Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dubai Tour - Part II

On day three the Business session continued at the Grand Hyatt while spouses were taken for shopping. Places visited were the Gold Souk & Carrefour a large supermarket chain. Souk is an Arabic term for market. Lunch was arranged at Al Ibrahimi Palace Restaurant near the New Burjuman Centre,Karama. Food served there was Indian & extremely delicious. The ambience was nice & friendly. It is reported to be owned by a Pathan - the door keeper was a tiny Pathan about 3' tall & he is a unique attraction here. Next part of the tour was a visit to the wild wadi water park. As Shobha & I were not keen on water sports we decided to give it the skip and instead decided to explore old Dubai a bit on our own. (Log on to below website if you want to know more about Wild Wadi.
We decided to take a walk down down Al Khaleej St. behind the Hyatt then into Al Khor St. We walk past gold shops of Indian origin like Joy Alukkas, Atlas & Chemmanoor and finally turn left into the Dubai Souks.
Dubai Souks are a striking contrast to the modern shopping malls. Shopping in Dubai is not complete without a browse through Dubai's famous souks. Souks swarm with people busy negotiating with the shopkeepers in traditional style of doing business. Dubai souks are located at Deira near the old docks and sell gold jewellery, traditional spices, perfumes and antiques.
We first walk through the Gold Souk which has a large number of shops exhibiting a dazzling array of gold ornaments - earrings, rings, necklaces, chains, bracelets, bangles and pendants. It is reported that any given time over 25 tons of gold jewellery is on display at the souk. It is an awesome display. We were tempted to buy but strongly resisted.
Next we entered the Spice Souk where fresh Arabic spices are on display - cloves, cardamom, frankincese, cinnamon, incense, dried fruit and nuts imported from all over the Middle East. The spices are sold straight out of large open sacks. We bought Irani dates,saffron,dalchini & frankincese(dhoop). We did some aggressive bargaining and could drive down quoted prices by half !
We exited the souk into Baniyas Road and boarded the Dhow (ancient Arabic Boat) at gold souk station and took a ride to Bur Dubai - it was dusk and light was fading. The fare was Dhm.1 per head and we were across in 5 mts. The boatman Husain was a friendly chap from Bangladesh. He advised us not to visit the old palace and museum as " it is just an old building & there is nothing there". We heeded his advice.
We disembarked at Bur Dubai station where the impressive Bank of Baroda skyscraper greeted us. We walked a bit through Mina Bazaar which displayed textiles & visited some electronic shops to check out I-Pods, Handycams & cordless phones. The weather was nice and a cool breeze was blowing. We had good South Indian coffee at Saravana Bhavan & then took another dhow back. By now it was dark and Bur Dubai looked enchanting & attractive in the night lights. We got off again at gold souk station took the pedestrian underpass under Baniyas Rd. and crossed into Old Baladiya St. adjacent to the gold souk.
We then went to Al Soor St where the Perfumes Souk is located - these shops sell only perfumes . You can find scores of shops selling a variety of perfumes with a thousand aromas ranging from traditional Arabic Ittars which are strong & spicy to the latest designer brands with light floral aromas. We did end up buying some perfumes and got some good bargains.
We finally call it a day and trek back to the Hotel.
Back to the room for hot bath and change of clothing we report to the ballroom at the lobby for dinner. It appeared that the groups that went on the Wild Wadi trip had had an exciting experience too and were animatedly sharing the details.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dubai Tour

