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CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY DIFFERENT ROLES – Part 9

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By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

chandij@sympatico.ca

Romantic Neighbour

Our second year at the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) commenced with a pleasant surprise. The manager’s position at Samudra Hotel changed frequently and his/her living quarters adjoined the CHS hostel. The new hotel manager was a lady with five children around our age. Three of them were very pretty girls. Prior to our new neighbours moving in, CHS students were dressed casually when at the hostel. Sarongs, shorts with no shirts or even less, was normal. With the exception of a handful of the well-behaved and studious, we were a noisy and disorderly bunch.

That changed overnight, when we saw the three daughters of the new manager looking curiously at our hostel from their front garden. We were disappointed to hear that the elder girl had a fiancé, but happy to note that the other two did not have boyfriends, yet.

Fairly quickly our attire after school changed to more fashionable clothes. Basically, our general grooming improved to impress our new and pretty teenage neighbors. Most of us, in addition to regular shaves and well-styled hair, commenced using expensive after shave colognes. Even those who did not have such luxuries started smelling good by simply using richer students’ supplies without their knowledge. We gradually commenced locking our good shirts in our individual wardrobes as some of the playboy types simply helped themselves to impress the girls in the evenings.

One of my batchmates developed a serious relationship with one of the girls and used to have long whispering conversations from either side of the partition separating the hostel and the manager’s living quarters. For another batchmate who was less experienced with girls, it was love at first sight. He really liked the youngest girl and dated her for a short period. He was heartbroken when she ended the relationship. I was able to successfully convince one of those girls to be a dance partner at the next Graduation Ball held in 1973.

 

Ragging Leader

A year after I joined CHS, my batch mates and I surpassed that Fresher F***er (FF) stage. We felt the difference in our second year at CHS. We were now respectfully addressed as Lord Veterans, by the poor 28 Fresher FFs in the CHS batch one year below us. Those day only boys were allowed to the three-year management programme and had to undergo the usual ragging week. I was an ’unofficial’ rag leader determined to bring some creative group fun activities rather than individual harassments similar to what we underwent a year earlier. I was also influenced by a batchmate, Saibu, who carried his anger for a long time based on one incident during the ragging the previous year. When he told me this story, I had to try hard to look serious without laughing aloud!

During the 1971 rag, a Lord Veteran had Saibu to climb a large tree facing the Galle Road, that provided shade to the warden’s house. After Saibu was up the tree, he had been ordered to remove all his clothes and throw them to the ground. Then the Lord Veteran had hidden the clothes and gone away to a class at the Alliance Française around mid-afternoon, conveniently forgetting poor naked Saibu up the tree. Covering his private parts with large leaves while holding a branch to ensure that he did not fall, he was up there for three long hours until sunset as he could not get down before dark as the warden’s wife and young daughters were seated on their front lawn having a pleasant, long, laughing chat while sipping tea and eating chocolate cake. I told Saibu, “Machang, other than the long wait up the tree, you were OK, right?”. Saibu responded angrily, “What nonsense. That bloody tree was festered with black ants, who kept biting my arse for hours!” After a pause, he added, “One day I want to kill that bastard Mahawaduge!”

 

Choreographer

In spite of our good intentions some of the ragging activities were fun only for us but scary for the FFs. One such activity was a fake mass circumcision ceremony which I choregraphed with dim lighting, haunting music and chopping knife sounds etc. All FFs were lined up in a corridor and they were told that they should enter the dark room in the corner of CHS hostel one at a time, when ordered to do so. A scary-looking large chopping knife, a big chopping block and a small bucket were carried to that dark room ceremonially to commence the ritual. Owing to certain qualifications, Saibu was undisputedly chosen as the ‘Master of the Mass Circumcision Ceremony’ (MMCC).

