Fiction: Summer tragedy

Father died early this Sunday morning. He nearly died on Friday, but I’d like to think he chose Sunday.

It didn’t matter that Sunday was considered an inauspicious day for dying. There were prayers one could offer to remedy that and rituals one could undertake to correct it. And father being the religious man that he was, would have known.

It did seem like Tibetan Buddhism had too many alternatives to make up for all the wrongs in this world. That is to say, there was no situation that was so terribly wrong or so very inauspicious that a person could not somehow rectify by offering some specific prayer or carrying out a particular ritual._DSF5532

I think that’s why I like Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t understand much about emptiness or any of the grand philosophies that revolve around the mind and the existence of “I” — things I usually overhear Western Buddhists discussing at length over a cup of coffee in a roadside cafe in Dharamsala. I did, however, appreciate the fact that my faith was lenient to its followers. We could be the worst criminals in our lifetime and yet erase all wrongs just by the accumulation of good merit through the practice of pure thoughts, kind deeds, good motivation, and of course via prayer offerings. It gave me some comfort to know that father would be in a safer place after his death if we said the right prayers and followed the right rituals — all in right amounts.

I didn’t understand how long I had sat there lost in my own thought. I didn’t immediately recall how I had moved from my father’s bedside to underneath the guava tree in the vegetable garden at the back of my house. All I remember is thinking how grateful I was that he was no longer in pain.

Wherever he was, I was sure of one thing, that he was no longer confined to a bed. He was free as a bird, or at least his soul was if you want to be factually correct. My cousin, a monk, would argue that father’s “mind” is now free and that there was no such thing as a “soul.” But I couldn’t be bothered with these details. All that mattered was he was free and he was independent — just as I had always known him to be, until the last four months of his life. Wherever he was his dignity would be restored to him.

I wish I could see him now, just a peek into the world where he is now. It would remind me of how tall and dignified he looked when he stood. In his current world, he could walk and run and jump and hop and stretch and exercise — all on his own. I wondered whether the Gods above would hear me if I prayed earnestly for just a fleeting glance into his new world. Surely they with all their supernatural powers could sense the intensity with which I wanted this. Surely, the many Gods, Goddesses and deities of Tibet – that the first-generation Tibetans had invited from Tibet when they settled in India – would be kind to me after sending me to four months of living hell.

I sat engrossed in my doubts, unaware of my surroundings yet again. I don’t know how long I sat there that way, my thoughts coursing through all the incidents in the last four months that had reshaped the role of my family members.

After father’s health had worsened, Mother and I had fallen into a ritual. She and I would be up every morning at 5. Mother would cook breakfast and lunch, while I swept the floors and did the rest of the cleaning around the house. I’d clean out father’s urine bag and then prepare to change his diapers. On his bedside table, I’d lay out all the necessary items — a huge ball of cotton, two pairs of gloves, a bottle of scented talcum powder, a bottle of liquid disinfectant, a clean rubber sheet, two clean bed sheets, one clean adult diaper, a mug of lukewarm water, and ointments to treat bed sores. Once Mother and I were both through with our cooking and cleaning around the house, we would hover around father’s bed to change his diapers and get him cleaned up.

By the end of the first week, we were almost as good if not better than the ward boys in the hospital who had first showed us the technique of changing diapers. After more than three months of practice, Mother and I had gotten almost mechanical in the way we went about the task. Father always told visiting friends and family that he was perhaps the cleanest patient one would ever find. And it was true. After every such session of cleaning and changing diapers, we gave father a sponge bath and sprinkled so much scented powder on him and on the bed linen that the room would smell much like a flower garden.

This used to be the best part of my day – seeing father in clean clothes, with all his scented powder glory and devoid of the pungent odour one expects from a bedridden patient. I had loved slicking his hair back with a comb after giving it a wash. Mother and I would then carry father on to his wheelchair and wheel him into the veranda facing our tiny garden in the front. Sometimes, father asked to see the vegetable garden at the back of our house and he’d comment on how negligent we were for not plucking the fruit from the guava tree or using the lettuce for our meals.

