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To raise a kid, raise yourself first
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
33 min
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Questioner 1 (Q1): I’m a single parent and I have a son. He gets a lot of homework from school, but instead of doing it he likes to just play around. Next day, when his teacher tells me that he hasn’t done anything, how should I react?

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, first of all you must know and tell apart black from white. Not listening to the right person is not as bad as listening to the wrong one. If you’re not listening to the right one, at worst you have a clean slate: the right teachings have not reached you. But if you have listened to the wrong one, then your loss is two-way, two-fold.

Firstly, the wrong teachings have reached you, and secondly, your slate is now occupied. The right thing cannot reach you now.

Who are these teachers? From where are they coming? What do they know about child and mind and development? Are they operating from compassion? Are they gurus?

One must have a healthy contempt for rubbish. Doesn’t matter if it is coming from someone who is officially designated as a schoolteacher or a college teacher—how does it matter?

In India, especially—with all due respect to the profession of teaching—it’s not the best talent that goes towards teaching. And especially in the junior classes, you know how it is. Why must you then take the advices or instructions of these teachers seriously at all?

Their limited mandate is to finish their syllabus and ensure that the students have all passed with respectable percentages. They are not aiming towards human development, are they? Their salaries or their assessments, their appraisals will not take into account whether the child gained in-depth; whether the child gained in love. They will be assessed purely on one thing: what is the average percentage of the class in social studies?

So, the teacher has a one-point agenda: make them mug up the social studies thing. And it doesn’t matter what it does to the child. And if a child is actually a little Buddha but not faring well in social studies, he’s a useless dump for the teacher.

The teacher will say, “Come on, take him away! He’s not doing well in social studies. He might be a little Buddha, it doesn’t matter to me. My salary, my appraisal, my performance, my career, my reputation depends on the performance of the child in social studies—full stop.” There is no integrated vision.

We do these camps for teenagers and kids as well, and Himanshu (referring to people in the audience) has been there a few times, he too has gone once. I’m often left aghast hearing of fables from schools.

Q: Acharya Ji, After reading one page of the story he as so exhausted and he starts crying like anything.

AP: (Referring to something someone just said) Don’t get into that at all. What is the worst that can happen? The entire schooling system will certify him as a non-performer, that’s all. So what?

I had a discussion with his father (referring to someone the audience just talked of) in the morning, and he was very worried because his results have just appeared and he has not done well. That he hasn’t done well—it’s alright. He has no obligation to prove to the world that he’s an academic superstar. It’s okay.

And if it boils down to being equipped for earning a livelihood, then today’s economy offers a thousand ways to earn a livelihood. He’s not been doing well in mathematics and physics—science, science. It’s ok, how does it matter?

Not everybody is meant to crunch numbers, right? Not everybody is born with the aptitude to be good with everything. Maybe he will be good with Sanskrit or German or French or Chinese or Japanese, who knows? Maybe he has better skills at languages; maybe he’ll turn out to be a good athlete.

He runs and he has even been named in the school magazine a couple of times. Why should we push him to excel in mathematics? 2+2=4, this much he must know; otherwise, all the grocery vendors will dupe him. Beyond that, what is the point? And for what purpose are there calculators and computers?

Q: In most of the schools, parents are forced to do this and that in the education of their children.

AP: Are you obliged to burnish the name of the school? Fine, your business—you take care of it! Why should I give my peace or sacrifice my peace, or that of my kid, so that your name may shine? I’m not bothered about all that.

Put him in some other school—full stop. There are so many shops, so many shops out there.

(Laughter)

Understand this: the situations that were there around 25 or 30 years back in India are no more prevalent. Then, it was a question of even physical survival, basic economic well-being. If you aren’t doing well in academics, then you may even have to face starvation, if you aren’t, you know, inheriting a fat sum legacy. So, it was a question of having at least enough to make two ends meet.

Now, it’s no more like that. Kids have a thousand opportunities, the economy is doing well, and if you are in the capital region, what more do you want? There is nobody who is going to starve. So, no need to put undue pressure on kids or on anybody. Everybody is a kid.

There is no need to pressurize anybody to gain a particular skill or this or that. If there is one obligation that one has, it is to stay centered, stay devoted to the Truth. Beyond that, there are no obligations in life.