Then I ushered the first FF in the line who was shivering in fear into the mysterious looking dark room. Once I brought him into the room, all my batch mates sitting on bunk beds and chairs around the dark room made a howling cannibalistic noise. At that point, the first FF begged me to let him go home and he told me that he wants to quit CHS. I then whispered into his ear, “FF Abeysundara, don’t worry. This whole event is a joke. All I want you to do is when Lord Veteran Neil Maurice makes a big chopping noise, cover your fingers with this red paint, run pass all your batchmates and scream as if you are in deep pain.” He understood and played his part perfectly. Whilst he ran covering his private parts with red paint covered fingers, screaming, “Budu Ammo (Holy Mother), my penis was cut off!”, some of the FFs waiting in line fainted.

 

Assistant Barber

The third-year and second-year students partied daily during the ragging week. In 1972, when CHS Principal Sterner returned from his summer vacation in West Germany, we noticed that he had cut his hair very short in keeping with then popular ‘Crew Cut’ style. We called it ‘The Sterner Cut’. One evening during the ragging week, my batch mate and friend Neil Maurice told me that during the summer break he learnt hairdressing. He needed to practice his newly acquired skill to perfect it. To support my friend’s ambition, I lined up all 28 freshers FFs from the new batch and told them that in consideration of their good behaviour, they would be rewarded with a free haircut by an expert.

Neil did a lousy job with the first haircut. Consuming a couple of shots of Gal Oya arrack prior to the haircutting practice was not a good idea. Having cut off too much on one side of the head of the first FF in line, Neil tried to balance it by cutting more on the other side. At that point, I told Neil, “Machang, this chap now looks like Herr Sterner.” Neil was motivated. The bottom line was that after three hours of aggressive mass hair cutting, we had 28 heads looking l

ike Herr Sterner’s. Next morning, Fresher FFs marched to CHS to be greeted by Herr Sterner. Baffled by seeing near bald first-year students, the principal asked, “What happened!?”. We said in unison, “Sterner Cut, Sir!”. He did not comment and was not amused. At that moment we realised that we had crossed the line and overdone our ragging. Later that day, someone influential had complained in Parliament that there were human right violations committed by the second-year students of CHS.

 

Friend

We quickly organised the end-of-rag celebration booze party at the hostel and became friends with all FFs. I became life-long friends with most of those colleagues in the batch junior to me, particularly because they were closer to my age than my own batch mates. Forty-nine years later all their CHS buddies still address some of these FFs by the funny nicknames given to them during the CHS rag in 1972. These nicknames include, Arthur Aiyya, Johnny Weeraya, Boothaya, Chabba and Herr Hartmann (as this FF, Saman looked like the cartoon character in our German language text book). Now when we occasionally meet, we have a good laugh about our ragging era, pranks and mischief at the CHS. Ragging was a bad thing and I am happy that ragging stopped at CHS in 1973.

 

Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena

has been an Executive Chef, Food & Beverage Director, Hotel GM, MD, VP, President, Chairman, Professor, Dean, Leadership Coach and Consultant. He has published 21 text books. This weekly column narrates ‘fun’ stories from his 50-year career in South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and North America, and his travels to 98 countries and assignments in 44 countries.

 

Fast Forward to 2021 – My Post-Pandemic Roles

After 50 years in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry, I am pleased to get more opportunities to serve the industry. My work in 2021 focusses on far more serious functions compared to my roles in 1972. My primary focus now is to help rebuild the industry. Since the beginning of the year 2020 the tourism and hospitality industry has been struggling in an unprecedented manner, facing its biggest global challenge in 100 years. A few examples of my current work are:

 

Webinar Moderator/Panellist

Two weeks ago, on May 24, 2021 I was happy to present at the first of a series of webinars organized by the International Institute of Knowledge Management (TIIKM). The theme of this webinar series is, “Future of Tourism & Hospitality Management – Post Pandemic”. The full video clip of the webinar is now posted on the TIIKM Facebook page.

 

Conference Chair

On November 4 and 5, 2021, I will co-chair the Eighth International Conference on Hospitality and Tourism (ICOHT), with Professor Suranga De Silva of the University of Colombo. This annual conference brings together tourism and hospitality industry leaders, educators, researchers and scholars from around the world. This year we are focusing on learning from the best practices around the world in rebuilding. The theme for the conference this year will be: “Post-Pandemic Tourism & Hospitality”. It will be held in Colombo.



