear colleague how lost a job. I am the least of a leftist in my thoughts but this event awes me in directions I rather not spend time comprehending. All I can do is blog it.

Today I took a small break in between work to look at something which is not work-related and spent a few minutes reading a link sent by a mate who doesn like dynasty politics in congress and wanted me to have a closer look at Rahul Gandhi, as I once reflected my thoughts that I like him as the next Indian prime minister. So, hence, and therefore I have just read a write-up on the surge of Rahul Gandhi in politics. But I have nothing to say, anyone can make anyone a god or a devil. Especially the media. We are our own enemies in the kind of situation when we can be caught on camera etc etc…easier if u are the one media wants to quote and get more TRPs right!? From that write-up I liked the phrase called ‘baptized in fire’. To me it means that if u wr not born in a catholic family and baptized in water before ur senses came to senses…and are married into a catholic family, then they actually the life/time there on baptizes you in fire to get the evil spirits in u go as far as possible…ha ha ha whatever that means.
Anyway that’s that for Rahul, evil spirits and work force in the UAE. Let me skid into the next interesting thing I read today post lunch it was the recent post on big b’s blog, on his denial of the Australian doctorate after all the racist attacks on Indian students there. This leaves me thinking that even if Australia is the first among the recession proof three countries, others being China and India…am not seeing Australia in the radar as other colleagues who are fed up of Dubai especially since the season is gloomy, hot, not family friendly and highly-whatsoever-not-so-great-frankly.