Monday, December 28, 2009

Meeting Aneela and Arhaan

We have been packing quite a bit of activity in this last month. I have a friend from the college-era and her family staying with us these days. My mom arrives tomorrow. And before we left for Kerala, we had Aneela and Arhaan visiting us for a few days. It was great fun, like meeting someone who shares one's passion for Bollywood trivia always is. I have always felt that making new friends in one's thirties is near-impossible, given that we are done thinking about what others are thinking about us and are busy obsessing about what we think of them instead. But blogging has been a revelation in that way, amongst others.

I have met Aneela once before of course but that was a short meeting, in Delhi, giving us only enough time to do the how-do-you-dos before it was time to leave. This time we got some time to catch up properly, set the world-order just right and discuss issues of global importance. We did not even venture out of the house too much, only to take the kids to Joggers Park once where Adi demanded to climb into Arhaan's stroller and to Mt. Mary which remains one of my favourite spots in Bandra.

And Arhaan. Forgive me while I go into raptures about how good-natured he is. Their flight to Mumbai was delayed, they had been to a wedding in Delhi immediately before this, had taken holidays all over the world before that and yet, the child was completely unruffled and had only dimpled smiles to offer. He would go to anyone, thrilling our maids considerably. Our part-timer wanted to give him a 'first-class maalish', an offer that I declined politely before Aneela could. He is a child who is actually interested in food. No need to distract with TV, or music or stories, despite rumours of his liking a certain Ms Kaif. Hell, if his mum got too engrossed in our never-ending gossip at meal-times, he would give a grunt to remind her to feed him.

Mahesh was away for most of the time that these guys were visiting but did find some time to capture some of his many cheerful moods.






Arhaan poses for our resident star photographer

Our ever-trusty Ghajini took detailed instructions from me regarding Arhaan's khichdi and then promptly forgot all about it and trotted off home. I wanted to strangle her, raging murderous hormones and all but he did not blink an eye. Don't worry, old girl, he seemed to tell me, just see what best you can do. And sure enough, he ate regular dal-chawal without any fuss. At that moment, I wanted to stamp him with the brand of 'House of Parul' and proclaim Mine! but it was nothing in comparison to what I felt when Kiran and Trishna came over for tea and Arhaan declared that he wanted to try the samosas! If that is not a heart-stealing tactic from a man, I don't know what is.

It was just as well that we left for our holiday the day after they packed off back to Dhaka, else the sight of whole apples that no one wanted steamed would have been enough to bring out the waterworks.

Of course, it could easily be the contrast to what we currently have going on with our own offspring and how terribly inadequate we have been feeling regarding our parenting skills (yes, yes, I know it is only the terrible twos, that it is a phase and that it will pass but try telling that to me when I fall into a sobbing heap after a particularly challenging day with the Adi-man). But mostly I think that Aneela has lucked out big-time in the child department. Easy kids are so damned difficult to come by. Now you will tell me that I should not be putting all this out in a public forum and inviting the evil eye, so I promise to break one coconut to ward off said eye. I knew all the coconuts I got at the wedding in Chennai would come to good use. May he never fall short of steamed apples.

***

Wish you all a lovely year in 2010. May it bring you whatever it is that your heart desires.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday tales - the final part, Kovalam (and Kanyakumari)

Onward ho to Kovalam the next day. The car ride takes about five hours. Thanks to a red toy truck that was bought in Jews Town and a well-timed nap, Adi behaves himself, letting us watch the sights as we speed along. There are scenes of breathtaking beauty at every step but one is determined to make good time and reach the resort at Kovalam. The journey is not the destination for us.

And so we find ourselves at the Leela Kempinsky at Kovalam. We have been upgraded, we are told. What fun, lead us to the upgraded room, we answer. When we step inside the room, I can only stare slack-jawed at the view. It is astounding. The ocean stretches out for as far as the eye can see. Oh my god, this is like being on some Top Ten Romantic Destinations In The World show in Travel and Living, I proclaim and immediately polish off the delicious chocolates that have been put out for us. Upgrades are a wonderful invention of the hospitality industry and I dwell on it at length as I drink my tea and eat my cakes. It’s very plush and one could very well never need to leave the room but hey, Kanyakumari is only 90 kms away, we are told and the temptation to touch the southern-most tip of India is high. Maybe tomorrow?