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Features

Echoes of NM’s dismissal may have an impact on present crisis

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by Tissa Vitarana

Dr. N. M. Perera, one of the greatest politicians and statesmen produced by our country, was born on June 6, 1905.

In recognition of his stature as a freedom fighter, a trade union leader, an authority who consolidated parliamentary democracy in the country, an economist who defended the rights of the developing world and sacrificed political power to defend minority rights, he remains in the heart of the people 43 years after his death. Each year on June 6, it has become customary to celebrate his birth anniversary by paying floral tribute at his statue in Colombo. Leaders of the Left and many other political parties participated, together with some leading supporters of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which he had helped to form in 1935 with socialist objectives.

Among the chief speakers were the current Leader of the LSSP and the Chairman of the Dr.N.M.Perera Centre or his representative. Similar functions would be held at the statues in Thun Korale, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota, in turn bi-annually.

As usual on June 6, 2021 the function was held, but only with three persons present as a token event, to conform with the three health regulations required to control the Covid 19 epidemic . As the present General Secretary of the LSSP I gave a short speech, the Chairman of the Dr.N.M.Centre who was unwell was represented by Ranil Vitarana, and the LSSP rank and file by Nuresh Rajapakse, a member of the PB whose ample size filled the space left by the absent LSSPers. We retired home to discuss how NM might solve the present crisis if he was alive.

The crisis that NM faced as the Minister of Finance in the SLFP/LSSP/CP Coalition Government in 1972 was far worse than what confronts us today. In 1972 there was the perennial crisis of over production that dogs the capitalist economic system. But in addition the fossil fuel price went up seven times due to the getting together of the oil producing countries to form a cartel, OPEC. The worst global drought in 30 years led to a severe food crisis, with thousands of deaths worldwide. As a result, due to the traditional import dependent policies of the UNP Governments, our people were in grave danger (e.g. the price of a ton of imported sugar went up from $ 40 to $ 600).

NM explained to the people the magnitude of the crisis and called upon the people to tighten belts, stop the import based luxury lifestyle, and develop an import substitution national economy, producing our food and developing value added industry (his budget allocation for science and technology was increased four times). The bulk of the burden should not be passed on to the people but borne by government and the rich. The direct personal tax on the rich was raised to a maximum of 75% (today it is only14%). He managed to balance the budget and in one year in office earn more than the loss. The strict import restrictions reduced the foreign trade deficit and helped to cut down foreign borrowing. The foreign debt was reduced to the lowest in our history.

Today the biggest problem is the high cost of living, mainly due to huge profits made by rapacious middlemen (big mill owners, local money lenders to farmers such as traders etc.). To end this NM and the coalition developed the producer cooperatives (such as farmers) and the consumer cooperatives as genuine peoples’ organizations. By direct dealings between the two he wiped out the profiteering of the middlemen. The cooperatives were so successful that NM brought down the price of essentials to affordable levels, and even gave a measure of rice free. The result was that no one died of starvation unlike in other parts of the world. Due to the opposition of the traders, outsourcing to them was not possible. The result was long queues at the co-ops. This and the other shortcomings were exploited by the media controlled by the rich to lay the blame on the government. They hid the global nature of the problem, but blamed the government.

Besides food shortages a major problem was the shortage of medicine in government hospitals and the high cost of medicines in private pharmacies. Prof.Senaka Bibile, a member of the LSSP, came up with his Medicinal Drug Policy, which was accepted by WHO. NM strongly supported it and it was implemented. The outcome was that medicines for practically every disease was available in all government hospitals free of charge. The shortages were overcome, unlike the situation that prevails today. The foreign drug companies got their governments to intervene and promise a large sum of money to the government to overcome the crisis, provided the NM and the LSSP was expelled. The finance portfolio was taken away from him, and he was given a minor post which he refused and the LSSP was forced out of the Government.

The CP left the next year and the SLFP suffered a major defeat in the 1977 general election. The UNP led by JR Jayewardene came to power in 1977 and opened the door for the commencement of the process of change referred to as neoliberalism. This ideology led by the USA reached its zenith throughout the capitalist world, most of all in America. But it was a failure. It was rejected by the Sri Lankan people at the last presidential and general election.

