The Bumpy Ride So Far

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I can’t remember how old I was when I first held up a doll and pretended it was my baby and cradled it. Every little girl does it. Just as most girl grow up with thoughts of the children they would have in the future kept as a treasured fantasy in their minds, brought out to be mulled over and weaved on whenever they found the time to, I too had my dreams. What will I name them? What will they look like? What games will I play with them? Then comes a time someone you know has a baby. For me, it was my cousin sister Malvika who was 16 years younger to me. Ill never forget her sweet milky smell, her soft as butter cheeks, the way she curled her fists around my fingers when she slept, her gurgles of laughter. Oh i loved her desperately; the warmth of cuddling the baby and listening to her little heartbeat. I enjoyed every aspect of looking after a baby, even cleaning up after her, changing her soiled diapers, walking around with her weight aching down on my arms till she fell asleep. Every experience created a memory that I still hold close even after 14 years.

This year, was my turn to finally see my dreams materialize. No one could have been happier to see those 2 pink lines than I. I was going to have a baby! I was going to be a mom. And what a marvelous time I intented to have with the pregnancy since it would be the only time I would be pregnant coz Bart and I had already decided that we would adopt our second child. I was ready to make an eating chart, an exercise plan, buy cool pregnancy clothes and basically strut around feeling like I was on top of the world. I had already tested positive at 3 weeks, even before I missed my period. I took the test coz I had stomach flu like symptoms. But I thought to myself, how bad can it be. Ofcourse women feel nauseous in their first 3 months. But thats no problem, I have a high tolerance to discomfort and pain.

Never could I have been proven more wrong.

Morning sickness and first trimester nausea is one thing. Hyperemesis Gravidarum, is a completely different ball game. 1% pregnant women get it. And anmongst this 1 % , .02% have it in extreme severe form. And what do you know, those odds chose not to skip me in its mathematical improbability.
So what does HG mean to me? It means
– throwing up more than 50 times a day
– slowly being unable to keep food
– being unable to keep liquids
– being unable finally to even swallow your own saliva without puking
– having nausea from morning to night without a moment of break
– being able to take no medication coz im pregnant
– lying down next to the toilet coz im so tired of walking to it every time i need to throw up
– losing 10 kilos of weight
– your body developing acetones because there is no carbohydrates in your body to produce glucose so it starts digesting reserve fats and muscles
– having constant migraines
– reacting severly to ALL smells
– becoming depressed
– developing a caseine intolerence
– having my skin dry up and crack with dehydration
– being hospitalised
– having to keep an IV on for months
– funally having to insert a nasal feed coz the body was getting depleted of nutrition.

This was my first trimester. I kept the IV on for 2 months and the nasal feed for 2 weeks. The nasal feed finally brought in the much needed change, but at a cost. Having a tube going down your throat through your nose let me tell you is no party. Every movement, every time you talk creates distress and discomfort. Your throat already blistered with the never ending puking bleeds all the time. Your nose bleeds all the time coz the tube chaffs it. But finally, I thought the nightmare was ending. True, i still puked. But 10 times a day wasn’t so bad was it? I still threw up after most meals. But i was able to swallow so that was all right wasn’t it? I still had nausea all day inspite of taking my nausea pill 3 times a day, but that can be put up with right? It was normal to choose food that you thought would be tolerable on its way out more than on its way in right? walking around with vomit bags was not so unusual right? I had one and a half month of my ‘imaginary’ better time. Its strange how human mind works, that even a horrible situation becomes ‘normal’ to you just because you have been in it long enough.

There was one other person who suffered as much as me, but in a different way. My husband Bart who stood by me like a rock. He managed to set up a new business, take care of the household, look after me and much more all on his own. He carried me back and forth to the loo EVERY SINGLE time i puked, gave me endless massages, stayed up whole nights comforting me and never once showing me what a toll the situation took on him. He let me vent all my frustration, anger and sadness at him and never once uttered a harsh word.

The worst part of HG is what it steals from you; the joy of being pregnant, the glow, the excitement, the planning of the baby. The baby was the last thing on my mind and I constantly felt guilty about that. But when your battling with HG, its humanly impossible to think of a baby. I was SICK of being told to think if the baby to help me through this. Really? Try being sick for 8 and a half months with no respite and then try to walk the talk.

