Monday, 10 December 2018

chapter 8: SHALL WE DANCE?


Frustrated, she threw her soggy towel at his direction but he caught it just in time as the other dancers laughed and applauded at the flirtatious session in front of their eyes. Their dance classes had never been so entertaining.

A tight lipped Riddhima, swallowed her pride and anger. "Come on guys! We don't have time to waste…..let's go ahead with the practices."

With a victorious grin on his face, Armaan confidently took his position in the center of the studio and stretched his hand towards Riddhima, "I am ready…..if you are."

Reluctantly, she gave him her hand with flared nostrils and clenched jaws, "let's go ahead and get it over with….Naina please turn the music on."

With a smirk on his face, Armaan clasped her hand gently and whispered, "I bet you are just dying to dance with me."

"I'd be caught dead before I have any such desires!" She snapped back.

"Oh..Oh that could be a problem then," he gave her one of his sweeping gazes; "it would be hard to sway to the dance number with a dead body."

"SHUT UP AND DANCE!" She ordered and was soon back on her toes as the music started playing.

"YES MA'AM!" He grinned.

They went on to practice the dance three more times as the other dancers and observers stayed glued with dumbstruck expressions. Each practice was better than the previous. Even though, Armaan in his excitement stepped on her feet a few times, she never winced or made a big deal out of it. Whether she overlooked his mistakes or just wanted to get over with it, Armaan was thrilled that she seemed unperturbed by his mistakes. To his surprise, her expression mellowed down with each subsequent practice-gone was the fire that had seared him before, he noticed that behind that wall of invincibility, there was a tender, soft and vulnerable expression hidden in her eyes. Her eyes had always captivated him, but while dancing together, they actually spoke to him- a language he had never spoken to anyone before.

"BRAVO! YAY! AWESOME!" Everyone cheered again at the end of the session.

Finally, their practice was over. They had no time to rehearse the second group dance as it was time for Rhea's class.

Rhea ran into the studio and hugged Armaan, "good job uncle!"

Armaan bent down and to Rhea and Riddhima's surprise, planted a kiss on her cheek, "thanks Rhea….you are the best teacher!"

Riddhima was both startled and pleasantly surprised. Armaan and Rhea seemed to have formed a bond in the few days they had spent together. She knew from her phone calls to Rhea, that Armaan had taken decent care of her, but his display of affection was certainly a surprise. As she wiped her sweat off, she wondered what Armaan had just said about being the 'best teacher.'

Armaan picked his shirt and towel, "that was some work out Ms Riddhima," and walked towards a perspiring Riddhima.

"This is serious business……bachchon ka khel nahin hai," she retorted.

"Like cricket?" He chuckled.

She couldn't help smiling back as he took a jibe at his own profession, "I didn't say that……I know you are a hard worker… koi.."

"Gilli-danda ka khel nahin hai?" He completed her sentence.

She was about to laugh out loud, but then restrained herself. Her smile faded, "so you are using Rhea to learn dance? You love using people don't you?"

Armaan noticed how she has purposely suppressed her laughter. Why did she keep the doors to her real self locked? He could tell she had a good sense of humor and even knew how to laugh at herself, but was she trying to create an artificial barrier between them? His experience with women told him that she responded favorably to his touch. The pulse on her neck hastened and the color of her cheeks deepened each time he came close to her during the dance. She would probably dismiss it to the aerobic workout from the dance, but being an athlete himself, he could recognize the difference.

Rhea interjected and pulled on Riddhima's arm, "nahin aunty! We have a contract! He is teaching me how to read in exchange……even mama could not teach me how to read but Armaan uncle can,…..because he has dyslexia too!"

Riddhima was taken aback at the unexpected twist in the story; Nikita had never mentioned anything about Armaan's reading woes-perhaps she herself did not know. She knew how frustrated Rhea's teachers had been with her. If it were not for dance, Rhea would have been in the doldrums by now especially with her turbulent life experiences at such a tender age.

"Oh…..really? Thanks…for doing that," she nodded and then stepped back, "come on girls…apni apni positions le lo….and all adults," she glanced at Armaan with the corner of her eyes, "can now leave!"