The anti-UNP political parties helped form the SLPP-led government and are committed to do everything possible to solve the economic, social and health problems facing the country and people.

Like NM, I and the LSSP are very happy that the neoliberal foreign market dependent policies have been rejected, and the commitment is to establish an indigenous economy, where local agriculture and value added industry are to be developed. A major problem is the Covid 19 coronavirus epidemic. In view of my training in virology and experience here and abroad in association with WHO, I could have made some contribution to overcome this problem. In addition where local value added industry is concerned I have already made a significant contribution as the Minister of Science and Technology when Mahinda Rajapaksa was President.

In the four years I established 263 Vidatha Centres, one in each division, and helped 12,300 micro, small and medium entrepreneurs to develop island-wide (17 exporters, 64 suppliers to Cargills and other food chains, and 53 to hotels). To promote large scale industry for the export market I set up a Hi-tech Centre, SLINTEC, with emphasis on nanotechnology near Colombo. But it would appear that I am not fit to be a minister, leave alone a cabinet minister. I wonder whether what happened to NM and Senaka Bibile had any bearing on this.

But why was Prof Sirimali Fernando, Senior Professor in Medical Microbiology at Sri Jayawardenapura University left out. For her post-graduate research in London she not only worked in the field of Virology, but also used the PCR. She could have seen that the PCR test (and the RAT) were properly standardized to give reliable results. Control of the epidemic will be difficult with many false positives and negatives.

You can understand what a person of NM’s stature felt when he was kicked out of the finance ministry, when what has happened to me is related. The only occasion that I could express my views was when the Health Advisory Committee of Parliament met on one occasion, at very short notice, with the Minister in the chair. I proposed that a National Committee of party leaders in Parliament be set up to interact with the minister to exchange views so that we all unite to fight this common enemy. Then truly national Covid committees could cooperate down to village level in the interest of all the people.

The minister turned this down and said that this Health Committee will meet twice a month and any party leader is free to come. Four months have gone and this committee has not met once since then. Secondly I proposed that as community spread had begun a new community based approach was necessary to control the spread and I gave an outline of the necessary measures. She rejected my assessment and approach, stating that it was still in the cluster stage. I said that the cluster approach could continue where indicated, but my proposal too should be implemented. She rejected this proposal.

I might mention that the day Dr. Fernandopulle was appointed as minister she invited me to meet her and I had a fruitful discussion with her for more than an hour. I hope that she will get the necessary support.

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Monastic food – vegetarian food (mildly selective)

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I was directed to the film series on food on Netflix titled Chef’s Table and enjoyed watching the first of series three. It was on the South Korean Zen Buddhist nun, Jeong Kwan, and her preparations of monastic food.

Jeong Kwan

(born 1957) is a Zen Buddhist and chef of . She lives in the Chunjinam Hermitage at the in , where she cooks for fellow nuns and monks, as well as occasional visitors. She had no formal culinary training but is now directing the preparation of vegetarian food in a café in Korea and has visited China and Japan as ‘food ambassador’. Temple food is literally food consumed by ascetic Buddhist nuns and monks. Since their goal is enlightenment, achieved by both mind and body, ascetic food aims at this great achievement – enlightenment.

The bustling Chef

Jeong Kwan ran away from her home in a northern province of South Korea at age 17, leaving her family of seven siblings. At 19 she joined an order of Zen nuns and took to cooking with joy, food for the nuns and monks in an adjoining monastery. She had learned to turn out noodle dishes when she was just seven years old. She refers to her being chef to monks and nuns as her way of spreading the Dhamma as food is a very important component of ascetic life, the food certainly not to be relished, drooled over, hungered for, but eaten mindfully to sustain the body in health and thus contribute to the development of the mind.