We’d lay out his breakfast for him as he sat there watching the guava tree or the vegetable garden overgrown with weeds. “Don’t feed me,” he’d say each time Mother or I brought the spoon of porridge to his lips. He’d snatch the spoon from our hand and lay the bowl of porridge on his lap and the cup of Tibetan butter tea he so loved on the table we had set by his side. It was as if he was fighting for independence by seizing every opportunity there was to do something on his own. And so he always brushed his own teeth, taking a little longer than necessary, if only to enjoy the satisfaction of having accomplished a task by himself. But eating was something he enjoyed most, or at least appeared to, taking hours on end to finish a simple bowl of porridge.

As he ate, he’d talk about lands he’d never set his eyes on again and dreams of returning to a home that he had once hastily escaped from. He spoke over and over again about the beauty of the life he had known before his escape to India. He’d smile as he thought of the places and faces from that other life — a smile so radiant and peaceful that it made me wonder how beautiful a past it must have been to make a dying man look so alive and happy, if only for a few seconds or minutes.

Towards the end, I had gotten used to the whole ritual of cleaning, bathing, dressing and feeding father; maybe started to enjoy it even. And yet, I occasionally felt annoyed that my life had been reduced to this. Being a teacher at the local school may not amount to much but in the small town I lived in, it had._DSF5031

In the days following father’s illness, I had had to take time away from life as I had known it. My days no longer started with the sound of children’s laughter as they played outside the classrooms before the morning assembly, no quarrels or fights to settle, nor were there any bells ringing to warn me that an hour had passed and another was starting. In the world of my father’s illness, time stood still, it seemed and yet, time raced us by.

Sometimes I was afraid father sensed my bitterness and anger. But I wasn’t angry with him. I was only angry with the world for changing course so quickly and without warning.

Mother always used to pray earnestly for good health. It was one thing I had had difficulty understanding.

She’d say, “As long as ill health does not befall any of us, I will never ask our Gods and deities for anything else.”

I always thought it was a weird prayer. Why not pray for a mansion, a house full of servants and two or three chauffeur-driven cars. Hell, why not ask for enough money to offer all those expensive prayer ceremonies that Mother held every year. Sometimes even twice a year. Nevertheless, I think I understand now — after months of living life in and out of hospitals and worrying if the money we had left in our bank accounts would be enough to buy us more time. After all that, I could see why Mother had prayed so earnestly for good health.

So now that ill health had befallen one of us, it seemed all we did was clean, worry, eat, feed and cook. And yet, each time father reminded us it was time to eat the fruit from the guava tree or weed the vegetable garden, we were reminded of how little time we had. It was as if the tree and the grass were growing faster than ever just from the knowledge that we had no time to tend to them. Suddenly we had too much of everything we didn’t want — too many guavas and so few mouths to eat, too much grass and no help on hand to cut them, and now too many packets of adult diapers and no one to make use of them.

If father returned for another month, we could use up all the adult diapers in the remaining packets. I could wake up at 3 in the morning if I had to, or maybe even 2 to get an early head start. I would even pluck all the guava trees by torchlight, going at it every morning until that tree was stripped bare of all its fruit; cook him a meal with the fresh lettuce leaves from the garden; and uproot the weeds in the garden until no grass would ever grow on that patch. All so father could die in peace.

But father was in peace. Or at least that’s what the prayers will be for. Or that’s what they say the prayers are for.

Already the air reverberated with the sounds of monks chanting, drums beating, bells ringing and cymbals clashing. The deafening noise they created was strangely comforting. They drowned out the noise in my head, crushed the anguish in my heart and blocked my thoughts from wandering.

Strangely, it was me who felt at peace. Only the sight of the ripe yellow guavas hanging from the tree and smell of the overgrown weeds disturbed the tranquillity in the vegetable garden this summer morning.

All of a sudden, I heard a voice from a distance. “Why are you here by yourself?” asked the voice — so distant it could have been coming from another world.

“You must go into the house. They will need you for the rituals,” said the voice.

I searched for the source of the voice. A face looked down at me. I had seen that face before. Perhaps at a prayer meeting. Perhaps the face belonged to a parent of a student of mine. Perhaps from another life.

The face stared down at me but all I saw were the ripe guavas hanging from the tree in the background and heard the grass swishing in the morning breeze. “I can’t go in. I have to stay,” I told the face.

“I must pluck all the guavas before it is too late,” I murmured, eyeing the bright yellow fruits that seemed to be screaming out to me for help as they dangled from the swollen tree.

