Simian Saga

 

At the outset, I insist that only the believers read on. Sceptics and cynics please stay away. After thus alerting the spoilers, I will recount this story, but first some background.

We live in a small town in Haryana and run a nursing home that occupies a small part of a vast compound, which has a gardenimage vegetable patch and fruit trees. Monkeys are frequent visitors, and apart from the occasions when they go on the rampage, tearing clothes and uprooting plants, it is a story of peaceful coexistence. They take the fruits and vegetables they like, and we eat what is left. Since they are considered Hanuman’s kin, no one wants to be overly stern with them.

Initially our staff would shoo off the monkeys with sticks. On a good day they would run off, on a bad day they would impudently stare back. Then one day, which you will agree was worse than other days, a monkey snatched our stick and waved it threateningly back at us. Feeling utterly belittled, we then tried to scare them with firecrackers, but to no avail. That is when, out of desperation, we bought an air gun.

Initially, the sight of it was enough to scare them. I still wonder how the monkeys knew that firearms are fearsome gadgets. When the novelty wore off and the enemy figured out that we just aimed but never fired, their respect for our gun died. Now we were left with no choice but to shoot at sight and show them that we meant business. And so we would fire in the air on seeing them. Sure enough, it sent them scurrying for cover.

After a while we ran out of pellets and started firing it unloaded, thinking the sound and sight of the gun would be enough to frighten them. Soon enough they called our bluff, and started ignoring our dry firing. They stepped up their destructive activities, awaiting our next move. Clearly it was a game of wits and we were losing.

A walk-in patient
And then one day, something happened which, we thought, would change the dynamics of our relationship. A monkey walked into our hospital through the front gates. Yes, you got that right; he walked on his hind limbs with an upright, almost humanoid gait. Didn’t jump over the boundary wall, which was until then the preferred route. Moreover, he didn’t leap around, leer or try to scare children. The menacing look, the threatening demeanour, all gone.

He then walked to the rear of the hospital and quietly lay down on an empty bed. That’s when we noticed: he had injured his hand and it was bleeding. He lay there pleading with his eyes. Most of the staff, having heard stories of monkey bites, was scared to do the needful. A male nurse bravely went ahead and dressed the wound. During the whole procedure the patient lay very still, without even a whimper. Afterwards, he gratefully walked out of the front gates.

For a few weeks thereafter the monkey menace ebbed and I thought we were being rewarded for the good deed. I began to dream of eating ripe, succulent fruits fresh off the tree. But soon enough, the simians returned to their usual misdeeds. Maybe our patient was from a different group; maybe he was low in the monkey hierarchy and couldn’t influence the behaviour of the rest of his clan; maybe word of the incident didn’t spread in the simian community because they don’t share stories. We had no way of knowing.

In any case, our mind was preoccupied with more pertinent questions. How did the monkey know we were equipped to tend to his wound? Dressings and operations are done indoors, away from their gaze. What made him temporarily give up his simian habits and try to emulate humans? Did he think we were more likely to treat him if he behaved like one?

And the most important question of all. Did he think that by walking upright he could pass off as a coveted member of the homo sapien erectus species? Is that the only difference he perceived between us?

This incident stays fresh in my mind, and since it happened before the era of readily accessible phone cameras, I can offer no photographic proof.

As for those who are shaking their head in disbelief, you shouldn’t even be reading this!

( published in the Hindu on 3/5/16)

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64 thoughts on “Simian Saga

  1. Bala moni says:

    Dr. Manjugupta,
    I’m Dr. M.Madhubala from Tirunelveli. . a district in South Tamilnadu. ..
    First ,let me thank you for the wonderful article. ..published today in open page..
    I could not contain my eagerness to write to you appreciating the same. .
    I had just returned from a surgery n getting ready for my op….what a relaxation I had reading yours! ! I enjoyed every bit of it.. It made my day. ..The whole simian saga was in front of me as a film….Thankyou once again for the wonderful article. ….