If you can’t run fast—it’s okay; if you can’t cook well—it’s okay. If there is anything that you can’t do well, you need not be ashamed about it—it’s okay. But if you are a deluded person living in dreams, deceiving himself and others, it’s not so okay. That’s the only mandate.

Questioner 2 (Q2): Yesterday, there was talk of a particular school named ‘Little illusions’.

(Laughter)

AP: ‘Little illusions’—it’s scary, it’s scary—I have seen that. It’s scary. And think of the teachers who work there. In all their consciousness they have chosen to take a job in a school that is so named. ‘Little illusions’—I can’t get over it. That school should be deregistered on the basis of just the name. ‘Little illusions’, what are they thinking?

Questioner 3 (Q3): I have a four-year-old little brother. He has four close adults in his life who all guide him differently. For example, my mother and father treat him in different manners. How can he choose whom to listen to?

AP: It’s great if he’s not able to pick any one of these. See, there is no rule of thumb in such cases. It’s an irony that kids are born to us. If it were a perfect world, kids would be born only to Buddhas, because only they know what parenting is. Only they, in the real sense, deserve to be parents.

But we do beget kids, and if you are a father or a mother—could be any reason; random chance of biology—it is a great challenge. To really raise a kid, you’ll have to raise yourself. Remaining what you are, how will you act as a guardian? It’s a god-like work.

Raising someone to become a man or a woman is a work that requires the depth and breadth of God himself. And if you don’t have that, then you will produce some botched-up work—and most of us are samples of that botched-up work.

Kids just enter our lives and we are almost shell shocked; we don’t know what to do with this thing—now it has landed. The initial euphoria is behind you now. You have done all the fancy stuff and the kid is one and a half years old. Now, what to do with this thing? You yourself are not very mature; you are yourself yet in your twenties. What to do with this thing? How to raise him?

And because you are not sure of yourself, you are confused. So, any schoolteacher can then dominate you because you do not know what parenting means; because you do not know what is meant by the development of a human being. So, any schoolteacher can come and tell you stuff and that too with a heavy hand.

“Oh, you see what you have made of your kid, and unless you take care of it, he has no future.” She can talk in this language. “We don’t think your child has a great future. You know what, she absconds; she doesn’t listen; she runs about in the corridors; she’s so talkative and she even pulled my pony.” So buddha-like.

Q1: So, how should the parents react?

AP: Depends on who the parent is, don’t you see? Don’t you see how a wise being would respond? He would smile and proceed to get the transfer certificate.

The camp that I was mentioning—to which these two have gone—there’s our girl, Rhythm, and she has been a regular visitor. Her mother decided to take her out of school. She said, “Yeah, you come out.” This entire year she has devoted to studying by herself—swimming, music, sports, camps—whatever she could do. She hasn’t been able to do much, but her mother feels it’s still better than subjecting her to the environment of the school. Maybe she will re-join school, but at least the mother had the guts to go against the social convention and pull her out. “Ah, I don’t go by what you are saying.”

There are parents and there are teachers, and there is no Guru.

Children don’t have much beyond their biological instincts. Much of the mischievousness that you are talking of is absorbed from the environment. The child is born quite empty; all he has is the biological tendencies. Beyond that, he has nothing.

If the child has turned very mischievous by the age of three or four, then you have to ask yourself: from where did he imbibe all the mischief? From where did he receive all these tricks? Not from the womb at least. From where is all this coming to him? Is it television? Is it the neighbor? Is it the school? Or is it the parents themselves?

And then you want to punish the child? He’s only displaying what he is learning from you. You are clever enough to hide one thing and show the other. The child is blunt; in his case input equals output: he receives something, he acts according to it.

You see, we talk of disadvantaged peoples of the world; we talk of minorities; we talk of oppressed classes and castes; we talk of certain ethnicities; we talk of women. We talk of these as the disadvantaged peoples. The most disadvantaged section is actually children. Can there be a more harrowing experience than to be in the custody of two highly ignorant people, and that number too can be as high as five, six, eight. It might even be one—one is no better than eight!

Can there be a more harrowing experience? And it lasts not for one year or two years; the child is meant to be in that state for ten, twelve, fifteen, eighteen years. Feel the grossness of the situation, can you? Like an animal who is in the custody of an inadequate trainer, a novice. The trainer does not know, so all he does is pokes and pinches and beats the skin out of the animal. The trainer has no idea what to do with this animal—and the child is born an animal.

