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30 things I learnt in the last decade

Summation of all the learnings in the last decade.

Its a perfect time to sum it up. What I learnt in the last decade has to be the most introspective and interesting thing to think about right now. Incase you have quite a few settled things like a happy family and workable challenges in life, then you would sit down to do a gratitude list like the one I am making now.

  1. It always starts with you.
  2. You can do anything you want.
  3. Career, relationships need not have any graph to follow.
  4. Always hear out others advises and grievances but never take them inside as is.
  5. Stand up for what you believe in. Its not that tough.
  6. Marriage is a big bullshit.
  7. Failure is always okay. Do not attach your well being to it.
  8. Adulting is tough. But going through it makes you tougher.
  9. People will judge you no matter what.
  10. Trust no one but be nice.
  11. Living alone will be the best thing that happened to you.
  12. Having no label relationships will be the best version of human beings you will discover.
  13. You will overlook drama and the people who create it.
  14. Parents will always matter the most to you.
  15. People who stay by your side will occasionally look like villains.
  16. Having a dog will make your life worth living. Having two dogs, congratulate yourself.
  17. Be kind.
  18. Use your tongue carefully.
  19. Every situation and challenge in life has a solution.
  20. Have a calm mind.
  21. Somebody will betray you and it will be a gift.
  22. Take time to understand people. Do not judge them.
  23. People change from time to time.
  24. Take appreciation & criticism with a pinch of salt. Both are somebody else’s perception so do not get attached to it.
  25. Starting your own company and trying to run it will be very difficult and draining in the first attempt but much better in your second attempt.
  26. Most things you imagine to be tough won’t be.
  27. Try and apologise sooner.
  28. You don’t need a relationship as much as you need friendships.
  29. Never forget who was there in your hardest times.
  30. Its okay to fuck up.

…and 10 more…

Some more,

  1. You will still struggle with finances.
  2. Some days you will feel like you are back at square one again.
  3. Fuck what they think. That’s the only recipe of success.
  4. Cooking is a soul stirring meditation.
  5. Breathe deep.
  6. Your vocational interests will be more valuable.
  7. Death is the inevitable truth of life.
  8. Health is very important.
  9. Exercise will set you free.
  10. Read.

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Cup with a crack

A THING of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness. – John Keats

They say you should not keep cups around once there is a crack on it. I always hold onto mine.

My tea or coffee cups are chosen specially for a task. To hold the tea or coffee for long till I process everything in my head while I stare out the window. Its a way to hold the moment, like I hold the cup. The silence, the sounds of the morning or end of evening. I am fascinated by things broken clearly.

Broken is not broken like the tense of the word. Broken is beautiful. It makes way for something so unique it cannot be redone from it.

There is a finality in the faults. They are not negative but they are there. They stay.

One such evening while I was drinking my tea with a multitude of thoughts running through my head when a crack on the cup that caught my attention.

I wondered why I was drinking from a cracked cup and how long had the crack been on the cup. As subtly does a crack took my attention to the cup, I wondered if it takes your flaws to make you who you are.

Is it not a thing of beauty to have a mark, mistake, break that changes the course of your life to something much better.

Change is constant they say. I think change is beautiful.



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Nothingness

A void that passes by like life takes a break from all reacting.

A day comes when you achieve what you wanted and a lull takes over.

I have always wondered what that lull is. It does not have adjectives to define it. Whether it’s positive, negative, depressive, freeing. It just is.

As I grappled with me being irritated at the end of a long day.. I wondered how far the feeling would go.

That feeling is more stagnation. Where life seems to slide by but one is no longer participating.

It’s a state where everything feels meaningless without any feeling attached to it.

How often does this come? It happened today after long. It seemed like nothing has any meaning at all and that life may probably not be much worth fighting for.

It seems a state where all desires take a break and leave the mind of all yearning. Like a fall season for the soul, where all your aliveness goes in hibernation.

What’s that state? Is there a word? I am sure Shashi Tharoor May know.

In a time where acquiring and attaining and thriving on attention and instant gratification rules our everyday, this void has caught me completely.