18-21 November'07 :
Mico & Bosch organised their Annual Distributors conference this year at Dubai - the first time this is being held at a foreign locale. Invitations were extended to select Distributors and their spouses. Participants from South & East converged at Chennai & departed by Thai Airways on 18th afternoon at 2.30 pm. Simultaneously other groups flew out from Bangalore & Mumbai. Flying at ground speed of 460 mph and an altitude of 38000 ft we reached Dubai at 6.00 pm local time after a journey spanning 3 hours 30 mts. Enroute we flew over the Deccan plateau, Arabian sea, city of Muscat & Gulf of Oman before taxiing down at Dubai. Pretty and pleasant faced stewardesses dressed in traditional Thai costumes provided excellent service - cold towels & refreshments followed by leisurely Asian Vegetarian lunch accompanied by variety of wines & soft drinks.
Passport control at Dubai was slow and after an exasperatingly long wait, we collected our baggage and wheeled out of Dubai airport to be swiftly whisked away in air conditioned deluxe coaches to the Hyatt Regency Hotel located at Deira. The friendly hotel staff offered us welcome drinks on arrival, collected our passports for safe keeping & handed over the room keys & escorted us to our fabulous rooms. After a quick shower & change of dress we gathered at the poolside at 8.00 pm for cocktails, awards, entertainment, fellowship & dinner. Silver Plaques were presented to distributors who had Business Association of more than 50 years with Mico - Stanes Motor Parts being the oldest Associate I had the singular honour of being the first to go on stage to receive this Award. Post dinner we collected our regulation Bosch shirts,T-shirts & carry bag.
Breakfast on 19th was at the "Foccasia" on the first floor - an attractive spread of corn flakes,milk, honey, toast, marmalades, preserves, a range of omelettes (plain,cheese & masala), fruits, juices, dough nuts, croissants,tarts,cakes,idlis, dosas, chutney & sambhar,coffee & tea. The Foccasia provided a nice view of the Corniche & Dubai creek where a lot of land reclamation is on presently.
The conference was held at the Grand Hyatt Convention Centre about 30 mts drive from Hyatt Regency. While the men (and some women) were deliberating business (more awards, accolades & applause awaited Stanes Motor Parts) the spouses were taken on a tour of Dubai - the Burj Al Arab Hotel, Jumairah Mosque and a presentation on the Jumairah Beach Resort. Burj Al Arab means "Tower of Arabs" & designed to resemble a billowing sail, the finest hotel in the world soars to a height of 321 metres, dominating the Dubai coastline. A 24 meter (79 feet) wide helipad cum tennis court projects from the building 210 meters above the ground.
Post lunch participants & spouses were reunited and together we embarked on a Desert Safari. Forty of the finest Toyota Landcruisers in Dubai (owned by 1001 Events who organised the tour) had been arranged to transport us and at the wheels were expertly trained & specially licensed drivers. 30 minutes into the drive the convoy stopped by the road side and the tyres were deflated to facilitate dune driving. Then we went off road, 4w drives were engaged and the safari went "dune bashing"- riding up and down the treacherous dunes, negotiating steep turns & cruising precariously at sharp,almost impossible angles.
As the sun descended into the horizon, we stopped at a camel watering hole to take sunset photographs, while standing on top of the fading desert dunes. It is already dark when we finally reached the camp site which was illumined by a blazing bonfire and multiple hurricane & wick lamps . Camels awaited us at the entry point and offerred rides in the dark.It was a typical nomadic camp with traditional Bedouin tents with low cushions to squat & relax. A thick rectangular carpet at the centre of the camp was available for those who wanted to sit under the open sky. Ladies got their hands decorated with Henna & men smoked the sheeshas or hubbly bubbly water pipes. Liquor & soft drinks flowed freely and vegetarian falafal rolls & barbequed meat were served endlessly.
The grand finale of the evening were the two enchanting belly dancers who arrived attired in diaphanous silks & riding camels - a ravishing Russian & a buxom Egyptian . They seductively swayed their hips to captivating Arabic music and encouraged spectators to join in. Many hopped on to the floor to fun,frolic & gyrate. Yours truly,tightly encumbered with a lumbar belt, preferred to remain on the side in cushioned comfort to watch & enjoy the proceedings .