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you ma’am for your kind comments. They certainly made my day!

  2. amul garg says:

    Hi

    I read your article in the Hindu today. I absolutely loved it. Especially, the ‘I started dreaming of ripe fruits, straight from their trees’ was a piece of classy humour.

    Keep writing!
    Amul

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks amul. It was the truth. We have never eaten fruit right off the tree ( except lemons!). Ii is a survival of the fittest between birds, squirrels and monkeys. Humans seem to be at the bottom of the pyramid!

  3. P.S.Prakash says:

    sir,
    i have gone through the above said real story, and i wholeheartedly believed it. i have also had similar experience. but, your experience is very surprising and interesting……you done a good job by providing medical treatment to the monkey. no doubt monkeys are very kin of lord hamuma. as seen from your experience one can believe that monkeys also having feelings and thoughts like human beings. anyhow you are very great.

    p s prakash
    bank manager
    kakinada
    east godavari dist
    andhra pradesh

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your appreciation sir.

  4. Babli yadav says:

    Hello Dr. Manju,

    Read your article in The Hindu op-ed. Totally bought it I agree that such mystical experiences can never be forgotten and can often be life steering.

    Keep writing
    Babli

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Babli. Yes such incidents do make you think….

  5. SK venkatraman says:

    Hi,

    I’m currently the Chief Strategy Officer at Apollo Hospitals Group

    I believe your story and it was indeed fascinating

    There are things which we can never figure out

    Thank You ,

    SK Venkataraman

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you for your kind words and for writing in.

  6. Kala Sundaram says:

    Dear Dr. Manju,

    I fully believe your story and enjoyed reading your story!

    I once saw a mum and baby monkey, the little one kept climbing the railing, which was potential danger, one misstep and it was sure death for the baby! The mum kept pulling the baby down to no avail! Finally she gave him one whack on his bottom and immediately kissed him! It was heartwarming and unbelievable! Despite having the latest gadgetry with me, I didn’t take a video.

    You may like to read the below.

    Do share your stories, I would love to read them. There is another article I would like to share titled, “what I learnt from tickling apes” If I find it and have saved it will send across.

    Enjoy your day!

    Warm regards,

    Kala

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you for sharing. And thanks for forwarding the articles. I found them very interesting. I write a blog ALifeExtraordinarilyOrdinary.com. You can read similar ‘ordinary’ stories about me on it. I started writing last year when I realised that even though my life is quite ordinary, it is ‘extraordinary’ in many ways ( everyone’s life is!) And if I don’t write about it, who will ?

  7. Rajakumar says:

    Dear Doctor,

    When I read your article the first thing which came to my mind is our politicians during election. The leaders are coming to beg for our votes. After the election we all know what they do. They go back to their way of life!!!

    Any living would always love to live as you might have discovered in your life? Any living is intelligent too? So I believe your narration.

    And it has give me the insight of why the politicians behave that way. That is their nature.

    With all the best wishes.

    Yours sincerely,

    Rajakumar.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir. Loved your analysis. Politics is monkey business!

  8. Justice Akbarali ( retd) says:

    I believe you Doctor. Amazing narrative. My friend Dr has also lost or losing a battle against our ancestors . Similar lines except the unusual patient.
    Justice Akbarali (Retd) Chennai

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Yes the injured monkey patient and how he knew that ours was a hospital….continues to astound me….it’s not that we do dressings in the open…..and have never caught them peeking into our theatre (ground glass window panes!) and the upright gait….I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.

  9. K.A.R Reddy says:

    I don’t find anything skeptical in your narration. I had similar experiences in life. Sharing an environmental milieu with simians is rich and enthralling. Hanuman’s armies are eggetarians. I saw monkeys breaking eggs and drinking the yolk many times by opening the refrigerator in our home. They came in to our dining rooms sat on our tables and had bountiful fruit meals many a times. But still, it’s really astonishing that a monkey patient walked in and sat on your couch!! If I am not idiotic, you share some indebtedness with those poor creatures. I understand your consideration for your fellow beings on the planet. As it is often said, one should have the quality of love of mankind and compassion to all creatures (Bhoota-daya).