Armaan grinned at her thanks, and then waved at them, "Rhea….I have to go….Teddy will pick you up later."

"Bye uncle!"

Armaan stepped out and as usual was surrounded by autograph-enthusiasts in the lobby. Anjali, standing at the main entrance was meanwhile distributing enrollment forms to a lot of new dance enrollees. The enrollment to the dance studio had gone up in the two days since Armaan had stepped into the studio. He was her golden hen-rather golden rooster for her! She flashed him an ear to ear smile as he managed to escape her clutches, "Got to go Anji!"


That evening, an emergency meeting was called by the BCCI (Cricket board of India). Armaan, Atul and the rest of the team gathered in the office behind closed doors and a hushed silence. Although media and reporters stood outside the office, no one knew what the emergency was about. There were speculations about Atul being replaced as captain, or some other key played being dropped on the eve of the Sri Lanka series, but everyone knew it was something important.

"I am sorry to have asked you all to gather here a day before the series starts," the BCCI chief addressed the players.

"Unfortunately, the Government of India has decided to call off the series with Sri Lanka at the last minute." He continued.

"WHAT?" All the players were stunned, "lekin kyun?"

"Apparently, the Sri Lankan govt has issued some anti Govt statements regarding the whole Tamil Tigers issue… know how much I hate politics… in a nutshell….we all are free for the next six weeks…..enjoy the time with your families……..practice….get in shape for the next series with England."

All the players were disappointed, except one. Armaan smiled inwardly and looked up at the ceiling to thank the almighty. Six weeks of no cricket matches meant six weeks of nonstop dance practices with madam Riddhima! Although he had committed to the dance competition, he had been dreading how he would manage the grueling travel schedule of the various cricket matches and his practices. He was convinced that it was more than a mere coincidence that Rhea and Riddhima had stepped into his life. He had always been a master of his own destiny, but today, he had to admit that someone else had taken over the controls.

"In that case guys…..let's take a couple of weeks off and then re group in Delhi ahead of the England series….what do you think Armaan?" Atul asked.

An absent minded Armaan fumbled a little, "Uh..oh…yes of course….whatever you say Atul…..I second your decision."

If cancellation of the cricket series was a shocker, then Armaan being agreeable and not argumentative with his captain was the eighth wonder of the world for all the players! They all had noticed that Armaan had changed over the last few days- he had avoided late night parties, was friendlier, smiled more and was less cocky than his usual self. They had all heard about his charitable intentions towards a dance studio in the recent press release by Muskaan. Initially, no one had believed what Muskaan had said in the press, but now it looked more plausible.

"Thanks Armaan," Atul patted Armaan's back, "I will call you later."


"In fact…..why don't we all have dinner together someday….Radhika would love to meet Rhea again."

'Sure….sounds like a plan…..let me check Rhea's dance schedule….and I will let you know," Armaan shook Atul's hand and then took leave.

"Dance schedule?" Atul raised his eyebrows after Armaan left and then wondered, "yeh dance mein kuch zyaada hi dilchaspi le raha hai….Muskaan se poonchna padhega ki maazra kya hai?"


As a jubilant Armaan drove back from the meeting, he remembered he had forgotten his gym bag at the dance studio that afternoon. "Hmm….9 O'clock!" He checked his watch,"Dance studio tho bandh hoga…..chalo kal pick kar loonga." Even though, he had resigned on picking his bag the next day, for some weird reason he steered the car towards the studio just in case someone was still there.

He parked the car in a quiet alley and then looked up, "studio ki lights tho ON hain….hmm matlab koi hai wahan…..let me check." He took the stairs to the studio, his heart palpitating in anticipation as he wished it was Riddhima and not the chipkali Anjali. If it was Riddhima, he was ready for another show down with her, although she had been nice to him after the last dance practice.

For some reason, he loved confrontations with Riddhima- they were always intense but rousing.