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vadapalani Temple

Vadapalani Temple :
From Padi after worshipping at Thiruvallidhayam, we drove throughTirumangalam, Mogappair, Koyambedu,SAAF village into Vadapalani. Before going to the temple we stopped over at the nearby Saravana Bhavan drive in restaurant for a wholesome South Indian breakfast. Vadapalani is one of the most frequently visited temples in the Chennai city. It is located near Andavar Koil Street. Vadapalani temple used to be a small thatched shed some 125 years ago. The temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga. Annaswami Tambiran, a great devotee of Lord Muruga who built the hut and put an image of Lord Muruga in it. While worshipping Muruga, Annaswami in his state of trance started uttering words that became popular as Arulvak. After his demise other devotees carried on the mission. The place became popular and offerings in great amount were secured by the head maintaining the temple. One great names among the contributors responsible for constructing the temple is of Kripananda Variyar.
The temple at Vadapalani is primarily dedicated to Lord Muruga. His sanctum is surrounded by Vinayakar, Dakshinamurthy, Skanda Vishnu, Chandikeswarar, Brahma & Durgai. Some other deities, besides Lord Muruga, that are worshipped here include Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvathi, Lord Ganesh and Lord Anjaneya. The temple is provided with a number of courtyards featuring many sannidhis - varasiddi vinayakar, chokkanathar, Parvati, Kali, Bhairavar, Shunmugha with Valli & Devayani etc.
The temple entrance is covered with a rajagopuram which is adorned with images depicting the legends of Skanda Puranam. The temple tank is large with lotuses floating in the clean & pure water. The tank is enclosed by a protective wall and has steps to facilitate those who want to bathe. On the eastern wall of the temple structure are bharata natyam gestures. The temple is provided with a large hall were marriage ceremonies are performed - one of the premier places for performing marriage and about 7000 marriages are performed here annualy. The festival ceremonies held in the complex include that of Skanda Sashti and Panguni Uttiram.
After major renovation work, a Kumbashikam was held here last month. The cleanliness & newness is apparent.The gopurams looked very colourful and fresh after the recent repainting.The rich polished granite floor gave the temple an ostentatious look. The archakars kept chasing you for archanais which were carried done quickly & mechanically.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


This is a Shiva Stalam in Padi, on the suburban rail route between Chennai and Arakkonam (Ambattur). Major deity: Thiruvalleeshwarar (Lord Sivan), Goddess : ThiruvalliThayammai - Jagadhambhikai. Special : Lord DakshnaMurthi (GuruSthalam) . One of the 275 padal petra stalams of lord Shiva . In ancient days Thiru gnana sambandar visited this temple & praised lord Siva through his songs.This is the 21st of the 32 Tevara Stalams in the Tondai region of South India.
Legends hold that Bharadwaja Muni (Valiyaan) and Hanuman, Lava Kusha & Sugreeva worshipped Shiva here, and hence the name Valithaayam. There is a statue of Anjananeys worshipping Shiva. Vinayakar married Brahma's daughters Kamalai & Valli
The Temple: A three tiered Rajagopuram and a Gajaprishta vimanam adorn this temple which spans an area of over an acre.There are several inscriptions in this temple. The annual Bhrammotsavam festival is celebrated in the month of Chittirai . Sthala Vriksham is the Pathiri Tree. There is also a go shalai.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thiagarajar Temple,Tiruvottiyur