    Regards and Best wishes

    K.A.R.Reddy

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for sharing sir. It is unbelievable how close to them ….we still are!

  10. Aarya Choudhury says:

    Dear Madam,

    I am a believer!

    Regards
    Aarya Choudhary.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      That’s good to know Aarya. Stay that way.

  11. Asha says:

    Dear Dr.
    Indeed a believe it or not article.
    Regards
    Asha

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      So did you believe it…..or not asha?

  12. Seerat kaur says:

    Hello Ma’am,

    Your article in The Hindu was a very interesting and enjoyable read. I could almost picture the monkey walk into your hospital with a wounded hand! Animals are truly intelligent creatures, we Homo sapiens tend to underestimate them.

    Where in Haryana are you? We too, run a hospital in Mohri.

    Regards
    Seerat Kaur Gill

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you ma’am for your kind words. I practice in Gharaunda, dist Karnal. Its on the GT road. Drop in sometime.

  13. Chanchala Borah says:

    Hi

    Yes i am shaking my head. No, not because i dont believe in what you wrote. In fact its not just the head thats shaking. All the parts that go with ‘laughter’ are shaking.
    Really really liked your piece. Very well written and its funny. What else does a reader like me wants.
    Thanks for that
    Chanchala Borah

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Ha ha. Loved the way you worded this comment. Thanks a lot

  14. KMK Mahaboob says:

    TGive a rating: Average: 4 stars

    KMK Mahabub
    Thank you Ms. Manju Gupta for sharing such a wonderful story! The story is indeed gripping, fascinating and deeply thought provoking. Despite advancements in science and technology, certain things of life are still shrouded in mystery and your story is a classic example. Great story and worth reading by all.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir for appreciating and looking for a deeper meaning in it.

  15. Dr. Ritu Agrawal says:

    Good cocktail of facts n some amount of fiction (presumably)they surely r an intelligent lot !they visit us at 5 am these days fr mango treat ~smart decision as its cool and they know that its too early for us to be awake

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      As uncanny as it seems, it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth……so help you God !! They are smart….we agree on that

  16. Sunita singh says:

    Dear Manju.
    Nice narrative. Gripping from start till end. No wonder they are intelligent creatures on earth. I feel they are great psychologist. What I have observed if a frightened female posing to be brave tries to shoo them away. They ignore it very conveniently. The moment a male specially the fearless domestic help challenge them. They are gone in a minute.
    Good narrative keep it up

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Sunita this is my observation too. They are not scared of women, even armed ones!! Thanks for the compliment.

  17. Rajender Kumar says:

    Hello,

    I got reminded of my childhood days at Hyderabad. We lived inside a compound which had 9 different households(not flats. Our house was close to a huge garden which had a mango tree and also ‘korakapalli’ tree(this one is native to A.P.).

    Hordes of monkeys would visit the garden(mostly on saturdays!) and would be mainly interested in that korakapalli. Little monkeys would cling on to their mothers hugging them tightly and this was an awe-inspiring sight. They did us no harm but my childish mischievousness (which would creep up now and then even now) made me show faces to them and also show my fists. A couple of senior monkeys would imitate that and also pretend as if they were charging at me ready to attack forcing me to run for cover.

    Your narration was very interesting and I visualised the monkey walking on two legs and going and lying down on the bed all by itself. I could find humour, phiolsophy and even spirituality in your story.

    Thank you!

    Raj

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for sharing. Seems we all have monkey stories to share. I once watched as a priest was distributing bananas to a group of monkeys. One monkey hid his banana behind his back and asked for more

  18. Mitra says:

    my dear celebrity writer
    Loved your article interesting thought provoking combo…as always ..and am very very happy for the lovely appreciative responses ….Manju …just wait ..keep writing freely ..your clan will keep growing

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks mitra. ‘Hindu’ is all because of you. You are truly the wind under my sails. I wouldn’t have thought of even trying….and this is my sixth! in a year….