 Rousing in a different manner- not the sexual type that he had experienced with a lot of women in his life-those were usually temporary and lasted a few kisses or a few encounters in the bedroom, but with Riddhima he felt another type of connection. It was almost as if she had touched a part of him, no woman had ever managed to do so before. It was not his body or his virile hormones alone- it was much deeper and lasting. She had always been very honest and candid with him. Her candor is what attracted him the most. Never had she tried to impress him nor tried to take advantage of his celebrity status- on the contrary, he thought, being a star was a deterrent. She hated him for what he had done to Nikita, but her hatred is what he so desperately wanted to change… something else… acceptance? To friendship? Or to love?

Love? He chuckled as he climbed the stairs. " Naa! That's too heavy a term….let me just have fun with her…..take her up as a challenge…..see if I can melt her like the other women I have had in my life…..aakhir uske dil par jo itna badha lock lagaa hua hai….uski chaabhi kahin tho milegi mujhey."

Meanwhile, Riddhima had stayed back at the studio after all the dance classes were over. There was uneasiness inside her that she had not been able to explain all day.  She knew that her stress level would probably get worse if she went home now……her mother's impending gall-bladder surgery, her cranky father in the wheel chair always worrying about how to make ends meet with his Government pension and Riddhima's salary as a dance teacher, her selfish older brother buried in his Phd thesis rather than trying to shoulder the financial burden and her younger twin siblings in 12th grade, too busy preparing for their boards!

Some days she dreaded going home as she knew they would all have the same question…..kya audition mein paas huyi? Tumhari salary kab badh rahi hai? Dance competition jeet gaye tho kitna paisa milega? Being the oldest daughter, she had always taken her responsibilities seriously and expected others to do the same too. She did not mind working hard or be the sole earning member in their household; she just hated being taken advantage of. Her family, instead of being the loving cocoon where she looked forward to going after work, had lately become a source of strain and tension for her. It seemed like everyone was trying to take advantage of her- no one cared for her as a person. It was all about money- that's what her family wanted and that's what her employer wanted! Yes, she was lured by being offered more money for undertaking Armaan as a student, but somewhere deep inside, she was unhappy with the way things were shaping out.

 There was only one stress buster for her- DANCE! As far as she could remember, she had always loved to dance. Even as a child, when she had a difficult exam coming up or her family situation became too hard to handle, or her lecherous chacha made lewd advances at her when she had hit her teen years, it was dance that she found refuge in. Dance classes did not count. It was the meditative kind of dance, that almost all consuming kind of dance that she always did behind closed doors in seclusion that gave solace to her chaotic mind.

Why did she feel this way today? It was a regular day with lots of dance classes, obnoxious Anjali, overzealous parents of her students, and ARMAAN! Yes, it was him! His disturbing presence had hounded her all day even after he had gone. It was not his intimidating personality, but his menacing gazes, his touch, his smug expression, his exotic aftershave, his strong and firm body against her supple one when they swayed together, that had created havoc inside her. That is not how it was supposed to be. He was supposed to be despising and repulsive. He had betrayed her dear friend Nikita, and here she was almost craving and obsessing over him.

'LAANAT HAI TUMPAR RIDDHIMA!" She yelled at herself and then inserted an old CD from one of her favorite dance movies, 'Flashdance' and tried to recreate the maniacal dance moves of Jennifer Beal and lose herself for a few moments.

Here is the original video from the movie with Jennifer Beal sung by Michael Sembello called 'Maniac':

Just a Steel-Town girl on a saturday night
Lookin for the fight of her life
In the real time world no one sees her at all
They all say she's crazy

Lockin rythms to the beat of her heart
Changing moment into light
She has danced into the danger zone
When the dancer becomes the dance

It can cut you like a knife
If the gift becomes the fire
All the while you're stuck between
What's will and what will be

She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
And she's dancing like she never danced before
She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
And she's dancing like she never danced before

On the ice-filled line of sanity
It's a place most never see
It's a hard-won place of mystery
You can touch it but can't hold it

You work all your life for that moment in time
It can come or pass you by
It's a push of the world but there's always a chance
If the hunger stays alive

There's a cold kenetic heat
Struggling, stretching for the beat
Never stopping
With her hair against the wind


la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la

(instrumental break)

It can cut you like a knife
If the gift becomes the fire
All the while you're stuck between
What's will and what will be

She's a maniac, maniac at your door
And she's dancing like she never danced before
She's a maniac, maniac at your door
And she's dancing like she never danced before

Armaan stood motionless outside the window as she gyrated and sweated out her mental turmoil through the fast paced number. He had never seen this almost maniacal form of Riddhima. It was as captivating as all her other avatars.