25th December 09 (Mumbai)

Well, as it happened, we did not go to Kanyakumari the next day, spending it lounging about in the room and just marveling over the view instead. Adi seemed quite bored of the whole thing by then, telling us that he wanted to go home. Maybe carrying a bunch of toys and books would have been a good idea. Next time. The resort was just fantastic and the service superb.
I would have been quite content to vegetate in that glorious balcony of theirs and stare out at the Arabian Sea for hours together but M called the travel desk and booked us for a day-trip to Kanyakumari for the next day. After packing some food for Adi, we set out at about eleven. Though it is only about 90 kms from Kovalam, the highway meanders through congested towns and it takes about two and a half hours to reach there.

On our way we stopped at a Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh (the original) temple, only about thirteen hundred old. There is not much else in life that I love more than old monuments. Is the sense of history calling out to you, M often asks me not quite charitably. One of the pundits at the temple offered to show us around. Lead us on, my good man, I told him as M took off his shirt (he had been asked to go topless for the darshan, much to his discomfiture). Massive structure, huge pillars, intricate craftsmanship – I loved it.


We stood at the southern-most tip of India and chickened out of the boat ride to Vivekananda’s Rock, taking pictures from afar instead. The view is quite unique and one can see the different colours of the three oceans from the point. For some reason, it made me feel quite emotional about my country, so vast, so majestic and yet, so vulnerable. Anyway, I am the kind of person who gets a lump in her throat while singing the National Anthem (and I do sing it, every time, without fail) before a movie screening so you cannot take this to be extraordinary. In my case, it’s not.



Adi put his head in my lap and slept off on our way back. It was a tiring trip but we were quite glad we made it. That evening, I booked myself for yet another head massage. This was the last day of our holiday and one was quite looking forward to going back home. Trivandrum is only about twenty minutes away from Kovalam and the next afternoon saw us feeding Adi khichdi in the lounge, the ubiquitous Toy Story playing on the laptop. Fellow diners were giving us strange looks but they did not pierce the thick hides.

And now we are back. It was such fun, the whole trip, the chance to see a different part of our country. I can’t wait to explore the next on the list, whether it’s Sikkim or Himachal or a tour of the old temples of South India, only time will tell. For now, home is good.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday tales, Part 3 - hot and lovely Cochin

The drive back from Kumarakom to Cochin took longer, thanks to a political rally that required people to wear yellow clothes, carry yellow umbrellas (to ward off the yellow sun) and to wave yellow flags. This caused a delay of about an hour.




We reached our hotel in Cochin a little after two in the afternoon. The Old Harbour is number one on TripAdvisor’s list of hotels in Cochin [Link] and quite deservedly so. It is situated in Fort Cochin, the old, quaint and very charming part of the city. You can walk to most of the worthy sites. Again, this property is really old and has a marvelous collection of some gorgeous art and hand-picked antiques. I swear we tried to keep it that way by distracting Adi as soon as we caught a glint in his eye at having spotted a particularly delicate looking object d’art. The hotel aims at a homely vibe (I would NEVER charge my house-guests those amounts though) and one of the drawbacks of this is that they do not offer room service. They made an exception for us though and delivered most of Adi’s food to the room. Because you know, if you eat without watching something animated at the same time, the food would naturally become cardboard shavings in your mouth. So yes, thank you for room service, Old Harbour, you were excellent all around.













The mosquitoes in Cochin are a particularly tenacious lot and can shrug off the combined efforts of Odomos, Mosbito and All-Out.

Today (18th Dec) is our second day in Cochin we went for a spot of sight-seeing. My first thought on hitting the streets was that this is the Sun God’s own country. The sun was beating down on our heads, rivulets of sweat ran down our faces and Adi dug in his heels and insisted on being carried. The famous Jewish Synagogue is shut on Friday. Guess what day is it today? Clearly as tourists we need to spend some more time on preliminary research. We went to the outstanding Jews Town too and bought some interesting things for the house. The shopkeepers told us that they were giving us the ‘Indian rates’ for everything when I tried to haggle a bit. Later we saw the Santa Cruz Basilica and St Francis Church, the first European church, thus informed our cabbie. He also insisted that we walk over to the House of Yesudas, not in the sense of House of Dior or House of Chanel but literally the famous singer Yesudas’ house, which houses a cafe charmingly called The Mango Tree. To drill the message home, he played Yesudas’ songs in the car. Nice guy.