If you are a parent or if you are in charge of anybody—be it a small child or grown-up students—you must be very-very responsible, very responsible. You have to be very very aware of who you are; what your relationship with the child is; where your responses are coming from. Are you loading the child with your own expectations?

How many diseases can one talk of? But it’s evident everywhere. You go to the marketplace and you see how parents are treating their kids. You go to the railway platform, you go anywhere, a movie hall.

Why do people decide to become parents in the first place? What was the damn hurry? You yourself are a kid! Now, two kids together, out of which one is acting as the senior one. Not only the senior one, I mean…

It’s not even a figurative thing that I’m talking of. A few months back I met a woman—we’re talking of the parent himself being a kid—and she said, “I have a baby, and the baby and the father of the baby—they compete for my body.”

Is the father a father at all or is he just another baby? And the woman is actually saying that. She’s saying, I mean, she talked of many things, among many things this was one. The father is competing with the four-month-old for the mother’s body. What will this father teach the child? Is he a father at all? He is a four-month-old! He’s not even four months old—he is not yet born.

But the child will have to remain in the custody of such a father for fifteen years. This is the worst human rights violation you can have. To be born to an ignorant father or to an ignorant mother is the worst hell. Even the courts won’t come out to help you. They’ll say, “You know, they are your parents, so they know best. First, you turn eighteen, and then we can talk to you.”

Now, eighteen is such a big number! Who wants to wait to turn eighteen?

And ways of inflicting violence on the other can be so subtle. An incisive glance; there are mothers who control their kids just by looking at them (makes a sharp stare with eyes) . And the kid is shivering and the mothers are proud: “I don’t even have to, you know, let alone shout at him—I don’t even have to utter a word; I just look at him and he goes vibrating in his lower half.”

We talk of the company. This what is happening here is traditionally called a Satsang . Satsang . What does Satsang mean? Good company. Good company—a company of Truth. Good company.

Now, what kind of company are we providing to the kid? Whose company does the kid have most of the time? The parents’. And there is no better heaven than the right company and no worse hell than bad company. And hell becomes all the more intolerable when you cannot run away from it. You are just a two-year-old, you are not supposed to run away. Some do—even at two.

Because this is what I do day and night, so I’m talking at length on it. It becomes very difficult after a particular age. When I started off, I used to get frustrated. At that time, I was mostly talking to young people from colleges, universities. And one thing I would repeatedly say then was: we are cleaning the rubbish that they have brought from their history and home. The parents totally destroy them, and then, in the limited period available to teachers, it becomes very difficult to reconstruct them, raise them.

By the age of seven or eight, the child’s conditioning is more or less set, probably even earlier than that. After that, if you can take corrective action, it is just grace. But by the time the kid reaches seven, his faith has been more or less sealed. His hardware has been set. Now, minor changes can happen, but the fundamentals have been set. So, it becomes very difficult for a guru. Then you have to rely on prayer.

Then one feels like questioning, “That which I am correcting, why did it have to be set wrong in the first place?” It was not born wrong; it was not born deformed. First of all, you deform the thing and then you ask the teacher to reform. It is an unnecessary wastage.

Q: But Acharya Ji blaming ourseleves as parents is not giving me the solution. Please show the path.

AP: Of course, of course—not blaming anybody. The parents can only get what they have. And intention-wise all parents want to bring the best to their kids. But in the absence of awareness, intentions just don’t matter. If the mind is not there, high up, all your intentions will only end up achieving the opposite.

But the birth of the child is an opportunity as well. You can then tell yourself, “Now is my time to take a second birth, I’ll grow along with the child. I’ll grow along with the child. A tremendous responsibility has come to me and with my vagrant ways it won’t be possible to fulfil it. So, I better buckle.”

God is the creator, right? We call God as father, mother—and converse is also true: if God is mother, then the mother must be god-like. And if the mother is not god-like, then there is a problem, a definite problem.

If God you call as father, then the father has to be godly, and if the father is not godly, then—poor kid.