2 Sept'07 :
Tiruvottiyur Thiagarajar Temple :
We left woodlands at 6.00 am and drove via Marina Beach,Fort St.George,Burmah Bazaar, Port Trust into Royapuram and reached the Tiruvottiyur a drive of around 45 minutes.Tiruvottiyur was widely inhabited even before Chennai was formed. Tiruvottiyur is home to the ancient Thyagaraja Swamy Udanurai Vadivudaiamman Temple and location of the samadhi of saint Pattinathar. This temple was visited by many saints and poets like Appar, Sundarar, Gnana Sambandhar, Thyagayyar, Vallalar, Valmiki, Kambar, Adisankarar etc. Adisankarar is the person who stopped the Bali pooja's conducted here at vattaparaiamman sanathi. The temple is also famous for its Suyambhu sivalingam, God siva blesses people in the form of suyambhu and it is the moolavar of the temple.
The temple has large prakaram covered with sand containing several sannithis and a go shala with several cows & calves. Tamil Nadu has innumerable temples which have an ancient history and a rich cultural heritage. 275 Saivite temples or punyastalas have been selected as Paadal Petra Stalams on the basis of their antiquity, the richness of their cultural ethos, and the quantum of eulogy dedicated to the temple. In the same manner, 108 Vaishnavite temples have been selected as Divyadesams.
Of the 275 Paadal Petra Stalams, 32 lie in the Tondi Nadu, among which the Thiagarajaswamy temple at Tiruvotriyur is unique. This temple at Tiruvotriyur, several centuries old, eulogized by poets, scholars and devotees alike, affirms the splendor of India’s religious tradition and spiritual ethos.Main deity is Siva - there are Sannithis for Adipureeswarar the main deity, Thiagarajar (with Tripurasundari) & Jagannathar ( with Jagadambikai), Goureeswarar & Otreeswarar(with parvathavarthini). The Thiagarajar/Tripurasundari idol is said to have been found from the Ocean by fishermen. Adipureeswarar lingam is surrounded by a snake mound (puthu) hence it is covered by a gold kavacham (covering). Therefore daily abhishekam is done only to the avudiyar(base). The Kavacham is removed only on 3 days a year starting on Kartikai Pournami. A mixture of Punugu(musk), chavvathu & sambrani is applied to the lingam on these 3 days but no abhishekam. Around the sanctum you find on the walls idols of Dakshinamurthy, Mahavishnu ( traditionally you find Lingodhbhavar), Brahma, Chandikeswarar & Durgai. Behind the lingam there are smaller sannithis of kalianayanar,vinayakar, nagar, adi sankara,muruga.There is also a sannithi of vattaparaiamman. Right above the sanctum is the Gajabrishta Vimanam which is one of the special features of this temple. In the outer prakaram there is a multipillared mandapam with Natarajar Sannithi on one side & a vinayakar idol carved on the wall facing the lingam. Devotees sit and pray or medidate here. The pillars are intricately carved. Above the Vinayakar there is a stone lattice from where you can view the main flag staffs. There are in fact two flagstaffs(Dwaja Sthambams) as you first enter the temple through the main Gopuram, located a little to the left. One is facing Adipureeswarar and the other facing Vadi Udai Amman his consort. There is a separate Prakaram for this Ambal on the right side.
As you walk around the temple clockwise you find to your left sanctums of suryan,appar,manikyavasakar,sammandar,sundarar & sankili thayar,sahasaralingam, ekambarar.To the left of Thiagarajar mandapam you can see the garden with 27 nakshatra lingams - as per legend the 27 stars have visited & worhipped at this temple. Then the goshalai & Goureswarar, sthala vriksham. You next reach Ottreswarar sannithi & his consort Parvathavartini. The mandapam at the entrance contains exquisitely carved pillars on either side. All 63 nayanmars can be seen sculpted on the stone pillars besides various different gods & goddesses & rishis . As you come out & continue you see the flagstaff for Vattaparaiamman. Next you reach the legendary makizha maram(tree) & vasantha mandapam & sundaramoorthy mandapam & a kolam.
Photographs (From Top downwards zig-zag) 1. Main Gopuram from outside, 2. Main gopuram & flagstaffs from inside, 3.Vinayakar Sannithi,stone lattice,Murugan Sannithi & Kuzhanthai Iswarar visible straight in front as you enter, 4.Gajabrashta Vimanam, 5.Thiagaraja Sannithi, 6.Makizham Tree & Vasantha Mandapam, 7. Sannithi of Vadai Udai Amman