I am playing with it and questioning yet I stop and I am thoughtless. I question for sure but there is no expectation of the answer to come..

Then I wonder…

How many let go of their life when this phase came over? How many gave up? How many overdosed.

How many try to escape this void and are in a hurry to bring back the aliveness? How far do we go?

Did Hitler face this void and decided to give his own meaning to feel validated.

Do humans become violent or love watching someone in distress because it kills their moments of void. I wonder. I wonder.

In a quest for meaning, how far are we ready to go or let go? I wonder.

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Solemnity in calamity

A fiction piece describing the moments after a decision has been taken

The interpretations of those moments when one’s demeanor changes on the inside.

She took a warm shower. She could feel her body become light. The shoulder muscles relaxed. Her tummy feeling heavy was gone. 

She was gentle in her movements. The kind of surety one gets when one is no longer afraid of what will happen: she switched off the bathroom light and swiftly made way to the sink. And brushed her teeth in rhythm. Not in hurry: not laden with thoughts that controlled how intensely she brushed. She breathed deep and lay on her bed: 

The way one lays down when one is sure of the night and what the day is going to bring: 

She knew well what to do the next day: 

It needed courage and strength to stand against a tide: and yet her insides were calm tonight coz that was the right choice: 

Truth is a surreal way to be powerful: and only a few great men are able to embrace its simplicity: 

Maybe that’s why those few awakened souls get the attention of the universe to create the maximum impact on the fragile existence of mankind. 

She looks at the ceiling. And wonders. How thoughtless her mind is… and why was it such an effort to ease it all through these last few weeks: 

The solemnity of meditation is not to be acquired: it is to be arrived at after you drop off all your facades and baggages and face it as is. 

Because the naked truth is not light. It has a density one cannot fathom. 

Often in life these moments of brilliance come through the most ridiculous challenges life throws us at, that linger and irritate us to the point that they take our attention to our own power and make us come face to face to use it. That’s what the universe wants. Coz that is what You want. 

It’s no wonder that no matter where you go or run, life has a way to bring you to the same questions again and again and no running eventually helps. 

It was that vortex which had lifted itself from her. And she lay wondering if this is what they call nirvana.

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Why people run away from Vipassana

Each will have their own experience.

and it takes a month to revive this piece for probably the same reason..

So what is vipassana. Literal translation insight. Insight into one self. The previous post was all about the logistical way to get to a centre. It begins quite harmlessly. Many would love to dissect the everyday experience. But let it be a beautiful mystery to those who are enamored towards this journey.

You are just breathing. Two days you are told to breathe and not judge your thoughts. Try doing this for a few min. Our entire relevance to life is based in memory and the memory is used for judgment. How can we tame this? Isn’t it human nature? It is an acquired human nature.

This just breathing and letting your thoughts be or ignoring any discomfort of sitting in one place for a long time is only supposed to be observed. The trick is if you dont scratch that itch, it will go away on its own.

You do your sessions and retire to your room at 9 in the night. Just to be with yourself. First two days you are cool. By the third night though, going back to the room and being alone starts to bother you. For two nights the sleep does not come instantly – Why? Coz there is no new information coming to you – no phone, no newspaper, no tv, no talking to others lest even making eye contact. for two nights you have stayed awake and thought of everything superficial like whats happening at home? Are people living without you, which calls you may have missed so on and on.

The third night I was freaked. By the second day you are made into a group of women and men separate and each group is assigned a teacher – that is the only one you can talk to, ask anything or tell her what is bothering you?

The third night I opened my mouth to this teacher and said “I am afraid to go to my room alone”, she smiled and said ” We are all alone anyway. We come alone and we must go alone “then why can’t we live alone”.

I thought clearly no one is understanding what I am feeling. Then I said.. and read this carefully …

I said I am feeling very weird in my stomach, what do I do? They say.. do the breathing and tell your self this too shall pass and let it go. Easy for anybody to say.

I retire to my room very reluctantly. A question erupts in my head – What are you afraid of? .. No Answer.