Im now 36 weeks pregnant. Tomorrow, my 37 th week starts. The last 2 months have been the toughest part of the pregnancy. 2 hairline fractures with my baby boy having kicked my ribs making it difficult to move since the fracture cant heal since the ribcage expands with pregnancy, being on the nasal feed again now for a month and a half coz my stomach finally collapsed with 8 months of puking, stomach being constantly empty coz the tube bypasses the stomach and goes right into the duodenum so as to give the stomach rest but which causes acidity to build up and makes me vomit bile every day, having been admitted in the hospital multiple times, hundreds of tests, injections , ultrasounds and IV, horrible RLS that allows me no sleep at night, painful hemorrhoids, severe heartburn, having not eaten a bite for 2 months which leads to its own kind of mental depression, being bed ridden and trying to get everything organized for Eashaan, losing energy every week, miserably nauseous all the time, angry, sad, depressed, frustrated and just waiting for it all to end.

A far cry from the perfect pregnancy that I dreamt of since I held that doll. But the miracle in all this remains that Eashaan has been healthy and has been growing wonderfully. Its my silver lining for which I am very very grateful.

My darling Eashaan. I am waiting to hold you and kiss you and remind myself of how much I wanted a baby when I wished for you.
But im also waiting to find myself again coz I lost myself in these last 8 months. I am waiting to feel joy again, to enjoy waking up after a happy nap, to be able to eat a meal and savor it and not throw up after, to not feel nauseous any more, to sleep on my stomach, to be able to walk around without puking, to spend time with Bart, to be able to look after him again, to have a social life, to not feel so fed up and defeated all the time…..to just be me again so that I can really enjoy you. And I know thats what your papa wants the most too. Its not too far now. We are waiting to see you. You are our light at the end of this bumpy tunnel.

PS: HG is a serious issue that deserves more attention. Many pregnant women die from negligent care or choose to terminate the pregnancy because they don’t get the help they need to deal with it. The following link explains in detail about HG and its complications

http://www.helpher.org/

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The Art of the East- Memories of China

Think of one of the most popular cuisines; Chinese cuisine is sure to pop into most people’s minds. You see them almost everywhere and that is a fact. They are given changes according to where they are found to suit people’s palate; Indian-ized, Western-ized. So much that at the end of the day you really have to ask yourself, “What does real Chinese food taste like? Have I ever had any?” Well let me assure you that in most cases the answer would be ‘No’! It was such with me till I walked into ‘Memories of China’ at Vivanta by Taj at MG Road.

 

We were greeted in by Murali Babu, the senior Restaurant Manager and he made our whole evening one of absolute pampering. I had to just think of something and it was served. The staff made you want to lounge, relax and they help you enjoy every nuance of the food and drinks served to you. The ambience was quietly elegant and had a chic charm. The gold leafed roofs, the shimmering white walls, the exquisitely engraved window panels; the clichéd idea that all Chinese restaurants were done in red and gold with elaborate fan decorating the wall was completely done away with. Wooden structures warmed the white and gold deco and the delicately designed modish deco did justice to the restaurant that saw influences of ‘The Paris of the East’; Shanghai.

 

We sat down and the mysteries of the East unfolded in front of our eyes. It was a true Odyssey into the best Chinese that I have ever savoured. Paired with some delicious Chardonnay which I was surprised to experience suited my dishes, every bite was sheer pleasure.

We started with the Amuse Bouche, an ensemble of honey chilly lotus stem, asparagus and black fungus, pan fried silken tofu with black bean dressing. Each section was so beautifully arranged that I almost felt sad to dig in; but dig in I did. This was followed by a Crab Meat soup that I saw my husband tasting with his eyes completely closed in delight and a hot and sour vegetable soup for me; properly thick, with the right tempering of the two flavours. The vegetables used really worked its magic on my taste-buds; the highest quality of ingredients that were so fresh that you could hear them crackle in freshness with each bite.