Jeong Kwan’s recipes use aubergines, tomatoes, plums, oranges, pumpkin, tofu, basil, chilli pepper, and other vegetables and of course rice or noodles. vegan, Jeong Kwan’s recipes omit garlic, green onions and leeks, which are believed to be mildly aphrodisiacal. In the Netflix film I watched, this fairly well set nun with a serene face and charming smile, grows all the vegetables used in her menus. She sows seeds or plants seedlings, tends then lovingly and then harvests what she needs day by day. She says however: “It’s up to nature and the plants themselves to stay alive. Time flows for them and for myself at the same pace.” Her philosophy on cooking monastic food is: “We cook food that can become one with the person eating it; then it functions like medicine inside our bodies.”

Most of what she used in the film were familiar to me. There was nelum ala or the ‘yam’ of the lotus used; and various leaves she gathered. She uses oil fairly freely in her preparation. I don’t know what oil it was. And of course kimchi is an integral part of what she serves each nun in small dishes; the typical Korean dish always present, made from a certain kind of cabbage dipped in sauces. Nun Kwan dipped into large clay pots of sauces, some of which were very old, the sauces I mean.

 

Vegetarian and Vegan

It is apt to define these two terms here. A vegetarian is one who does not eat meat or fish and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious or health reasons.

A vegan is one who abstains from the use of animal products particularly in diet and believes in the “philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.” There are degrees of veganism. The term was coined by Dorothy Morgan and Donald Watson in November 1944. (Wikipedia)

 

Food served at meditation retreats

I wrote a fortnight ago about my experiences of meditation retreats at Parappuduwa Nuns’ Island off Ratgama, Dodanduwa, while Ayya Khema was living there and later; and about 10-day and shorter retreats undertaken at Dhamma Khuta Vipassana Bhavana Centre in Hindagala, Peradeniya. Both places were vegetarian. At Parappuduwa we served ourselves from dishes placed on a trestle table, after the resident nuns and any foreign persons in prolonged retreat, had had their meal. I recollect Ayya Khema would remain in her seat supervising us! I once reached out for a dish to pass on to my neighbour who I thought needed some from that dish. Ayya Khema reprimanded me for reaching out for a dish. I did not explain it was not for me but for another that I did what I did. Extreme respect!

At Dhamma Khuta we went up to the food tables in a two queues – men and women – and held out our plates for rice first and then down the line for the vegetable curries; just four sans red chilly, and a salad or leaf sambal. Everything was served in measured quantities. This was lunch at 11.15 – 11.30. We were served dessert, mostly fruit or a prepared simple pudding. For breakfast we were served boiled seed like green gram, followed by a cup of tea. We were allowed to keep tea and sugar in our dormitories and expected to drink plain tea after noon, which unfortunately some did not follow, copiously adding milk and even snacking, just as they broke the Golden Silence rule. In the evening at around 6.00 we were given the choice of half a glass of fruit juice or a mug of plain tea. Those on medicines were served a couple of biscuits and a banana.

Recollections are many but I will narrate just two. At the first ten-day meditation retreat at the newly constructed and not quite complete Dhamma Khuta picturesque Centre right on top of a hill, with Ven Goenkaji and wife living in the bungalow on the premises, we were rather choc-a-bloc since the organizers wanted to accommodate as many as possible at this unique retreat. We were three in most dormitory rooms with the previous meditators accommodated in the now defunct tea factory below, necessitating an arduous van ride in rain and mud and fog.

One of my roommates was obviously rich and definitely fussy, and oldish. She brought along a huge suitcase which covered half the floor of the room. My small bed was against the opposite wall so I had no jumping across or alongside it. She even brought a winter coat! Before bed there was a ritual she followed: munched crackers and cheese, thala guli and drained a mugful of beverage – cocoa or chocolate made with the hot water given each of us in our flasks after the evening gilanpasa.

The next recollection is me, a novice, standing at the narrow food table with helpers on the opposite side, ready with ladles. On the first day of the retreat, I stood at the rice dish at lunch, waiting for the server to give me another spoonful. I thought the amount served was totally inadequate. A slight wave of her palm to indicate I move on was missed by me. She then moved me to the curries with a big wave of her hand. The point in this story is that by the end of the retreat, say seventh day to tenth, I found the rice served me was too much and waved away the second spoon ready to descend on my plate. Even the measured, restricted quantity was found to be too much as the mind got calmer and body felt rested.