I try to sleep. I keep the bathroom light on. As I look at the ceiling and wonder the way I am feeling in my gut I start to pacify myself.. Its just 7 more days. We can do this. There is no harm here. The area is secure. The main door is locked. I have seen that the main gate of the building is locked from the inside. I wonder why such a security. That night somehow passed with me sweating at times, wondering if I could do this. Why was I so crazy to agree to this madness? I cannot even call for help or tell anyone what I am going through. I don’t want to run but this is getting tough. Somehow I fell asleep lightly and wake up to another day feeling yay I made it through.

Day 4 -Something has shifted though. I feel vulnerable. I do my meditations and my body is much more stable to sit through the hours and I keep looking at the watch. I feel like I am in a race with time. The time passes and I can make it through. Yass!

That night I can’t take it anymore. I start counting everything to the moment I will have to enter my room alone that night. My last lunch, my last walk in the garden, the setting sun brings on a feeling in my diaphragm as if all my excuses and pacifying is setting with the sun. I go through the last sessions and leave the room at last. After all the members have checked into their room, I tread my way to the ground floor. There is no one. And I see that big lock on the door from the inside. My mind tries to wonder – Is it possible to … Somehow.. where they must have kept my phone? Can I access it? Everything is locked. My breathing and my fear is at an all time high as I realize I have no way out. I head to my room. Open it slowly. Same question What are you so afraid of? No Answer.

I lie on the bed, the bathroom light is on. Thoughts are now racing. Somehow a little later flashes of early life start. All the painful episodes, self loathe, failures start popping in. I wonder why am I thinking all this. It does not stop. It goes on. Childhood. A flash of an incident comes fresh in the memory. I was living away from my parents at a baby sitter’s. I am asking everyone where is mom and where is dad? They tell me dad has gone to office and mom is with the new baby. When can I see her.. Soon. I knew these were lies. I sleep alone wondering everyday Why I am the only one staying back here and when will my parents come to take me? Days go by. I have no answer. One day I am taken to the hospital. We are all sitting in the lobby, the baby sitter and her family of 4 or 5 people. We wait. I ask questions. No real answers. After some time, I see my mother. I am overjoyed and so happy. I look at her. She is not looking at me. She comes and just grabs my cheek and says “How are you?’ and looks at the baby sitters family talking to them. I am yelling and asking her, “why did you leave me? when are you coming home?” No Answer. No eye contact. The next minute she turns around. I am shocked. I am like “How can you leave” .. I scream. My hands are held on both sides. I scream louder. The huge waiting area of the hospital shuns in silence to look at this screaming child trying to break free. My mother disappears into the lift. I cry and fall to the floor. And everyone tells me Mummy had to go, her baby was waiting. She will come soon. By then I am sick of all the lies. That day everything changed for me.

I screamed and cried on the bed that instant as I relived that bewildered child and out came the words – So this is what fucked me up….. this was the beginning. And let me say this, I have never cried like that. Suddenly that scary room was a comfort, those walls told me I could yell and cry and be who I am and nobody would stop me. The very room I was afraid of became the best and the most safest place in the world. That night onwards every night going to my room became a luxurious awaiting. Its like a romance had started. The perfect romance. Nobody was going to abandon me. I was whole. I was happy. I did my meditations alone. I would sit in those small rooms in the pagoda and be with myself.

The 11th day came when I had to say Goodbye. And that was the second time I cried. I cried out of this gratitude for that room. I knew I was leaving this heaven behind and that I was going back to the same Dukha of human civilisation, the same madness, the questions and survival.

Vipassana changes you. At the cellular level. It brings out the mess and negativity that is rooted in you. It is the thing that we all humans require to be sane. That time I felt a yearly course should be great. Today I feel it is a necessity to do a course once in a while. It is like looking in a mirror and not shying away from what you see. The moment you accept, you are free. And the only thing to accept is – Nothing lasts forever.

Do you know what we are afraid of? Our self. Our true self. And we keep running away from it. We are afraid to be with ourselves as it is tough to see the masks falling away, the ego diminishing. We are in short afraid of our own light. And that is why everything is wrong with the so called system that we follow so blindly and so surely.