 

We tried a few different appetizers, but I will mention the Crackling spinach. Now this was a recipe I have tried unsuccessfully to master in the past and I was envious at the perfection with which it was cooked here. Chef Thomas personally came out to chat and explained the secret behind the recipe. This was an aspect of service I really enjoyed at Memories of China; personal attention which made all the difference to our evening. I saw the chef having a quick chat at every table and asking people for personal preferences in taste. How many times have I gone for a meal and struggled to order only to be left disappointed. I felt here that each dish was customized to my taste, and it was.

 

The main course was food made in heaven. I had the burnt garlic fried rice, mapo tofu, wok tossed string beans and spicy Schezwan noodles. The tofu was buttery and perfectly cooked. Juicy and full of the most amazing flavour while the beans were fresh and tender. But the Peking duck stole the show. I am vegetarian, but seeing the wonder on my husband’s face, I have to give points to it. The chef, Amar Daimari, prepared it in front of us and it was quite the spectacular moment of the evening. Having specialized in Cantonese and Schezwan cuisine, the deft artistic way he put the dish together was quite the sight. The duck, imported from Singapore, had been tempered and seasoned for a whole day. It was cut into tender slices and rolled in soft rice pancakes and served with fresh veggies and a sweet red bean sauce. Each slice of the duck had a crispy golden skin, but what amazed me was the sight of the inside, soft and tender and almost like butter. The other highlight on my husband’s plate was the stir fried king prawns and scallops in ginger oyster sauce.

 

And all this royal food was rounded off with chocolate mousse, baked cheese cake and Madeline’s. Perfectly crumbly pastry with soft, rich filling inside. The evening couldn’t have been any better. Great food can be an art that comes with perfection. But what makes Memories of China stand out is the magic they create with the ingredients at hand that is customized to suit their guests. A twist here and there and it is the most perfect morsel to have ever graced your mouth. The care to details and attention to guests was remarkable. I saw a lot of people sitting around and treating the place like their home. The repeat guests are here for one reason; to experience the truly remarkable evening that memories of China offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Evening at Graze

There are many people who share my story; a life that is brimming with activities, travelling around, being busy behind the laptop all day, taking care of your home, taking care of your family and the list goes on. In between all this you find yourself craving for little time to relax, to sit back and enjoy the finer things in life and to be able to share this with someone you love. Like lot of other couples, Bart and I love to have an evening out every now and then. But we walked into Graze in Vivanta by Taj at M.G Road last night and we realized that we have been missing out on true dining experience all this while. All we have been doing is eating, not experiencing.

Graze has a very charming feel to it as you walk in. The warm colours of wood, the soft lights and the spectacular display of wine and fine scotches plead with you to sit down, unwind and enjoy an evening that is all about being pampered. You have a choice between cosy seating around the restaurant or of being the privileged audience to impressive live cooking at the interactive counter. We chose to sit here so that we could try and discover the secrets behind Graze’s amazing dishes.

And under the watchful eyes of the Restaurant Manager Ashvin Singh and the gifted chef Uday Nath our dining experience began. Rated amongst the Michelin star restaurants in the world, Graze is the only European restaurant in India. They promote real European cuisine and do not call themselves a Multi-cuisine restaurant. With a tagline that says, ‘The lighter side of European Cuisine’, we soon discovered why it was so.

When asked what people think of real European cuisine, it is astounding how many people have the idea that it is heavy; and without a question it cannot be argued that the ingredients going in are rich. Think of a creamy pasta sprinkled with parmesan or a rich truffle pastry dressed in its buttery glory; it isn’t an out of whack perception that you will find walking back to your vehicle difficult. But this is what Graze completely proves wrong. European food can be cooked in such a way that you feel light and sated after a multi-course meal. The quality of the ingredients served is so high, that they do not need to mask it with heavy sauces. Graze is one of the few restaurants I have eaten at where the sauce enhances the food and not drown it.

We were educated on the sous-vide technique of cooking by Chef Uday who talked about how the food is cooked in air-sealed plastic bags that are immersed in a water bath and cooked at low temperature for a long time. This ensures that each ingredient retains its fragrance and texture without shrinking and when served is juicy and a delight on the palate. Another tip I learnt yesterday is not too have too much going on in one plate. Two to three strong ingredients and all the necessary accompaniment to enhance flavour; this is where Graze differs from other restaurants. That they know how to create magic with the ingredients at hand. True artists in my opinion.