With Ven Goenkaji, samples of the cooked curries were taken to him to be tasted and passed as OK. At latter retreats, maybe Brindley Ratwatte or Damayanthi performed that task to see that not too much spices were added. But bland though the food was, it was so very well cooked by the village women who came to help. We ate with gratitude in our hearts to them, the organizers of the retreats and even the farmers.

A very significant point was that with the glass of juice or tea and the fresh cool water off the clay pots placed at strategic positions, I slept more soundly than at home. I found the cup of tea made before going to bed totally unnecessary and even impeded sound sleep until woken at predawn 3.30.

Conclusion: we normally eat far too much, especially at dinner!

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The Rajeewa Jayaweera I Knew

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For a fleeting period, Air Lanka (before its change to SriLankan) lit up the Oman sky, but it was all too brief, as was the life of the initiator of this success. We commemorate the first death anniversary of Rajeewa Jayaweera and recall with pride the achievements of this dynamic individual who left a significant imprint of Sri Lanka’s landscape among those living in the gulf states.

As a journalist my association with Rajeewa spanned over a decade in the nineties. He was a “stoic and principled” administrator who was forthright and considered in his views. As Manager of the Sri Lankan airline in Oman, he delivered exceptional service not only to our community in many ways over the period of his tenure, but also to those Gulf travelers visiting our island. I was amazed at his dedication, determination and discipline; he did not waver in his search for perfection.

When Rajeewa arrived in Oman in the second half of the nineties, Sri Lanka’s National airline was in the doldrums and was considered “just another airline” competing for a share of the Gulf’s travel market catering mainly to the Lankan workforce. Rajeewa’s vision was different, his desire was to raise the standard of the airline to be on par with the best, but he had to contend with the bureaucrats in Colombo. He faced up to the challenge. Not afraid to speak his mind and to take a firm position on issues that were

important to him and the airline, his persistence to enhance the image of the airline succeeded, commencing with the shifting of the airline’s office premises after 13 long years to a prestigious and prominent location. The airline’s logo was displayed for all to see.

This was followed by familiarisation tours to our Emerald Isle for foreign journalists and travel agents and Rajeewa accompanied them as tour guide, mesmerizing reporters with his in-depth knowledge of Sri Lanka’s history and attractions to leave them in awe.  Rajeewa was a true ambassador for the country and its airline, just like his late father, Stanley Jayaweera, a career diplomat of repute. In 1997, to coincide with 50-years of Sri Lanka’s Independence, Rajeewa hosted Air Lanka’s first-ever glamorous “Top Agents Awards” ceremony at the Muscat Holiday Inn.  The invitees were treated to an extravaganza of what Sri Lanka had to offer interspersed with a cultural show, traditional dancing, and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine courtesy of Jetwing’s finest chefs.  Rajeewa’s positive charm instantly propelled the

airline into the limelight, winning hearts and minds of the Gulf’s expatriate community resulting in Air Lanka becoming the preferred carrier of choice for their holidays. As a disciplinarian he may not have endeared himself to many, but he stood tall with his direct and “no nonsense” approach which provided the basis for the airline’s success in the Sultanate.

After completing his term in Oman, Rajeewa was transferred to Madras and then Paris continuing his drive in these two cities to improve the image of Sri Lanka’s national airline.

In later years Rajeewa bemoaned the plight of Sri Lanka’s national airline and mismanagement.  He had a fierce loyalty for the airline and represented his country with pride and would have been an ideal member to serve on the SriLankan Airlines board with his vision and experience. Unfortunately, those with vested interests thought otherwise and the island nation’s loss was Qatar Airways gain. Those who associated closely with Rajeewa will remember him as a strict disciplinarian with a strong work ethic and an abundance of skill. He was an outstanding role model for young people in particular. He was a beautiful, kind and much-loved friend. We are sad beyond words and extend our deepest condolences to Rajeewa’s family.

 

Clifford Lazarus

New Zealand

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