After the dance was over, he quietly stepped in to pick his gym bag. A panting and drenched Riddhima was stunned to see him at the door at this hour. Their eyes locked momentarily as he swept his gaze over her. She covered her bare shoulders with her towel and averted her eyes. He gawked at her silently and the picked his bag, "I just came to pick my bag."

"I didn't realize you were here." She replied softly.

"Me too…..I didn't mean to disturb you."

"That's OK…..I was about to leave." She gathered her things and headed towards the door.

"Why? Why are you so hard on yourself?" He asked.

'What do you mean?" She paused.

"The way you were dancing….it was almost as if you were trying to punish yourself."

"Dance is meditation for me…..not a punishment."

"Why do you need to meditate at this hour? I know I have worked out hard at times when I have been upset about something…..or if I didn't have a good day on the field….or if I had a fight with someone…….tumhari kya pareshaani hai Ms Riddhima?" He sounded genuinely concerned.

"Excuse me…..I need to change and then catch the 9.30 bus," she bolted without replying.

Armaan hung his bag on his shoulder and wondered, "iski sab se badhi pareshaani shayad main hi hoon." With a smug expression, he descended the stairs and decided to wait for her.

She had changed into a churidaar suit and flew out the doors of the studio, sprinting as fast as she could to catch her bus. Armaan ran after her, "excuse me….can I give you a ride?"

Startled, she turned her neck, "tum? Abhi yahin ho?"

"Haan socha ki agar poore din maine tumhein itna pareshaan kiya hai…tho kuch sukoon bhi de doon," he grinned.

"Tumhein kis ne kaha ki tum meri pareshaani ki wajah ho…….aur waise bhi main pareshaan nahin hoon….I don't need any sympathy from you."

"I am just offering a ride……not sympathy madam."

"I am fine Mr Armaan Malik……aadat hai mujhey bus mein jaane ki."

"Ok…whatever," he shrugged his shoulders and headed towards his car. Patiently, he sat in his car, keeping an eye on the bus stop and Riddhima. A few minutes later, to his joy, it started drizzling. He started his car and inched it slowly towards the bus stop.

"TAXI HAAZIR HAI MADAM!" He stuck his face out and grinned at her.

"Tum? Tum abhi yahin ho?" She hollered back, the downpour drowning her voice.

"Haan……tum jaisi ladkiyon ko pareshaan karna meri aadat hai," he laughed.

There were no signs of her 9.30 bus and the rain was coming down hard now, but her pride would never let her sit in his car.

"Bimaar ho jaaogi teacher sahiba…….apne student ki guru dakshina samajh kar hi aa jaaiye car mein," he folded his hands this time and pleaded.

"Guru dakshina?" she asked.

"Jee teacher sahiba…..aap meri guru hain na?" he chided.

She couldn't help chuckling at his innocent pout and folded hands, "theek hai…lekin main bahut door rehti hoon yahan se."

He jumped off the car, took her bag and held the door wide open for her, "further the better." He muttered.

'What?" She asked as she sat on the passenger side with a loud squishy sound from her wet kurta.


"Here…..she wrote it for him….Pitampura bahut door hai yahan se."

"Koi baat nahin…..I am used to long commutes," he smiled and then took off in the rain.

An awkward silence filled the air between them. While dancing their eyes spoke to each other, but on the dark wet road, they acted like perfect strangers.

Finally, Armaan decided to thaw the ice between them, "tell me more about Rhea."

Taken by surprise, Riddhima relaxed a bit and then broke out into a conversation with him. He seemed to have a genuine interest in Rhea, thought Riddhima. That was very unlike the impression Nikita had painted about him.

They stopped at a red light, where the faint street lights filtered through the car windows and lit up her face. He gazed at her beautiful face and then startled, "MAKKHI!"