With the restaurant manager helping us pair our wine with food, I had an amazing glass of Chardonnay that was smooth without the acidic bite and Bart had a Pinot Gris which we were told would go well with our main courses.

Then the food magic began. Watching Chef Uday cook can give any self proclaimed cook a complex; stunningly artistic, maniacally clean and completely entertaining. He talked us through all the courses and explained what went in and what flavours to watch out for. Ashvin took us through how to pair the wine with the food; something we never experienced before where the chef and the wine expert tells you the right way to understand your meal. Two soups that were so creamy and frothy that I had to swoon and consider swapping Bart for the chef, the five spice poached figs with fresh greens and shaved Manchego cheese salad that was fresh, crisp with the best dressing that my palate has ever experienced, a main course of gnocchi that epitomized tender and was full of flavour, the sea bass imported from Chile that Bart claimed melted like butter in his mouth topped up with Crème Brulee Napoleon that had filo pastry floating like air on top of it and almonds stuffed into it. And to make it even better, we were presented with a second dessert of lemon tart with a Sabayon sauce. Tangy, crumbly and perfect.

We normally have evenings where in 45 minutes we eat our food and leave the restaurants. Restaurants these days seem to be waiting to get you off the table and bring the next guest in. But at Graze, they strive to create an experience where you take your time to savour the food, enjoy the wine and actually sit back and listen to the wonderful band live band that is there for your entertainment. Between your salad or appetizer and the main course, you are served a sorbet so that you get a break between the courses to take time and enjoy the company with you and around you. We sat there for two and a half hours; the longest we have sat at any restaurant. And it truly was an experience; from the food to the wine, presentation, ambience to the dedicated attention and care we were given. And all this done in an unobtrusive, friendly manner. One word to describe our evening- SPECTACULAR.

Think about the last time you have had such an evening experience. It isn’t too hard a task. Just make a reservation at Graze. And you can thank me for it later.

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The Hergaarden-Nair Family

I was watching Mr and Mrs Iyer the other day with Bart and was really struck by Rahul Bose’s line where he says how Konkana Sen Sharma saved him by just giving him a name, something a husband normally gives a wife. Two sets of discussion sprang in my mind when I heard this and I wanted to put them down in words.

  1. What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet from
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Apparently these days a name can save you. With religious maniacs running astray in the world, it actually boils down to what your name represents. Are you a Hindu? A Muslim? A Jew? A Christian? No longer does it seem to matter with these pockets of people who you really are. What you stand for, your contribution to the world. That you are a human being. Isn’t it supposed to be all about a personal belief which no one else actually has the right to interfere with?

The world stands witness to this belief of fanaticism gaining new heights in terms of terrorizing people. The recent attacks in Mumbai for example. What has it really gained? Did it make any strong statements? Did it bring out the cries of people who feel injustice has been done to them and they retaliate to violence to make their voices heard? All it did was steal lives of innocent people who had dreams and hopes of living their lives in their own terms; a basic right to freedom guaranteed to all by our constitution. But this right was stolen from every single Indian victimized in a series of heedless fights and fear. It has become all about your name. It seems a rose by any other name smells like rotten cabbage these days!

  1. 2.      “The Nair title is taken from the Mother’s side . as per Matrilineal system . That is, a person can take the title Nair only if his mother’s side has the name and not from his father’s side.”

Coming from a matrilineal family, it really bothers me that the world thinks everyone is born with patriarchal sensibilities. I remember the huge reaction Bart and I faced when we decided to use both our last names, hyphenated together,  after our first names. The thinking ran along the lines that I come from a community that’s matriarchal and he comes from one that is patriarchal. We love each other and respect each other and also each other’s family. Is one family more important than the other? Does one family contribute less than the other? Of course not! And we do not live in the days where according to his customs women go and live with the husband’s family and are dependent on them and so they take up the husband’s family name, nor do we live with the Nair customs of the husbands moving into the wife’s household and integrating with her family traditions completely. We are an equal union and we thought it was a gesture of love and respect to each other if we combined our surnames. This way, when we have children later on, everyone has a common last name. And here we met with resistance similar to the kind the religious fanatics seem to have a problem with; people who don’t know where to draw in their line of interference. Everyone had an opinion. “Oh how could you do it?”, “You are not manly”, “But you are a Nair, why take his name”. It was absolutely ridiculous. I can understand why some people have a problem, it is because it scares them to see other people move out of a herd mentality and live their lives according to their own terms. They still want to hide in the comfort of their herd and pretend to be cool and in control, that they are following a custom which they have no real idea about. Well, I ask you people, what makes you different from the other fanatics out there? They are just one step ahead.