It’s obvious, it’s obvious. You look at young couples walking around in the shopping malls or elsewhere and then you just imagine, “They’ll be parents soon, probably they already are.” And a wave of horror will run through your entire body. You will feel something in your spine. “Is this man a father?”

When I was in Europe last year, there was this lady, almost in her seventies. Both her parents were still there, but she had broken away from them twenty, thirty years back. And at that age, at the age of seventy, she was still under the impact of the trauma that she had received from her father.

Father was violent, would keep comparing, and was about to beat her up even when she was fifty or sixty years old. And beat her up on what occasion? He had had a cardiac arrest—she went to see him. The father is recuperating, and she went to see him and she’s standing by his side. And she did something wrong— might have place a bottle here or there or, you know, fiddled with a tube or something—we all like to do that. And the father opens his eyes and says, “If you were any closer, this hand would have risen and smacked you hard.”

And she hasn’t seen her father since that day. And she’s seventy and she’s still— yeah, she remembers—and she’s still under the impact. This is being said to a fifty or sixty year old. “If you were any closer, this hand would have smacked you hard.”

That’s the reason why I talk so much about observing, beholding our daily lives. I’m a very practical man; I see no value in chanting mantras or quoting the scriptures if you are living a debauched life. I’m not someone who would quote the scriptures for the sake of quotation. Ultimately, it must lead to the betterment of your hour-to-hour life.

You must be a person more sure of yourself; you must be a person who looks with wonderment, yet with confidence; you must be a person capable of love, of intimacy. And if all that is not happening what is the point in memorizing the Sutras and the Shastras and this and that.

And there is so much of violence around, you know, all these houses. When I go past an apartment and all those…

Q1: Voices.

AP: No, not voices. They are very morally and socially conscious people: they ensure that the voices don’t go beyond a point. But when you look at all those pigeonholes, you just imagine what’s going on inside there. And it’s not a very pleasant imagination. It’s not pleasant at all.

The first part is, people are sometimes very confident about their ways, very confident. And you have ample opportunities to observe the ways of people. You might be in a flight; you might be in a railway coach—you’ve got so much of time. You can watch how people are behaving with their spouses or with their kids, and it’s such a feeling of helplessness; you know something is being destroyed right in front of your eyes and there’s not much you can do about it.

I have seen people smack their kids in train coaches. And kids, well, you know, trains do something to them. They might otherwise be reasonably peaceful, but once inside a railway coach, something takes possession of them. They have to go up and down, all three-dimensional movements are possible. Inside, outside, up and down the alley.

Then the father just gets up and… (imitates the sound of a smacking hand) And a heavy silence. The kid sometimes doesn’t even cry—beat that! He doesn’t even cry out. He takes it and goes off to sleep.

That’s what we are doing anyway to each other always, irrespective of the age, no? Our means of violence are both gross and subtle; we don’t have to necessarily beat the other up. One nasty comment! Or emoticon on Whatsapp, ouch! It cuts through. And you know very well what it will do and yet you do that, don’t you?

We don’t do that socially very often. You know what, we do that in our intimate relationships. On big social groups we present acceptable faces. It is when we are conversating in private that you take the gloves off and the nails and the fangs are bared.

We have become so accustomed to violence that if we come across someone who’s not violent, we find an odd. We are prepared to receive a blow or smack or hit all the time—we expect that. That happens so frequently with us that our system has become used to, conditioned to it.

Not only that, you know, worse than that is when you are not getting it, you start demanding it. It doesn’t happen anymore in the urban and educated circles, but it used to happen in India in the countryside.

Women were regularly beaten up by their husbands, and worse than that was that when a woman would not be beaten up, she would feel that her husband does not love her. You demand it, you want it.

“Oh, your husband doesn’t beat you up? He doesn’t care so much! He doesn’t bother to even beat you up!”

That woman is still alive within us; we want to be beaten up. And if someone doesn’t beat us up, we don’t take that as peace: we take that as indifference.

Because we do not know how to come close in love, the only way possible for us—the only rotten way possible for us to come close—is in hatred, like two wrestlers. They are so close to each other; trying to get on top of the other; trying to beat the other. We don’t know what a loving hug is.

So, intimacy is possible only when you are hating the other. Now there is intimacy, you see! Your hand touched her cheek! You punched her—some intimacy is there at least! Touch is there, some intimacy is there.