“I must weed this garden before summer ends,” I said.


Monthly blog spotlight: Simply Tibetan, Simply Delicious

I’ve been following this wonderful blog called Simply Tibetan, Simply Delicious, and I think you should too.

Simply Tibetan has a wonderful collection of recipes of unique and yet-familiar Tibetan dishes, including the tsampa, the Tibetan staple diet made of barley or wheat, and momo, another popular Tibetan dish.

A Tibetan lady preparing her bowl of tsampa

A Tibetan lady preparing her bowl of tsampa

The author artfully weaves together personal accounts of her own experiences with Tibetan food and cooking in all the recipes on her blog, proving without doubt the significance of food in one’s effort to preserve one’s rich and unique traditions and memories in a foreign land.

STSD, who appears to have been blogging since 2008, has over the years shared a wide assortment of recipes, roping in friends and family in this inspiring enterprise. There’s even one on a Tibetan snack called khapsey, where the major part of the preparation (and eating) was done by the author’s son and his friend.

And yet, it is the author’s narratives and personal stories that bring the recipes to life, allowing the reader a taste of an original Tibetan kitchen amid all the modernity — in that Tibetan cooking essentially calls for a strong perception in terms of duration and measurements rather than defining clear specifications on either of these two essentials of modern-day cooking. Nonetheless, the author is able to effectively balance the two in her posts, even acknowledging this truth in her momo post.

So take a moment and try any of these fabulous recipes, and your home will be filled with the rich aroma of Tibetan cooking.

Of pregnancy and beliefs

Delivering a child in Tibetan circles is serious business. But even then, there’s an underlying humor in the beliefs and traditions that you just cannot miss.

“Tsokpa mashor-wa chey,” friends and well-wishers from afar would say over the phone. “Be careful to avoid impurities.”

Impurities were generally certain foods, particularly pork.

“Lo los,” I’d respond. “Sure.”

And yet, there was an underlying belief that in consuming the impure foods, you run the risk of changing the baby’s gender, mainly from a he to a she. My husband and I told everyone that was impossible. The science of development would have no way of explaining a gender change in the eighth month of pregnancy.

Still, the belief was too deep-rooted to change and could warrant a separate post by itself.

In another interesting anecdote, Amala, my mother, recounted, in all seriousness, that expecting mothers in Tibet would gulp a blob of blessed butter shortly before delivery and that at delivery, the newborn infant would emerge from his mother’s womb, successfully carrying the blob of blessed butter on his head.

When my husband and I laughed, refusing to believe this was possible, my mum told us she’d get people who had actually experienced this to corroborate her story. And rightly enough, there was an old neighbour who said her first child came out with the butter and that the nurses in the labour room had poked fun. There was also a friend of my mother’s, a mother of eight. She too knew this to be true, as a few of her kids hadn’t come into this world empty-handed (or would it be empty-headed).

We didn’t really buy that story but fortunately, or maybe not-so-fortunately, for me, I wasn’t made to prove if this age-old tradition still holds true.

My mum speaks Tinglish! (Part 1)

“Please heat that in the ‘micro-gate’,” Amala said one fine Sunday morning.

My husband stopped fidgeting with his maze of wires that I think secretly, or maybe not-so-secretly, defines his life. He looked at my mum with a bewildered expression on his face, unsure if he had heard right.

Jan 14“Kha-rey sung-way, Amala,” I asked. (“What did you say, mum?”)

“Micro-gate,” she replied matter-of-factly!

My face returned a blank expression, to which she explained, “Could you heat my tea in garr-garr?”

I burst out laughing, to be joined wholeheartedly in this laughing spree by my husband who had finally understood what my mum was trying to say. We were, in turn, joined by Amala who realized she had spoken in her own Tibetanized version of English or Tinglish, as most like to call it.

So, thus, the great microwave became “micro-gate”, also synonymous with  “garr-garr,” according to my mother, who was very intelligently referring to the sound my microwave makes (clearly, a sign that it is not a very well-functioning one).

Nevertheless, ever since that fine Sunday morning, the microwave in my house has been rechristened “micro-gate,” or more lovingly known as “garr-garr.”