I am glad to be married to a man who is his own person. Who is caring and understanding and open minded. Who loves and respects me and my family completely. Who has taught me that though a name might stand for my roots and culture, it doesn’t define the person that I am. So here’s to a name that has come to mean a lot to me; the Hergaarden-Nair family.

Bart Hergaarden, Thank You

Thank you for making my days special.

Thank you for smiling whenever you see me across the room.

Thank you for including me in all your conversations.

Thank you for talking about me to everyone else.

Thank you for worrying every time I am unwell.

Thank you for sending me surprise food packages so I don’t have to cook.

Thank you for bringing chocolates just because I love them.

Thank you for bringing me flowers on occasions.

Thank you for calling up my family just to chat.

Thank you for making my family yours.

Thank you for giving me a new family.

Thank you for playing with Nemo every day.

Thank you for stroking Memoll whenever you see her.

Thank you for cleaning up after them without a change in expression.

Thank you for fixing all the broken stuff at home.

Thank you for serving me food always before you serve yourself.

Thank you for filling my glass always so that I never have to do it myself.

Thank you for impromptu messages that make me smile.

Thank you for always listening to anything I have to tell you with an open mind.

Thank you for being so sweet tempered.

Thank you for being patient and understanding even when I’m in a complete rage.

Thank you for pulling me out of my bad moments and never giving up on me.

Thank you for never saying one hurtful thing to me even if I do to you.

Thank you for never screaming or swearing or making me feel less important about myself.

Thank you for always being on my side.

Thank you for putting me on your lap and hugging me close when I’m sad.

Thank you for laughing at all my silliness.

Thank you for eating everything I make and never complaining if I don’t.

Thank you for being so nice to my friends and accepting them as yours.

Thank you for letting me be a part of all your decision making and control.

Thank you for working so hard to keep us comfortable.

Thank you for being protective and looking out for me.

Thank you for all the lazy movie nights.

Thank you for always holding my hand when we go out.

Thank you for putting me on the safe side of traffic every time we have to walk on the street.

Thank you for explaining things I cant see.

Thank you for switching off the lights when I’m too comfortable to get up.

Thank you heating hot towels when I’m in pain.

Thank you for calling me beautiful when I feel most ugly.

Thank you for never resenting me.

Thank you for all the great holidays and getaways.

Thank you for taking so much of an interest in my work.

Thank you for great weekends.

Thank you for forcing me to slow down when I’m trying to tear through life.

Thank you for picking me up from the hospital when I was with apoopa everyday.

Thank you for spending so much time with them in the hospital even when you were exhausted.

Thank you for enjoying spending all your weekend in the hospital with them.

Thank you for being so genuinely interested and in love with my family.

Thank you for translating even the tiniest sentences when I’m with yours so that I’m always included.

Thank you for noticing every single expression in my face and reading me exactly.

Thank you for giving me reasons to celebrate.

Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for marrying me.

Thank you for sharing the rest of your life with me.

Thank you for being you.

Bart Hergaarden, I love you.