I liked the Dutch Cemetery very much. It was adequately old and slightly spooky even during the daytime, with gravestones that must be hundreds of years old resting there since...well, since they were placed there I guess.



Mahesh took some pictures of the lovely view from near the Dutch Cemetery though I have to admit that the sun was insanely hot, even for the sun.



Cochin is clearly a tourist-magnet. We see foreigners everywhere we look in this part of town. There are European style cafes at every corner and the air smells of freshly brewed coffee. Our hotel does not have aloo-paranthas on the menu, much to Adi’s dismay and they can't make it to order either. The food in fact is really quite mild to suit European taste buds. There is a classical music recital at dinner-time. M and I take turns at eating, taking turns to assume toddler duty. Maybe there will come a time when he will actually sit with us and eat. Hope reigns supreme.

Like most tourist spots in the world, the attractions are peddled everywhere and trickle down to the corner shop that sells Kathakali masks along with bananas and biscuits.

20th December 09

We found a lovely TRIFED-run tribal crafts shop near the hotel, on Princess Street. It’s in the same building as the newly-painted (or looks like) post-office. I run a heavy bill there, buying all sorts of things (will post pictures in a separate post). There is a similar shop in Bombay as well, but in Navi Mumbai and the probability of my going there is significantly lower than going to Kerala so yes, I will be hoisting my loot back home.

My bruise is now turning black and blue. And purple too.

Holiday tales - Part 2, Kumarakom

And so we land in God’s own country and take a car from Cochin to Kumarakom Lake Resort. At first sight, it reminds me of Goa, the old-world cottages, the palm and coconut trees, the sultry weather.

We reached Kumarakom Lake Resort in good time. Now this is a truly picturesque resort, right on the banks of the backwaters. We had taken what is called a meandering pool villa, which is really plush in that one’s room opens out on to the pool that runs the length of the hotel. This however as anyone with a small child will tell you, is asking for trouble because it is not just the pool that meanders all over. You need to be extremely careful at all times to keep the door between the room and the pool locked, never knowing when the little one will decide to walk out into the pool. Scary. Both M and transmogrified into hawks upon arrival and stayed in that avatar (seen the movie, all?) till we left. This was true of the other parts of the hotel too. Some of the pathways are right next to the waters, one random sideways dash from the child and he could land straight into the water.









But other than this, an absolutely outstanding place for honeymooners/young couples, large groups with older kids or older people. In other words, anyone other than people like us.





Part of the building is a three hundred year old wooden structure, very beautiful.





Vegetarian food was also not a problem. In fact, we regularly oinked like a couple of pigs spotting their pails of swill and dived headfirst into the food, only to emerge several kilos heavier.

The bathroom was one of those conceptual things that suggest that nature’s call is best answered in close proximity with nature. In other words, there was no roof over our heads while we did the needful. Very psyching if you are the conservative sort but very pretty too. We deglamourised this place by asking for a bucket and mug for bathing Adi.

Both of us took turns in swimming, given that Adi refused to step into the water ‘like a fish’ despite the Winnie The Pooh swimming ring and what-not. We spent most of our time just lazing under the trees and praying very, very hard that Newton’s laws would not be proven at the cost of one’s head.

They did not have any special pre-natal massages but I went for the head and feet massages and the verdict is excellent. I could feel the old noggin give a few splutters and recharge the batteries. And what the pregnancy hormones could not do, the oils did. The hair looks great.

After the foot massage, my feet feel light as feathers and right as rain. I marvel at the skill of the masseuse all the way back to the room and relieve the husband of Adi-duty and send him off for his appointment. Still feeling great about the pain-free feet, I go to the bathroom and on my way back slam the heavy wooden door on my ankle. The yowls of pain can be heard all over the resort. After doing the one-legged dance around the room for some time much to the child’s surprise, I finally catch my breath and apply Arnica. I can see it’s going to be an interesting-looking bruise.

Both the masseuses who gave me massages asked me if I were married and had any children. I looked pointedly at my belly. They only smiled. Hmmm.