Choe-khang or prayer house, a Tibetan’s oasis

The all-too-familiar and much-loved smell of burnt juniper leaves welcomes you to the Choe-khang or prayer room of any Tibetan home — the oasis of any Tibetan.

Jan 7Inside, the gods and goddesses of Tibet look down at you from beautifully hand-painted Thangkas, where some assume peaceful expressions, while others appear more wrathful. They also smile at you from gold-painted statues that have been adorned with silk and precious stones.

Each statue is placed in the altar in the order of their importance, with the main statue of the Buddha either in the center or at the beginning of the line. At the foot of this comforting sight of the gold-plated statues are seven silver bowls of water offerings or yonjop, an offering made every morning and taken down before sunset. Between these bowls of water offerings are butter lamps, their flames illuminating the faces of the Gods, as if infusing life into the statues and willing them to assume a human form. At the end of the seven bowls of water offerings is a small bowl filled with tea — another daily offering of the first drops of tea for that day, following which the tea is finally served to members of the family.

Next to the altar is a wooden case with rows of pejas or Tibetan scriptures neatly stacked one atop another. At the end of the altar is a yang-gam or a chest of treasures/fortune.

Amid all of these treasures of Tibetan Buddhism, you can’t help but feel at peace — with the world, with yourself — each time you step into a Tibetan Choe-khang.

The luxury that is blogging…

Writing a blog is a luxury. And I learned that the hard way.

When you start writing a blog, you mostly do so with some very lofty ambitions. And if you are obsessively organized like me, you also create a blog publishing schedule, writing your pieces around this predetermined structure. Of course, if you are always pursuing perfection and order, you are even more likely to take into account possible scenarios or days when you may not be able to meet your own publishing schedule. So you save some pieces for those “rainy days,” in the hope that you quickly outlive that particular or series of ‘abnormal’ circumstances that hamper your normal routine; in the hope that you are fortunate enough to be able to quickly go back to life as you knew it and resume your regular publishing schedule.

And yet, the dead and the dying may have other plans for you — distorting all your meticulously designed plans and teaching you, instead, that normalcy and the mundane are sometimes a luxury that most cannot afford.

And so it was! In the weeks of November and December, no week resembled another. My family was either saying our goodbyes to dying relatives, or being there for friends who had lost their dear ones and, in that respect, grieving for those dear ones who were also our friends, or remembering our own losses, those we faced each year for three consecutive years.

So, when my friend playfully reprimanded me with the words “19 November,” I quickly defended my stance knowing she was referring to the date of my most recently published post. She told me she understood, but that exchange left me thinking about life and death, and normalcy and change.

For Tibetans, being “tem-po” or consistent (not the other meaning: risk averse) is considered one of the greatest virtues a person can have. Whole families are known by this characteristic and lauded for it. Being tem-po meant you were reliable at all times, that you were rock-solid — there through thick and thin. A tem-po person isn’t overly in awe when you suddenly become the next Prime Minister of a country or do the opposite, by turning his back on you when you suddenly lose all your fortunes. A tem-po person is just that, tem-po/consistent, through it all.

No darkness outlasts the sun that follows it

No darkness outlasts the sun that follows it

And so, as the new year dawns, I find myself hoping that I am a tem-po person in the blogging world. That I gain your trust and appreciation for not disappearing during the “rainy days,” for not letting change or ‘abnormal’ circumstances get the better of my blogging and that I keep writing and sharing.


PS — Special shout outs to my blogging community for all the sharing this year. Thanks particularly to my early friends in the blogging world: Qwerty Chronicles and Perelin Colors.

Appealing for unity through song

The Tibetan Song of Unity, first sung by Sherten in 2010, was a song that displayed the Tibetan people’s intrepid spirit in the face of China’s strong clampdown on all things Tibetan.

Please click here for the link to that beautiful song…Enjoy the lovely music! (The lyrics is given below.)

The Sound of Unity by Sherten
(Translation by High Peaks Pure Earth)

Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang all belong to the same family
We have a common destiny

Let’s all blossom together like flowers
Hand in hand in harmony

Hand in hand in harmony
Let’s step forwards

If you care about the future of our nationality
All three provinces should unite

Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang all belong to the same family
We have a common destiny

Tibetans of the land of snows
Unite as one!

Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang all belong to the same family
We have a common destiny

Hand in hand in harmony
Let’s step forwards

Starting afresh…

Two young monks playing together in a monastery

Two young monks playing together in a monastery

I met my cousin, Lobsang, a monk, for the first time at a prayer meeting, more than a decade ago. Jho-la (or brother), who was in his early twenties at the time, had escaped from Tibet into exile barely a year ago.

In the Tibetan world, it is not uncommon to hear stories of reunions among family members at the most unlikeliest of places. However, Tibetans, being devout Buddhists, were more likely to have such reunions during Buddhist teachings or at Buddhist holy sites which see Tibetans pilgrims from all over the world.

My family and I met Jho-la at one such prayer meeting. At the time, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was teaching at one of the large monasteries in South India and my family was there with thousands of other Tibetans to receive the initiations.

Tibetan Buddhist teachings usually last several days, as the teacher imparts knowledge on whole texts written by the Buddhist masters of the Nalanda school. A large majority of the devotees who receive these initiations are monks and nuns. These teachings are scheduled several months or even years in advance, thus allowing the monks and other lay devotees to plan their travel in advance.

Like most monasteries, the monks from Jho-la’s monastery had all traveled down to South India together to attend the teachings. My mother knew the abbot of that monastery, who, in turn, through his conversations with my brother had somehow ascertained that Jho-la was a relative of my mother’s. He, of course, came to this conclusion after finding out Jho-la’s family name (Tibetans have family names, rather than surnames); finding out his place of origin; checking if he knew the names of my mother’s family; and verifying certain details about their life to determine if Jho-la was in fact related to my mother. And he was!

I was very excited to meet Jho-la! Being the teenager that I was and having read too many Russian novels at the time, I saw this almost as a dramatic meeting of families, who had, thus far, been torn apart or made to exist separately because of the tough political conditions in one’s own country. And it was in a way true!

During that first meeting, my father and mother asked Jho-la a lot of questions about folks back in Tibet and of his plans to study Buddhism in India. We sat for several hours on end, with my parents mostly doing the asking and Jho-la answering all of their many queries. Sometimes, the answers were long, drawn-out explanations of the changes that had occurred — to people and places — and at other times, the answers were shorter, crisper, as though Jho-la was almost unwilling to say too much.

I sat quietly in a corner during this exchange. Occasionally, Jho-la turned to me and asked me a question — Do you go to school? Where do you study? Do they teach you Tibetan in your school? How far away is your school? How old are you?

Each time the questions came my way, I responded enthusiastically. But soon it was time to leave; I nudged at my father’s Chuba (Tibetan traditional robe) and slipped into his hand a crisp 500 Indian Rupee note that was my pocket money at the time. My father understood. He added a few more notes of his own to my 500 and gave that to Jho-la, with a plea that he reach out to us if he ever needed anything. After all, we were really the only family or the closest to it that he had in exile!

We said our goodbyes and promised Jho-la that we would visit him at his monastery in North India, whenever we were traveling in the area. My parents and I had walked a couple of steps ahead, when I ran back, asked for a book to scribble on and a pen to write with, and hastily wrote down our home address. You see, the internet and mobile phones weren’t yet the rage then as they are now.

Rightly enough, a year later, a letter came home from Jho-la, announcing that he had moved monasteries and was now closer home to his new family in exile.

The fortuitous impact of small acts of kindness


I grew up in exile without ever having met a single Uncle or Aunt from either of my parents side. Both my parents had brothers and sisters, who in turn had large families, back in Tibet. Still, after their escape into exile — separately, when they were much younger — in the 1960s and 70s, they lost all contact with their families until the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping decided to open up the borders and loosen the Chinese government’s tight hold over border security.

My Pa-la (father) went to Tibet then. He was reunited with his brothers and sisters for the first time since escaping to exile. My parents had saved up some money, from which my father took some back to Tibet. Before his trip home, he told me he bought two bicycles in Nepal to take to Tibet, bags of warm clothes and swathes of cloth to gift his large family and an ever larger circle of friends and well wishers. For his sisters, he bought soaps — soaps were a rarity in Tibet and considered quite a luxury to own before the Chinese invasion (and probably for a long while after too, given the Cultural Revolution and its impact on the social-economic conditions of Tibetans). For his brothers, he bought several “Western” watches, which were very popular, and yet hard to come by, in Tibet. (I’m not sure if the brand was called “Western”, or if this was just another instance of a Tibetan mispronouncing a non-Tibetan word and never really bothering to find out what the original word was/is.)