A Small Prayer

I have always had the luxury of being able to write down my thoughts on subjects close to my heart to share what is running amidst the chaos of my mind. It silences the noises, clears the mayhem and offers me a sort of peace that I bank on during such times. That momentary stillness, that silence that follows after being spent is a true blessing. For the last week, I have been battling trying to write down my feelings of loss at swami’s passing. But I am quite unable to express any form of grief. My mind closes and refuses to deal with the truth. And in those gaps where the truth seeps in, I am overwhelmed by my human feelings; angry, selfish, sad, confused. I am not even going into the spiritual aspects of Baba. That is for every person to decide for themselves. I have always maintained that god is no table-top discussion and one’s relationship with a higher power is one’s personal business. It isn’t anything that someone else can have an opinion on and deem right or wrong. I miss the person I have been shown to turn to as a child, the person I came to accept after my adult judgments on him, the person I had trouble turning to for a phase of my life, the person whom I whole heartedly accepted after my turmoil settled. I am not ritualistic; I don’t care for institutionalized religion that passes judgments on a ‘one-way moralistic road to salvation’. But I cannot deny anything that offers me peace, hope and strength. And Baba did all that. Many people have asked me if god could walk on earth. Ofcourse god can. Every one of us walking is carrying god within us. After all god is just the supreme universal power that we all tap into. An energy that rests in every visible object and being. The many forms, avatars, acts of god are just ways adopted in this human world by the supreme force to make our selective eyes forced to see what is maybe too hard for us to comprehend. So today I don’t think of swami as gone. I know he is still around, I feel his presence; I can continue to talk, fight, ask him questions and look for all my strength, hope and support from him. But I miss that comfort of knowing I can go to Puttaparthi and see him. I am human, so I am selfish. I feel bad for me. For my personal loss. And I think I am entitled to. So I close my eyes and thank him for all that he has shown and given me. For all the blessings. For making his last year amongst us my best year. I pray that he will give the strength to be less selfish and celebrate his life and not focus on his passing. I love you Baba. And hope you will always keep my eyes open to what I might miss otherwise. Sairam.

The Story of Genocide in India

Genocide Ignored

We all know the facts and figures; 6 million Jews killed at the Holocaust, 800,000 people during the Rwanda genocide, 8000 people at the Srebrenica massacre, the ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign in Bosnia that killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims…The list can go on and on for violence is a trait amongst human beings that rears its ugly head from time to time. Coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, the definition of Genocide can be stated as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group”. Everyone flinches, cringes, retorts with unbridled anger at the mention of any of these issues. So what happens to a genocide that has claimed the lives of 50 MILLION people? How has it been not addressed, dealt with and has silently been ignored and passed over for all these years? I am talking about the 50 million women who have disappeared from the population count of India since Independence.

India fought long and hard for her independence. Nowhere can it be claimed that women took a back seat. We fought alongside the men. Fought long and hard for independence, for liberty, for the right to live our lives with freedom, justice and peace. But the story unfolded very differently for us as the world silently watched on.

Since Independence, the census count has proved the ugly stories of female feticide, female infanticide, bride burning and many other horror stories. This year in 2011, India shows the disturbingly shameful figures of a sex ratio that is the lowest for women since Independence. Not a pretty picture that so-called ‘progress and development’ of India has been slapped with.

So let’s take a few moments to analyze this. Why have we not been able to help the conditions of women? We are so proud to claim that women are now found in all professions, have some of the highest marks in schools and universities, are versatile and can balance perfectly her position as a homemaker and a career person, are actively participating in politics; in short are found in all walks of life taking leading roles in our economy and society. So we are counted as a ‘progressing nation’. How can we then have not a few million, but 50 million missing people since 1947? Is it because of religious influences? The patriarchal society that is in dominance that deems family status according to the number of male children a family has? Ignorance and lack of education? Having beaten down the system of sati where widows were burnt on the pyre with their husbands, women still have to face abuse from their husbands and in-laws regarding dowry, marital rape and sometimes abuse simply because they are expected to endure it. Can you really blame these women for not wanting to bring in a girl child and subject them to this suffering? Female babies are poisoned, suffocated, made to swallow husk so that it cuts their throat and intestines, abandoned, drowned; the list of brutalities form a collection of the most terrifying forms of cruelties. Women are considered a burden and ill omen from the moment they are conceived. India seems to have no place for this special section of human beings.

The only state where we seem to be favored is in Kerala. The dominant matriarchal society has always protected, cherished and looked after its women. Education, health, position, power of women in Kerala has always been higher than men and the sex ratio proves how this works in the benefit of the society. Families function better and prosper well with a woman heading the household. We are not considered ‘Another household’s girl’ since our birth in this society.

Is asking for the basics of life; the right to have one meal given to us, the right to develop our minds through education, the right to have a voice, the right to be seen, so much so the right to live and breathe asking for too much? When will this genocide finally end? When will we have a savior? When will we have our tryst with destiny?


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