Questioner 4 (Q4): If I don’t do it but the other person is doing it, then should I do it or not?

AP: It’s not how it can be questioned or answered. You know, how do I tell you what to do in a particular situation? So, questions involving ‘shoulds’—how do I tell you? Do I know how should I answer your question? When it comes, then I let the answer come. When the question comes, then I let the answer come; I do not know how should I answer your question.

Such thing are never prepared in advance. It depends on who you are, and if you are alright, then your response will be alright. Contrived or pre-planned responses can’t serve you for long.

That is the reason why an entire religion grew with nonviolence as its center, Jainism. Because if there is one thing that is the bane of living, it is violence. That entire religion has nonviolence at its center—oh, it has a vast philosophical base as well; it talks of thousand other thing as well—but if there is one thing that is central to that religion, it is nonviolence.

Nonviolence is of such great importance, and violence is so very pervasive. We have become dehumanized, desensitized. We don’t even realize that we are hurting the other, and sometimes deliberately hurting the other without even knowing. So, you are deliberately doing something without even being conscious of it, which means the deliberate act is arising from some point deep in your mind.

Now, you can’t even stop the violence. Had you planned the violence, then you would have been in control of the violence and you could have probably stopped it. If violence is arising from a point deep within, you don’t even know. You can’t stop it now. You don’t even know that the tone of your voice makes the other tremble.

You don’t even know how caustic your glance is; you don’t even know that your silence is a nuclear bomb. Your silence has the sound of a thousand explosions—silence can be extremely violent, extremely violent. Have you experienced the violence contained in silence? By not saying anything you can almost kill the other.

And you can’t be blamed—you were just silent. “I was a mute; I didn’t say anything. Did I say anything? Am I saying something? No, I am silent!” It’s such an incisive silence: it cuts through.

(Inaudible talk and laughter in the audience)

My question is: why have you put yourself in that kind of a situation? Run away, go hide somewhere! How long can you breathe in such a polluted environment?

Questioner 5 (Q5): Probably most of us are okay with this torture and are not ready to run away because of the costs which we feel that we have to pay.

AP: My question is: have you really calculated the costs realistically, properly? Or are we just imagining the costs? And whenever one does a cost analysis, it must also be accompanied with a profit analysis. The costs have to be weighed against the profits. Have you ever thought of the profits?

You underestimate the profits and you inflate the costs, so that you don’t have to do anything.

Q5: And whatever analysis is done, is done by that particular deep-seated demon, which is actually wanting it.

AP: I know what you’re saying, yes, yes. But you are something beyond that demon as well, right? One is always capable of doing it rightly as well. The ‘Buddha nature’ never really dies. So, right calculation is also possible. Why not rely on that? Why not try that out? Wrong calculation is probable, but right, too, is possible.

Questioner 6 (Q6): Running will not always be the right solution.

AP: It is a right solution many times.

Q6: Don’t you think there’s a way where you understand so well —or if you act in the right way—the other person will change?

AP: Yes, that right action is ‘running away’. Run away, the other person will change. You have tried everything else, you know. The only thing that you have never tried is running away. The other person has a way to beat all your other tactics; the other person has found out a solution to all your other challenges.

Now, this is the only one left: run away. And this is the one measure that the other does not anticipate you to take, he simply does not expect you to take this measure. Now, you will be doing something that will take maya by surprise.

And no running away is final. If coming close was not final and you had to run away one day, then even the running away is not final.

Q5: Is is like wearing a red T-shirt to attract bull?

Good, red t-shirt. If the bull is coming again and again to you, see what you’re wearing; see what you’re attached to. By the way, bulls don’t really come to red but it’s a useful imagery, so we take it.

Q5: Personal experience is the best way to prove. Even if you run away, many times you pretend that you are running way, but you’re not really doing it. And then the person whom you are trying to running away still runnings you to control you.

AP: The question is, what do we really mean by running away? Is it about physical separation? No, running away mean a strict ‘no’ to tolerance in certain cases. Certain things are not going to be tolerated. A certain line must never be breached—and if it is breached, you’ll not find me there. That’s it.

There are a few things that must be out of bounds. Don’t think that you are inflicting violence on the other by running away: sometimes your absence is exactly the space the other one also needs.