'MAKKHI? KAHAN HAI MAKKHI?" She jumped up.

"Yahan," he pointed at her nose.

"Yahan?" she touched it and then understood the prank he had just played on her. She gave him an angry look as he grinned with a 'gotcha' expression. They both burst out into laughter as he drove off at the green signal.

"Ahaa….tho tumhein hansnaa bhi aata hai?" He teased her.

"Koi hansaane waala hona chaahiye," she teased him back.

"Hmm… you are not as khadoos as I thought." He glanced with the corner of his eyes.

"Just as you are not as big a jerk as I had thought." She bit her lips as soon as she said that.

"So it means I am still a little jerk?"

"Maybe medium sized." She looked away.

Armaan was enjoying this banter with her. Never before had he talked like this with a woman. In the past he was always busy wooing them or they trying to seduce him that he had never had a meaningful conversation with any of them. Even though, he was immensely attracted to Riddhima, he wanted to learn more about her than just her peaks and valleys of her body.

Riddhima was pleasantly surprised that instead of trying to flirt with her or mentally undressing her as he had done in the first few meetings with her, he was actually teasing and talking to her like a friend. The way he had waited for her at the bus stop meant that he was genuinely interested in making sure she reached home safely.

"Do you like music?" He asked.

'I love music." She looked at him, perplexed.

"Good….so we have one more thing in common."

"One more thing? Aur kya hain?"

"We are both arrogant……we both excel in our professions……we are both egoistic……..and we both love music." He laughed aloud.

"I think you are right about the music and profession part…….the other two are only your virtues," she teased him.

"I don't agree," he glanced at her, "see….and we both love to disagree."

"That we do….I agree." She leaned her head back, feeling more relaxed in his company than she ever had.

He turned the radio on and both their jaws fell open as this song from DTPH played….

'Are re are yeh kya hua….maine na yeh jaana
Are re are ban jaaye na….kahin koi afsana…."

"I love this song!" They both spoke simultaneously.

"I loved this movie!" They said it out again.

They stared at each other and then broke out into smiles.

"You liked this movie?" Riddhima asked, "it's such a chick flick……men don't like these kind of movies."

"I do! That's how I get my ideas on how to patao women," he chuckled.

"Well….of course I should know," she became a little serious, "after all that's what you have done most of your life…..betrayed so many women."

Armaan swallowed hard as he saw the smile and friendliness vanish from her face.

"Ok…I will tell you the truth why I liked DTPH….it was the passion and chemistry between the dance instructor and the student……does it sound familiar? Maybe sounds very real?" He asked.

She shot a look at him, "tum agar soch rahe ho ki mujhey aisi baaton se pataa sakte ho…..tho bhool jao…..please drop me here….mera ghar bas aage hai."

"Yahan?" The car came to a screeching halt, "lekin yahan tho ek park hai….makaan tho doosri taraf hain."

"Haan…baarish bhi bandh ho gayi hai…..I can cross the park and go… needn't come all the way."

"But why?"

"Kyunki tum ek celebrity ho… se utarte hi saare mohallewaale tumhein gher lenge…are you ready for that?" She stepped out of the car and then peered inside his window, "thanks for the ride."

"You are welcome teacher sahiba," he grinned and then couldn't resist stepping out of the car. He followed her through the park and yelled, "thanks for your concern……but I know how to handle fans."

Before she could reply, a horde of kids and adults descended from the neighborhood and surrounded Armaan within minutes. Riddhima looked behind and all she saw was a throng of people huddled around Armaan. She felt sorry for him as she knew how cricket crazy her neighborhood was, but at the same time she thought he deserved it for not listening to her advice.

Even though exhausted and hungry, she would rather escape and run to her house, she turned back and yelled at the top of her voice, "POLICE! POLICE! POLICE!"