Sabka Mangal ho.

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Vipassana – The beginning

Vipassana experience and why each one of us need this in our life

A 10 day course that gives you a glimpse in what is being Buddha

When life’s questions start to overwhelm us to the point of anxiety, depression, things which we cannot let go off, I feel one should do a Vipassana course. There is nothing obvious in the way Vipassana works except that it does. For now, let me safely say that this is my opinion.

I was a similar confused 20 something girl who used to seek people and friends in the hope that they could answer my deep questions and help me find the answer. It is indeed obvious that most of those people finally disappeared from my life for two probable reasons: 1) I must have really bored them with repeated asking. 2) my questions made them umcomfortable.

I was still lucky enough to find new people but my questions continued. Now if I had to break down this word called questions… let me give you a little background. I did not just have questions. My life upto that point seemed very unfair to me. I could not tackle human relationships. My childhood was unusual. My relations with my parents still are very vague and distant. I could not follow life and do things people of my age did because it all seemed very superficial to me. I actually used to ask why I should do a job and do the same thing everyday. It freaked me. Routine freaks me. Sundays freak me. I don’t know how to deal with certain social aspects. I have no relatives or people who visit my home or any relations which last for me or my parents. Isolation became a bigger relative. After a certain age, people start telling you that you MUST feel in a particular manner, you MUST do things in a particular way, talk in a certain way which I used to be clueless about.

I was an outcast and I used to wonder why. When the fact that you are different transcends into ‘There must be something wrong with me’ and that too when you are a child has long lasting effects for sure.

And I kept seeking – if someone called me too emotional I wanted someone to tell me why. Then someone called me cold and unemotional during the same time I was like why and how.

My life with all this going on took turns that I was not prepared for. So I did not end up having the usual graph of living back then. Strangely that is how most people’s life has become nowadays.. but I was one of the few to take chances with my time. So it becomes increasingly tough to find people to relate to.

All in this turmoil, I met a person who would only judge me spiritually. He listened to me and told me I was spiritually not in sync with myself and that was the only judgement that mattered to him. A Vipassana student himself, he lived his life in a way no way does.. not back then, and even now. He stays true to his meaning and hence it became a safe place for me to be me.

He is the one who finally told me ‘Sneha you need Vipassana. Go and do a course.’ He also mentioned and I remember quite clearly.. ‘You have so many questions, you are seeking answers and Vipassana is the right place for you.’ At that point I had no idea what this Vipassana was. At this same time that he told me to go do a Vipassana course, there was another friend of ours who made it look like a trip to the cake shop, where she uttered what an awesome experience it was. When I asked what exactly is this, they were kind enough to tell me to just experience it.

I went. My seeking had become very intense by this time and I wished to do anything to stop that churning of thoughts in my head.

I started for the course excited. The other amazing thing that I learnt there was they would be taking away my phone from me. I was like ‘OKAY!’ I had no idea what I was in for. I was just ushered and taken to a hall and the whole process just started before you could use your cranial abilities to decipher and prepare. By 9, we all retired to our place to SLEEP.

We are not in touch with reality and that is the root of our misery.
That is all it takes to understand everything you needed to know about life

A whole room to myself. My belongings were just clothes and I managed to keep two A4 papers with me and a pen which used to always be in my purse. I looked around the room. Plain and simple. A single small bed for one person with a white bedsheet and pillow, a bathroom and wardrobe in the wall with a few hangers, a bathroom, a window that was parallel to the door, a drying line and that is it. A table and a chair – not sure of it now. Its been 5 years. I decided to sleep and look at what happens next morning.

I cannot sleep. I am still being cool and happy and decided to be very seamless with what happens and not react or think much about it.

I just cannot sleep. When I feel getting drifted to sleep, a mild gong starts to go off. At 4 am, the gong starts to become intense.. no matter how much you want to ignore it you cannot.

The first meditation starts at 4.30 am to 5.30 am and then starts breakfast. They are kind enough to either get you to meditate in the hall or in your room. But the most meditation sessions are compulsory to be attended throughout the day and the last meditation of the day is absolute must where S N Goenka gives you clues with what is really happening to you and about Vipassana.