At this point in the holiday, the Indibloggies 2008 results were announced and there were no surprises there. Arnab Ray aka Great Bong of Random Thoughts of A Demented Mind won in two categories i.e. Best Indiblog and Best Humourous Blog. Let us just discount for a moment that we were nominated in different categories and look at the final numbers.

Great Bong – 784/578

Bringing up Adi – 84

That means only one thing. With Great Bong now safely ensconced in the Indibloggies Hall of Fame, having proven that his only competition is himself, next year should be a cinch for us. After all, technically, we were practically neck to neck and if I had stretched out my neck like a particularly flexible giraffe, the gold would have been mine.

After that graceful acceptance of defeat, let me thank all the eighty-four of you who voted for Bringing Up Adi. Your money packets should reach you shortly.

We stayed in the resort for three nights. It was then time to go back to Cochin (yes, the itinerary was quite convoluted, thanks to last minute flights changes etc.) 

Edited: Feb 21st, 2013 

So many of you have flocked to this post that when I heard from Kerala Tourism offering some lovely new pictures, I just had to take them up on their offer. Enjoy! 



 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday tales - Part 1, The wedding at Chennai

I will be posting in parts over the next few days given that this has turned out to be more of a travelogue than a post. So here you go, bits and pieces, observations and anecdotes from my travel diary. Enjoy!

18th December 09

Today we have been out for a week already and it has flown so far. I haven’t had any time at my beloved laptop. I had visions of writing everyday, as some sort of practice for the travel book that I will pen one day (instant bestseller, multi-million dollar contract; translation into all languages including Malay and Swahili and adaptation into Bollywood film, inexplicably under the Yash Raj banner and Hollywood film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie adopting kids at every stop). All that the laptop has been used for so far is to entertain Adi with repeated screenings of Toy Story and transferring M’s pictures from his SD card.

The wedding at Chennai was much fun. I stuck out like a sore thumb of course with my Shoppers Stop-bought churidaars and kurtas in a sea of kanjeevarams but it really is incredible what a baby bump can let you get away with. Everyone fawned ceaselessly over Adi, saying that he looks exactly like M when he was a little boy. I agreed wholeheartedly but then I agree wholeheartedly even if people liken him to Prithviraj Chauhan because if there is one thing I have learnt in the last two and a half years, it is that there is no correct answer to Who Does The Baby Look Like. We had been pressuring him into good behaviour the whole of last month with threats of cancelling the imminent meet-up with Tatha-Paati so it was with much relief that he jumped into their laps upon seeing them and then refused to climb down for most of the two days. We stayed in a sarkari guesthouse, thanks to the Pater’s resourceful ways and when I saw the emergency light in out bedroom, it really was like someone had turned back the clock and taken me back to the hospital compound residences that my father used to be allotted.

The wedding food was excellent. I love eating off banana leaves and surprised my husband with my adroitness with catching the rasam before it runs off said leaf and indicating perfectly in sign language how the annas should keep the food coming. Adi did not eat at the wedding venue, preferring to run off with the cousins that he was meeting for the very first time in his life and telling me later, ‘Mama, I sitting on the swing with the pretty-pretty girls’. Oh well.


I think the baby likes filter coffee.

I would have liked to see the shore temples of Mahabalipuram but no one seemed to encourage this interest in religion, history and culture too much. I would have insisted but given that Adi was not doing too well, sacrificed this trip at the altar of selfless motherhood. Everyone assured me that I had not missed much. Who is to say?

The next day, Appa (M’s dad) displayed his risk-aversion in full glory, insisting that we leave for our flight some two hours in advance given the vagaries of Chennai traffic. You might get stuck in a jam, he said, off with you, shoo, shoo. After putting up a token fight, we left. Predictably enough, the roads seemed to have been cleared for us and we reached the airport in about twenty minutes, only to find out that the flight had been delayed. And then delayed further. Bloody late incoming aircraft, apparently. Now anyone who has been to the Chennai airport will tell you that it is clean and newly refurbished but it is unlikely that it will ever be likened to an amusement park for toddlers. Finally when Adi got so bored that he decided to look into the strategically placed garbage cans for inspiration, we had to call upon Toy Story for yet another rescue. Mahesh called Appa and tried to make him feel bad about inflicting this torture on us but Appa claimed to have supremely thick skin and would have none of it.