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Singara Chennai - 2

Day 2 - 22 Sept'07 :
Theosophical Society,Besantnagar : Founded on the Banks of the Adyar river in 1875 by Col.H.S.Olcott and Madame H.P.Blavatsky the primary objective being Universal Brotherhood. Later Annie Besant succeeded Col.Olcott after his death.
A walk through the campus takes you into another world altogether. Its amazing that I had not never stepped into this extraordinary place before. Situated on around 3 acres of wooded land with many exotic varieties of plants & trees, the air is fresh, scented,serene & sublime. A unique feature is the large Banyan tree situated over 40,000 sq.ft the second largest Banyan cluster in the country. The mother tree has rotted away some years ago but the the roots continue to grow & spread. It is said that this 200 hundred year old tree was grown from an off shoot from the original banyan tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. As you take a walk through the place you come across a temple (The Temple of Light consecrated by J.Krishnamurthi in 1925), a church, a Buddhist shrine & a Parsi Temple of Fire. You feel refreshed & renergised as you come out again.
From Besant Nagar we cross the Adyar Bridge, go past the Ambedkar Memorial & Ayyappa Temple & Chettinad School, cross the Quibble Island Cemetry & reach Santhome where one of India's oldest churches is located. San Thome Basilica is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in the 16th century by Portugese explorers, and rebuilt again with the status of a cathedral by the British in 1893. It is supposedly built atop the tomb of one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, St. Thomas. The apostle is believed to have preached in Chennai between 52 A.D. and 72 A.D., when he is said to have been killed on St. Thomas Mount. after taking some nice shots we proceeded via Marina Beach to Madras University campus to buy some books on Tamil History. The Marina Beach is a beach situated along a 12 km shoreline along the Bay of Bengal extending from Besantnagar to Fort St.George. Olive Ridley Turtles nest along the Neelankarai section of the beach towards Mahabalipuram.Watching the sun set and rise from the beach is a fascinating experience. Brisk early morning walkers & joggers enjoying the refreshing & invigorating air is a common sight. Though bathing and swimming can be dangerous, as the undercurrent is very strong, many people venture out to swim. In the evenings, the beach is virtually a fair ground with various kinds of entertainment and food stalls lining the beach.
The original lighthouse was located at Fort St.George near the Chennai Port. This was later decomissioned after the present one was constructed at the south end of the Marina beach near Santhome. The structure also houses the meteorological department and is restricted to visitors.
We ended the tour with a visit to Luz Church tucked away in a tiny corner of Mylapore.The church has lent its name to the area around it and to the road leading up to it as the Luz Church Road.The church was built by Franciscan missionaries from Portugal in honour of Mother Mary in 1516. Our final stop was the Nilgiri's Supermarket to buy some pastries & here was this guy selling fresh malligai flowers & I just couldn't resist taking a shot. Malligai Poo is a favourite with Chennaite ladies and the aroma is simply seductive. The unit of measurtement is one mozham ie. the length of your fore arm