Those evening lectures were simply amazing. They were funny but insightful.

Now that I have given you all a background let me come back to the point I was making. The real fun starts around Day 3, though trust me it is no fun.

To be continued…

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Gone Girl

 

‘When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers. The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?’

As I watched this movie a few times, Fincher and his magic like the very first dialogue  seeps into your imagination disturbing how u have related to anything before as fine and normal. It seems the wife, on whose side we are not on for most of the movie is a delusional, psycho who is creating this. Then we wonder just like the first line of the film… does it take a psycho to do this, or do the social arrangements we abide by have created the psychos within us? And taking us down that road, is what makes this film so interesting.

To be honest, I did not like this movie when I first saw it. But I did agree to a few things it highlights. Things like parents ruining the childhood of their daughter for a great selling fiction book, the pressure of maintaining the status quo, financial challenges tugging the bonds of marriage, loss of jobs, end of fairy tale, infidelity and the pain of being trapped in a show that you are not a part of and want to get out of. The wife disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary and a story unfolds.

It indeed is 5 year itch I feel, personally from what I have experienced to what most of personal accounts of people I have seen. Every 5 years, it seems a relationship undergoes a bold climatic change. Its like there is the you, the other person and the relationship as an entity. It demands growth, nurture and a path to go ahead. If any of these entities are not aligned to one another, that is enough of a basis that creates ripples that eventually surface and wreck things. Why is it so important to be aligned? It seems a relationship has a life of its own. And it needs what it needs.

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Watching this movie is coinciding with a deeply emotional and scarring situation in a near ones life that kind of has me connected. Talking about this is courageous and like this movie, it is indeed psychotic. These are not the areas of life people talk openly about or acknowledge. We cannot have a non biased, non judgmental discussion about these finer elements in our adult life which form the basis of how much we will be happy, how will we deal with things we do not expect or fear will happen and the ultimate fear of is-it-so-bad or ‘should I live with it’? These nuances affect us mentally thus creating patterns in our heads. They take away our trust, the need to love and be loved, if its a marriage then totally shakes our core and erupt every belief in our head. Because these damages are hard to bear, you are all alone to deal with them and unless you have strong mental strength, these can make you want to give up on life too and it does happen.

 

Long back when I first saw just how much of an entrapment it is to officially be recognized as someone’s spouse, what are the pressures that come with it and worse, what are the losses you deal with when it is all over, it is literally a rebirth. Your identity is skewed. And as a woman, it is so much more worse.

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It is here that you realize the impact of labels on your life. Much later you understand it is futile to keep fighting them. Its a personal ride. Unless one goes through, one will never know what it is like. It is also the reason that most men and women do not ever gather the courage to walk out, face things and move on in life. Thus creating a life of poison with resentment and living all their life feeling like they have no control over anything. All they do is escape temporarily to feel the air of false freedom and get others in their pity boat so that they simply do not feel alone.

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Suppressing feelings, suppressing your true expressions and forcing someone to do it should be a criminal offence. It is statistically proven to be the number one reason behind why a human being ever becomes a criminal. Its energy. Neither created nor destroyed just transferred.

This means there will be so many more victims of one relationship gone wrong and the one which is fed with poison.

And those who walk away from this valuing their sanity and letting others live should be rewarded. Because this system was never designed for you to be happy.

If you have found a way to make it work, you deserve an award too.

How many psychos are walking around us, living with us or staring down at us from the mirror everyday..  You ever think about that?

 

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Whats behind the blouse

A gem of artists came together to create this sensational song in the early 90s

Madhuri Dixit long back paved way for body positivity and sensuality.

A gem of a folk song from the 1993 blockbuster Khalnayak is ingrained in the DNA of all children and adults who had started to like the new entry of television into their life and shows like Superhit Muqabla every Sunday night 9.30pm (primetime those days) on DD Metro hosted by a few including Baba Sehgal. This show was tuned in by all of the family and the coundown of popular filmy songs was by heart on every school kid.