You think that by clinging to the other or by remaining physically present with the other you are displaying loyalty or fidelity or some kind of kinship. It’s not true; the other too needs a certain space. Sometimes your absence provides that. Your presence is anyway not providing that, so what option do you have?

You have to figure out the way, you see. It’s your life. It’s your one, precious, single life. Be creative; find out a way. If you can find out a way to store 126 GB in a little pen drive, you can also find out a way to do other things in life—you’re intelligent enough.

Devise a plan, do something! You anyway keep planning; now, plan about this! How to go about it? There must be a method.

There was a fire once in a building I was in. A few people had actually fainted. Three or four big vehicles from the fire brigade were needed to douse the fire. And one of those firemen goes up the stairs and broke through the glass and carried the couple of persons who had fainted.

I was lucky I was easily rescued. Later on, I had a talk with one of them—he had been hurt actually, so he was hospitalized. So, I’m talking with one of the firemen.

It was a little thing he said, but it was quite important. There were many things I talked to him about—this was a little excerpt. So, I probably asked him, “What is it that you are most careful about during rescue operation? What is it that you are most careful about when you are rescuing fainted people as you did in my building?”

He gave a very pithy reply: he said, “We are careful that we do not faint. That’s the one thing we must be very careful about.” Because the same gasses, the same pollutants, the same poisons that made the others faint are invading the lungs of the firemen also.

That’s the one thing you must take care of. If you want to save the other, firstly protect yourself.

Q5: Most of us spend our lives not even knowing that we are actually inhaling the poisonous gas, and we keep on thinking that it is a normal gas.

AP: That’s the thing: man can become accustomed to living a mediocre life—and not only can become accustomed: man can remain mediocre happily.

Q5: Apparently, yeah.

AP: No, not apparently, actually happily. That’s the nature of happiness: it thrives more in mediocrity. At the heights, happiness actually recedes: you are left with just a subtle joy. That excitement that one calls as happiness is more pervasive in mediocrity.

So, one could be leading a very unfulfilling life and yet be happy about it. One could be singing songs about the lack of fulfilment, happy songs.

That’s the reason why all the spiritual scriptures say that, “Don’t come to us, unless you have a terrible yearning for liberation. Don’t just come to us because it’s fashionable.”

You must first of all be experiencing that you are stuck, caught, bonded. Unless you are very-very dissatisfied with the fact of your bondage, there is no point commencing the spiritual journey—because you won’t go far. The spiritual journey will demand much from you. And you’ll say, “What’s the point paying such a high price? I was alright even as I was. So, what’s the point investing too much here?”

When I would talk to young people—I still do—but, rebelliousness is one thing that I would talk so much about. I would not talk so much about wisdom. I would talk about keeping one’s spine straight.

You must be prepared to pay the price; you must be prepared to fight it out; you must be prepared to take a few blows; you must be prepared to be ostracized.

Rebelliousness—'I do not agree’—is extremely important. It’s important for the youth, it’s also important for everybody. Unless you are prepared to rebel against your current condition… You don’t even seek another state, why would it come to you?

Q5: Many people become man at the age of forty.

AP: They are lucky if they become man at forty. It’s come very-very early to them. Most people die in their infancy at the age of eighty. The fellow is eighty, ninety, maybe two hundred when he expires—he’s still juvenile. Maturity has bypassed him.

You have to be tremendously lucky to make something worthwhile of this life. Otherwise, almost everybody is destined to just waste these years. That’s the default programming; you’ll be born, and you’ll be wasted. One has to really be blessed with grace.

Questioner 7 (Q7): Where would it come from? I mean, one is blessed and the other one is not blessed.

AP: I don’t know.

Q5: And it’s funny how the one who is blessed, is actually suffering in the eyes of the world.

AP: He’s jinxed, he’s in crisis. He needs to be exorcised (laughter) . You’re not even jinxed, you’re possessed! Some alien spirit has taken over you. So, you need to be exorcised.

Rebel, and don’t care for life. If they kill you, it’s good. You are anyway not going to enjoy the next sixty years remaining as you are. So, if they kill you, say thank you. As things are, the next sixty years are anyway not going to be enjoyable. So, either you’ll be killed, or you will be redeemed. Both ways, you benefit.

So, fight!

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