The lady at the Indian Airlines check-in counter had heavily oiled hair.

When our flight was announced, M and I threw our metaphorical hats into the air, gave wild cheers and sped rapidly across the corridor to the gate. There we saw an unusual sight. A group of men were waiting in the queue, holding what looked like small packets wrapped in bedsheets over their heads. Later when the plane landed, the first thing they did was to take out these bundles from the overhead bins and hold them over their heads again. It appeared like a religious practice of some sort. Does anyone know why they were doing that? I am most curious to find out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remembering childhood friends

The 1970s and 80s were a time of firm bonding between India and USSR. There were many reasons for the same of course. Analysts can point out the various geo-econo-political reasons for the same and successfully put us to sleep before too long. What we know is that this friendship had lasting cultural repercussions on the citizens of the two countries. Bollywood stars found sizable following in the Soviet Union, Hollywood films being banned there at the time. I am fairly certain that anyone who lived in India in the seventies and eighties has heard at least one version of Awaara Hoon or Mera Joota Hai Japani rendered by a Russian. Raj Kapoor was of course quite the phenomenon there and even hired Russian actress Kseniya Ryabinkina to play a trapeze artist in his Mera Naam Joker. (Quick trivia digression: the good Russian woman, now very old will be seen in Rishi Kapoor's autobiographical film Chintu Ji soon) [Link]. In return, the famous Russian ballet troupes often made their way to India to perform for us and people still rave about how terrific they were. Another consequence of the positive relations between the two nations was the free movement of books between the two countries, suitably translated to meet the linguistic needs of the two peoples.

An author that I grew up reading was Arkady Gaidar. The first book I read by him was Cuk aur Gek (pronounced Chook aur Gake). It was one of those books from my childhood that impacted both my personality and my imagination.

I suppose I should say spoiler ahead at this point but I doubt you will find this book easily available anymore.

Cuk and Gake were twins who lived in Moscow with their mother while their father was posted with the Red Army somewhere in Siberia. The two boys missed their father tremendously and were thrilled when their father asked the family to join him for Christmas. The preparations for this exciting trip were on when one snowy day a telegram arrived from their father asking them to cancel their trip due to a sudden change in his plans. Cuk and Gake were at home alone when this all-important piece of communication arrived and were in the middle of a fight. In the resulting scuffle, the telegram was lost. Petrified that their mother will be upset with them for this, they decide not to say anything to her when she arrives. Result? The mom bundles up the two imps and embarks on a journey to distant Siberia, not knowing that her husband won't be present to receive her. The story then takes us through the fascinating journey that takes the two children undertake and the things that they see on the way.

For a young, impressionable mind, the ideals of socialism and the inherent flaws of communism were all things for much later (like the Economic Systems exam in my third year of college for example). Then, Moscow was the most perfect big city and Siberia appeared to be a fairyland, snow-covered at all times and lined with beautiful trees. A white Christmas for all seasons, if you please. Maybe it was then that my fascination for cold, snowy countries set in. The soldiers of the Red Army were all big, burly, brave, gallant men, just like Cuk and Gake's daddy who travelled in snow-sleds pulled by packs of dogs. When I grow up, I will live in Siberia, I told my mother firmly. She said nothing.

Later I read other books by Arkady Gaidar. Taimur Aur Uska Dal Bal (Timur and His Gang in English) was one, based on the author's son. Neela Pyaala or The Blue Cup was another. The writer had such a way with words that despite being translations, the books found a permanent place in my heart and mind. It is said that all writers channel their favourite authors at some point or the other in their work and if that is true, I am sure Mr Gaidar will somewhere speak in mine!

I decided to buy these books for Adi recently. They are not very easy to find though the world of internet will of course throw options for anything if one just looks hard enough. I also looked up Arkady Gaidar on Wikipedia. [Link]

My hero died in combat in the second World War. I almost wish I hadn't known this, letting him live on in my memories like he had all these years.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy holidays, all

It doesn't matter if I don't blog for days. Or weeks. Or months. Though I haven't tried the latter yet. Nobody is bothered, wrapped as they are in their own pall of holiday gloom/cheer, as the case maybe. End of conceit as we knew it. Hope stands shattered, though how can anything that is shattered stand?