These names might be alien to many but they defined my childhood. So in 1993 I was in my 1st standard. One afternoon in 1991 as a small child I had the privilege to witness Madhuri Dixit dancing in the streets of D N Nagar to a Ganpati song shooting for her upcoming film. By then Dil movie had just been a favorite of us childhood buddies and that time witnessing a star and collecting their autograph was what people did.

When this song, Choli ke peeche kya hai came out, it caused a sensation all over the country. With children being scolded to even sing this catchy number, not being allowed to watch it on TV when it came. I had my parents telling me this is not for you. But the mesmerizing and addictive song that this is, it had made way into our system. Humming..’kuk, kuk..’ would invite glaring eyes of judgement. While many teenagers got a chance to actually ask the most stirring thing Indians have ever known.. whats the behind the blouse? We have always been a boob crazy nation, not to forget we love thumkas, navel,thundering thighs and even armpits.

I was kept away from watching this song. Never got to see the movie. But I kept humming the song. Now let me tell you what is this song for me? The raw beats of matka and sticks is a delight to the heartbeat coupled with flute notes and the vocals of kuk kuk. Isn’t it marvelous how amazing this song is? Madhuri Dixit’s dancing and her expressions are something no item number today can ever match.

I saw this song delighfully after many years knowing that we now sit with family in a family restaurant playing todays’ item numbers on a screen with crass lyrics, women that hardly look like women and dancing that will make aliens wonder which drug we are on. I really miss the 90s and it is an understatement.

The 90s were pure gold. They also gave you glimpse into how we Indians are culturally. The South industry had totally different yet melodious tunes and their visuals were quite unique. Shapely curvy women doing dance that only a Goddess can do, their legs, their navel, their eyes, dusky polished skin and the way they held their men.. Its a trip into a different world altogether.

We would know looking at a song which state it comes from.

Like this one below is also my all time favorite. The vocals will haunt you forever. Even as a child, I knew it was from a South Indian movie.

Main toh diwani hui sung by Lata Mangeshkar

When Choli ke Peeche came out, I was already a huge fan of Ila Arun. She was someone who was so bold in her songs and videos, she has shown a self pleasuring moment with full raw vocals early in 1990-91 picturised on a young Malaika Arora who is not 10% recognisable of what she is today way before Vidya Balan did something similar in The Dirty Picture.

Sensuality is an art. And it is something that will command your appreciation. Its almost a mirror into your soul and those who feel ashamed of it or try to subdue it are the ones who do not want to acknowledge their presence within.

Let me come back to Madhuri Dixit – Watch this song and watch her dance. No six pack abs, she has her tummy rolls rhythmically moving to her thumkas at entry. She looks like a doll with the striking local accessories from Rajasthan. She was a full figured woman whose expressions and dance at the right beat was more celebratory than whether she was in shape. And that is what I loved about her. This was all a magic of Saroj Khan who choreographed most songs back then and she did what no choreographer today will be able to do.

When she is on one leg letting her ghagra fly rhythmically to the lines.. ‘Resham ka lehenga mera, resham ka lehenga’.. I would want that same effect of that ghagra so my grandfather used his broad leather belt and tied up my mother’s blue chiffon saree to my waist so it flowed freely till my knees. I fell a couple of times trying to get that one leg move seamlessly till she does in the song while making sure my saree was popping up right. This was in a one room kitchen in Dadar when I was 6 in front of a mirror on our cupboard next to the kitchen while everyone at home went about their duties. I wonder how easily I danced and did not bother about anyone. I am equally surprised that no one stopped me.

There is a lot to thank Madhuri for. She taught that you could be graceful, sweet, sexy, act and dance at the same time. She is the only actress I can think of who, when mentioning the position of ‘Dil’ in a song touches her hand gracefully to the center of her chest instead of touching it at her thyroid like other actresses of her time or even later. This is how you love yourself in short.

Dhak Dhak girl indeed

She still makes me proud today as I fight the pressures of the world to be a certain weight, look a certain way, that my chest is too heavy and I look big in my pictures. I love it all. Can you kick your leg in circular movements in the air and let your ghagra fly. I can do that.