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Singara Chennai - I

Shobha & I reached Chennai 22nd morning by Blue Mountain. The train reached 4.45 am well ahead of schedule. As usual the driver from the Travels was waiting near the engine with a placard & we swiftly drove to Hotel Woodlands on Dr.Radhakrishnan Salai. We checked into Cottage No.1001 adjacent to the Sri Krishna Temple - a small beautiful temple in the Woodlands campus.
I realised that I have not visited/seen many importany memorials/monuments here though I have visited Chennai on so many occasions over the last 30-40 years. This is a city so rich in history,culture & tradition - many foreigners come from far off places in Asia, Europe & America to tour Chennai . I suddenly decided to become a tourist myself and armed with my Canon Digital I set off to explore Chennai. I began with the National Musueum , the Connemara library & Museum Theatre. I was barred entry in the Museum complex as it was still quite early. I could take a picture of the theatre from the road.
I was lucky to see a contingent of mounted police (on sleek shiny brown horses) -I smiled & waved to them & they happily waved back. Next stop was Egmore Station, it was really crowded there & traffic was thick. However I did manage to get in some good shots .The Egmore Station , built in 1906,with its decorative domes is an important landmark of Chennai. All south bound trains start from this station. The area near and around Egmore Station is a busy boarding point for south bound omni-buses. The railway station features Indo Sarcenic building style and thus adds to the delight of architects and tourists.The building was designed by Robert Chisholm and consists of some illustrious domes very typical of Mughal style architecture.
My next destination was St.Andrews Church on Ponnamallee Road - popularly referred to as 'The Kirk'. It was consecrated in 1821 AD and was the result of efforts of Major Thomas Fort de Havilland and Colonel James Caldwell. St Andrew's Kirk was built to serve the members of the Scottish Church serving in the East India Company. It is one of the finest examples of Georgian Church architecture in Asia and was modeled on the plan for St.Martin's Lane, London. The East India Company had borne the expense of the construction of St George's Church of England and therefore decided to construct a church of the sister kingdom, Scotland. Thus St. Andrew's Kirk came into being.
Next I went to Rippon Building situated opposite Park station. Named after the Governor General of India, Lord Rippon, this building is another of the magnificent landmarks on the Chennai City and reminds the tourists of the colonial past of India. The Rippon Building is one of the most elegant examples of British architecture and has still preserved its vintage look. The building also has been a witness to a number of historical events of the past.
The Municipal Corporation of Chennai (then called Madras) settled in this building from the year 1913. The foundation stone of this building was laid in the year 1909. Two solid cast iron battle scarred cannons adorn the entrance & exit gates. A statue of Lord Rippon is mounted to the left.The special attraction of this building is West Minister Quarter Chiming Clock which is quite an age old watch belonging to the year 1913.
My next stop was Chennai Central - Celebrating centuries of service to the traveller, the Central station has indeed a long and colourful history.The Station with its distinctive red building is a combination of styles — Gothic and Romanesque. With its round arched arcading it is indeed very grand.
According to history, the Madras Railway Company began to network South India by railway as early as 1856. At that time the main station was at Royapuram. In 1873, the Madras Central Station was opened with just four platforms. George Harding designed the building. Robert Chisholm suggested some improvements and trimmings, one of which is the Travancore `caps' on the towers. This redesigning effort took till 1900 to complete. The clock tower has four faces and is at a height of 136 feet. It is set to chime every quarter of an hour and every hour. Madras being the gateway to the south, in 1998, the main building was duplicated and the station now had 12 platforms. Today, approximately 200,000 people traverse the platforms at Chennai Central every day. I then drove past monumental Southern Railway Complex & the massive Government Hospital recently reconstructed in contemporary architecture.
Next I went past the Fort Station to The High Court complex another landmark of Chennai. I could drive straight in through the gate without any security check. Its an amazing maze of buildings both anicient & modern, housing not only the high court but several lower courts also like district court,magistrates court,sub-court etc. It is a large campus running into several acres & well landscaped with a large variety of trees providing ample shade & beauty.The Madras High Court is believed to be the second largest judicial complex in the world, is located near the famous Parry's Corner (Dare House) one of the important central business districts of Chennai. Madras High Court was established on June 26,1862 as one of the three High Courts of India (others at Bombay & Calcutta)) established at Presidency Towns by Letters Patent granted by Queen Victoria. The jurisdiction of the Madras High Court extends to Tamilnadu & Pondicherry.The red sand stone construction, ornamental decorations on the walls and minarets add beauty to this building. Inside the campus prominently located is a large statue of Manu Neethi Chozhan who represents the very embodiment of justice. You can see from the photograph a cow ringing the bell asking for justice for the death of its calf who was killed under the wheels of his sons chariot. Manu Neethi Chozhan dispensed justice by having his own son crushed under the same chariot wheel which killed the calf !
From there I drove past Fort St.George which houses a church as well as the Old Secretariat building where the Chief Minister & his ministers have their offices. Being a high security zone I was barred from taking any photographs.
Fort St. George occupies a place of pride and prominence in Chennai. It was built in 1640 AD, by the British East India Company under the direct supervision of Francis Day and Andrew Cogon. This bastion achieved name from St. George, the patron saint of England. The fort houses St. Mary's Church and fort museum. St. Mary's Church the oldest Anglican church in India built in 1680 and the tombstones in it's courtyard are the oldest British tombstones in India. It is surrounded by thick massive walls with a moat surrounding it.
South of the Fort is situated The War Memorial a magnificent edifice built in memory of those soldiers from the Presidency who fought & died valiantly during World Wars I & II. Now inscriptions of 1948 Kashmir Aggression, 1962 War with China and also the Indo Pak War of 1971 have also been added. Incriptions are in 3 different languages-English, Hindi & Telugu. A statue of King George stands lonely & desolate at the traffic island adjacent to this memorial.
From there on towards the Beach Road past the Napier Bridge or Iron Bridge (a suspended deck arch bridge first completed in 1943), Madras University campus (incorporated in 1857) & memorials to Annadurai & MGR former chief ministers. Statues of Kannagi, Avvaiyar, Tiruvalluvar, Kamarajar,Periyar, Subhas Chandra Bose, Gandhi, Bharathi Dasan, Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan & others adorn the drive along the Beach Road. On my right I pass through Ezhilagam (housing state govt. offices), TWAD Board office, Presidency College campus, Vivekanandar Illam ( formerly called Ice House-built 160 years ago it was used to store ice from 1842 to 1880), & Queen Mary's College before reaching the architecturally marvellous office of the DGP. At this traffic junction is installed a pillar with Lion Capital of Asoka mounted with four lions atop & another pillar carrying a clock courtesy Simpson & Co. The light house is visible across from this point. be continued


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