During that trip home, Pa-la met my maternal Uncles and Aunts, or my Ashang-la(s) and Somo-la(s), for the first time too. He went to my mother’s home in Tibet and introduced himself to them as my Ama-la’s husband. Pa-la was also reunited with his brothers and sisters, my Agu-la(s) and Ani-la(s).

There, at his home, he learned of the many changes that his family had been subjected to — changes that struck them too swiftly and too cruelly, without warning. As my grandfather, my Popo-la, had passed away before the Chinese invasion, my father’s eldest brother automatically became the next head of the house; following the invasion of Tibet and my Pa-la’s escape into exile, Pa-la’s eldest brother was accused for belonging to an aristocratic family and was subsequently, subjected to tham-zing, or public struggle sessions, in community centers and finally, imprisoned and tortured in prison. However, when Pa-la made his first trip to Tibet from exile, his eldest brother was back home from spending several years in prison and recounted many a tale of the horrors of Chinese prisons.

Pa-la also learned of how his brothers and sisters, and their families, were ostracized by the rest of the community, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, in keeping with the new government’s policy of ridding the Tibetan society of aristocracy and serfdom. To be sure, Pa-la’s family owned large pockets of land for cultivation and had entire families living on the lands owned by his family — these families, in turn, worked on these lands, although the arrangement with Pa-la’s family wasn’t on the condition of bondage. Many of these people, who had earlier worked for Pa-la’s family, later became the local government heads, appointed by the Chinese government in their effort to get rid of the old ways –“serfdom” — and in its place, install “the new fours” — new customs, new cultures, new habits and new ideas. Ironically, many of these newly-appointed local heads, who previously worked for Pa-la’s family, were lenient towards the family and would, in fact, secretly warn the family ahead of any raids or arrests that were likely to take place at their house, going so far as to offer tips on how best to avoid arrests and suggestions on where they could hide certain things — areas where the local heads would be sure to refrain from checking during the raids.

So, Pa-la heard about all the kind acts that were meted out to his brothers and sisters by the new local heads — several of whom pointed out that their kindness was mainly a reflection of the kindness that Pa-la had extended to their families each time they were in dire need of help.

For Pa-la, that first trip home from exile was a great reminder of what little acts of kindness could do and how you eventually, albeit indirectly, reap the rewards of being compassionate towards every sentient being. Pa-la found happiness in knowing that despite the physical distance, he was still able to make a positive difference to the lives of his brothers and sisters during their most difficult time of existence.

Everyday Lhakar!

Today is Lhakar. It literally translates into White Wednesday, signifying the Dalai Lama’s soul day.

Lhakar is also a day that Tibetans everywhere have dedicated to committing acts of self reliance as part of the Lhakar movement — the Tibetan people’s grassroot movement that is based on the principles of non-violence and self-reliance.

Around the world, on Wednesday, Tibetans are asserting their identity through various acts of non violence and resistance. Tibetan communities in various corners of the world — be it Nangchen in Tibet, or New York in the US or Dharamsala in India — are making it a point to hold weekly gatherings on a Wednesday as part of the Lhakar movement to collectively “do something Tibetan.”

Tibetans are "Tibetian(s)" according to the Indian-government-issued registration certificate or RC book given to every Tibetan refugee in India

Tibetans are “Tibetian(s)” according to the Indian-government-issued registration certificate or RC book given to every Tibetan refugee in India

Tibetans are using this movement to express their pride in being Tibetan, through eating or cooking Tibetan food, speaking the Tibetan language, learning a Tibetan prayer, or wearing the Tibetan traditional dress. Many have taken to blogging sites to make Lhakar pledges of actions they will take to assert their identity.

On the face of it, many of these acts are simple, everyday ones — acts that we may otherwise take for granted. However, when these simple actions come together to form a part of a larger global movement, such as this one, they become immensely significant, relevant and hence, that much more impactful.

In keeping with the Lhakar movement, I have decided to change my blog post publishing timing to Wednesday, instead of Thursday.

Still, that does not change my belief that, for a Tibetan, every day is Lhakar — and hence, every day warrants a Lhakar act.