Haan ji, so where were we? Yes, sulky updates.
  • Adi has been singing 'Mann ka radio' itne mann se that it proves beyond a shred of doubt that he really is our son. We have been thinking of taking him for a movie in a theater lately. Not many child-friendly options. So I wonder how it would affect a toddler's development if his first ever movie in a theatre involved Himesh Bhai discussing beep-buddies and smiling and looking really uncomfortable doing both (I am stunned at how much I pick up by promos alone). Just wondering, no need to call the child welfare people. Yet.
  • We had to have shower cubicles installed in the bathrooms. Finally one can take a shower without wetting the towel that is intended to dry one's person post the bath. Expensive proposition but totally worth the money, I say, now that we don't have to gingerly step out of the shower area, appearing for all the world like graceful ballerinas aiming for perfect tens.
  • I continue to suck at baking. After that brilliant cake picture I put up in the last post, one would have thought that the path to domestic goddess-hood was not rocky anymore. But that cake remained uneaten days after it was made and the proof of the pudding is in the eating, non? I am just not blessed with the baking gene, I figure but why should I suffer alone, I ask. Vegetable Florentine, here I come. Incidentally, we had another one of those lunches at Tea Center yesterday where the waiter asks us if other people will be joining us after he has taken down our order. Vegetable Florentine was one of the things I ordered and it was del.ici.ous
  • After the miserable experience with De Dana Dan, movie-watching has been kept on hold. However, I did finish an entire season of Desperate Housewives recently over three days. I ignored work, home, husband and child while I achieved this mammoth, err, achievement. Most entertaining. Gaby is still my favourite. They knocked Edie off the show though and I am very upset about that. Why couldn't Susan Mayer have gone instead? She is whiny and needy and clingy. Given my current search for emotional self-sufficiency, these are traits I don't quite find myself admiring. And Dr Greg House is back in our lives after a long time. The separation was both long and painful but I forgive him because come on, it's Greg! Plus how do you stay mad at someone who is spending time at a mental asylum?
  • I am not showing too much yet but am gaining weight at a steady rate. That translates into people thinking that I am just fat. Most unflattering, specially when I have a wedding to attend in Chennai later this month and have nothing to wear. I gave away most of my clothes earlier this year, knowing that it would be a long time and many-many painful hours spent at the gym before I could fit into them again and by the time it finally happened, they would all be horribly out of fashion anyway. So yes, the unwelcome and unlikely prospect of shopping for something that fits AND looks nice awaits.
  • Post the wedding, we take off for Kerala for a week or so. This ought to be fun though I am a little concerned about the food. I am still not able to eat whatever is available without the baby sharing his/her point of view about the same and Kerala is not really known for the variety of its vegetarian offerings, I am told by my Mallu friends. Then there is Adi who is such a stickler for routine and predictability that it is difficult to convince him that grape juice tastes as good as apple juice when the latter runs out. So we are looking forward to some culinary adventures and toddler tantrums on this holiday. I have been told that the spices in Kerala are to die for so I am planning to get back plenty of those plus an elephant head-dress if I can get one. For the house, you funny, funny person.
  • Last winter we had gone to Shimla and Delhi in a bid to experience real winters that I continue to miss more desperately with every additional year that I spend in Mumbai. Others talk of weather-induced depression and blues in winters. I can't think of a sight cheerier than hot chocolate in front of a fire as it snows outside. In fact, I think I need to rent a cottage somewhere in the hills for an entire winter and stay there all by myself, writing a mystery novel. I shared this vision with M and he visibly blanched. Oh well, at least we tried.
  • In yet another sterling example of perfect timing, we go out just before Adi's playschool shuts down for winter holidays and return to Mumbai on the same day his break starts. Such fun.
  • It is happening with alarming regularity - me finding out that people known to me read my blog but don't let me know they do and then suddenly quote me from one of my old posts when I am least expecting it. When this happens, my first thought always runs on the lines of - shit, I hope I haven't made fun of him/her because let's face it, that is the primary raison d'etre of the blog. That and showing off my non-existent French. Perhaps then it really is time to shut down this blog and start afresh anonymously.
Phew, enough about me. At least enough to last you till I take a small break and see you at around Christmas when I will be back with Chennai and Kerala stories. I quite expect distant relatives to tell me that they read the blog, sigh.