The fake 'police' calls worked- the crowd stepped back instantly as Riddhima squeezed herself between them and ran towards Armaan. He lay on the moist and muddy ground, his shirt torn in places, his face and neck covered with lipstick and nail marks. Riddhima shielded him with both her arms and screamed, "LEAVE HIM ALONE! WARNA POLICE KO BULA DOONGI! AAP LOGON KO SHARAM AANI CHAAHIYE…….ITNE BADHE PLAYER KI KYA HAALAT BANAA DI HAI……AGAR AUTOGRAPH CHAAHIYE THO EK LINE BANAAKAR KHADE HO JAAIYE….AISE JUNGLEEON JAISE NAHIN!"

 Some older people in crowd were embarrassed at their behavior as Armaan stood up from the swampy ground, trying to regain his composure.

The crowd dispersed as fast as it had assembled as no one was really interested in standing patiently in a line. Armaan was impressed with Riddhima once again- how effectively she had handled the situation.

"Thanks," he brushed the dirt off his hands.

His torn shirt and bruised body made him look too pitiful, " tum chaaho tho ghar aa sakte ho freshen up hone." She offered.

'No…I think I will leave," he replied politely.

"Are you sure you will be alright?" she asked as he retraced his steps to the car.

"YES I'LL BE ALRIGHT!" He waved back and drove off with this song in the background (dostana)

(DMG VM by Mots123)

I'll be alright, I'll be alright
I'll be alright

Riddhima's smiling face guided him back to his place as he fondly remembered their car journey together. As he took the elevator upstairs, he had a distinct feeling that as long as Riddhima was with him, everything would work out in his life…….all she needed was genuine love and respect and not just be treated like a pretty girl. He could do that….yes he wanted to do that………..

Tu hai toh tedi medi rahe
Ulti pulti baatein
Sedhi lagthi hai
Tu hai toh joote moote vaade
Dushman ke irrade
Sache lagthe hai
Jo dil mein taare vaare de jagah
Woh tu hi hai, tu hi hai
Jo rothe rothe de hassa
Tu hi hai wahin
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
(yeh, yeh ,yeh)
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Saari duniya ek taraf hai
Ek taraf hai hum
Har khushi toh, dur bhage
Mil rahe hai gum
But when u smile for me
World seems all right
Yeh meri zindagi
Pal mein hi khil jaaye
Jaane kyun
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
(yeh, yeh ,yeh)

"Uncle! Aap aa gaye?" Rhea greeted him at the door.

"Tum abhi tak soyi nahin?" He asked.

"Yeh kya hua aapko?" she was shocked to see his tattered and torn clothes, 'are you alright uncle?"

'I'll be alright!" He held her hand and walked with her to the bedroom where she was making an attempt to read all by herself…

Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
(Yeh yeh yeh
I'll be alright, I'll be alright
I'll be alright
Yeh yeh yeh
I'll be alright, I'll be alright) —- 2
(Jo dil mein taare vaare de jagah
Woh tu hi hai, tu hi hai
Tu hi hai) (low background voice)
Chote chote kuch palon ka
Dostana yeah
Jaane kyun ab lag raha hai
Jaana maana yeah
Coz when smile for me
World seems alright
Yeah sare pal yahin
Yun hi tham se jaaye
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun)
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
(yeh, yeh ,yeh)
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Tu hai toh tedi medi rahe
Ulti pulti baatein
Sedhi lagthi hai
Tu hai toh joote moote vaade
Dushman ke irrade
Sache lagthe hai
Jo dil mein taare vaare de jagah
Woh tu hi hai, tu hi hai
Jo rothe rothe de hassa
Tu hi hai wahin

Riddhima entered her home, a small two bedroom Government colony flat. Instead of walking in with a frown as she usually did, she walked in humming a song for a change. She hugged her mother, "mama…sorry aaj late ho gayi."

Padma (her mom), surprised at her daughter's cheerfulness, "aaj kya baat hai? Khush lag rahi hai bahut? Sab theek tho hai na?"

"I am alright mama," she bit into an apple and headed off to her room to change out of her wet clothes.

Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
(yeh, yeh ,yeh)
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)
Jaane kyun (jaane kyun) dil jantha hai
(yeh, yeh ,yeh)
Tu hai toh, I'll be alright
(I'll be alright, I'll be alright)

……………………….to be contd……………


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