  19. Lalita and Krishnan says:

    Enjoyed your article, Ma’am !

    After all,Lving Beings are born with intuitivity and survival-instinct.

    We think it gets sharpened into thinking – power, as demonstrated by your simian ‘patient’ !

    Thank you for sharing the ‘story’ , as experienced in yr.hospital !

    lalita and krishnan (Octogenarians enjoying their sunset years in a ‘resorty’ retirement-cottage in Chennaihomes-Aishwaryam,’melding’ with ‘Nature’ !)

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks sir and ma’am for writing in. I agree that other forms of life have more intelligence than we give them credit for.

  20. Bala says:

    Dear Dr Manju Gupta,

    Namaste!

    I wanted to add the subject line in the hope that you would not dismiss this as spam mail J I read your essay in The Hindu and I was heartened for many reasons. For one, that you live in such an ambience is such a beautiful thing, despite the simian ‘menace’. That you and others are finding ways to coexist is a beautiful thing and I had tears as I was reading about it all. I can only imagine your plight, mind you, of facing these unruly fellows and I am not sure what I may have done, had I been in your place.

    Well, my name is Bala and I reside in Chennai. I hope that some day, you would allow me to visit your paradise J In the meantime, I wish you well

    Warm regards,
    Bala

    Balasubrahmanian S.
    Head – Educational Partnerships
    +91 98403 16507
    +91 44 28170345 / 4992
    http://www.ezvidya.com

    ” You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world, you just have to persevere.”
    – Sidney Guillory, Asst. Principal, Nash School, Chicago

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your insightful comments sir. You are most welcome to visit our ‘paradise’ when you are in this part of the country. Loved the thought you used as a tag line. I too believe in perseverance.

  21. P K Balachandran says:

    Dear Dr.Manju,

    Your story OPEN PAGE Hindu dt.03.05.2016 dressing treatment given to a monkey. Hear God created all of us animals, including we, birds, plants and others have their own way of life-modus. They are watching carefully all of us but not by us. In Kerala elephantine true stories are too much. In a nearby temple one elephant started quarrelling with his master. The tusker simply left the temple went direct to his owner’s house, travelling 21 KMs and made noise of his arrival. There were so many junctions on the roads and plenty of vehicles plying . But the elephant reached in the correct house.. The beauty is that the onlookers too started following him all the 21 Kms. So the point is that they were not having money to come back to their respective house since they went empty hands.

    The kids are very much interested in elephants. So they will reach to the elephant if they are alone. Once a boy of 3 years simply went near to the elephant touching on his legs and was very happy. Seeing it by the boy’s mother started crying aloud and went near to the elephant. Elephant got the situation and it hold the boy on his tusk and kept it near to the mother and went back so that the mother can carry her son without fear.

    Elephant is so strong that they simply throw away the auto on the air like a foot ball and the lorry simply throw into a far places.

    I used to feed the crow and other birds in the noon and evening. They will start making noise in the noon and evening if it is not served. One 4 PM I heard a big noise from crows. I thought I had already served them food and then what is the reason. I went outside the house and seen that these crows biting a snake started to enter in to my house. The crows went after the snake till the snake hide in a far place.

    As for monkey it has a habit of putting its hand in pots and bottles. In Lucknow where so many monkeys available in our camp AMC, in 1960’s one person kept a dead snake into a pot having narrow neck and placed under a tree where the monkeys used to come. When there was no one, the monkey came down and put his hand in the pot and catches the snake. Monkey does not know it is dead or . So the monkey kept on catching the snake with the belief that if released the snake will bite. The rest. The same place I had seen that the monkeys will show their hands when we eat Poori and if offered hang on the tree and snatch it from our hands. And if point a gun to the monkey, it will pray with folded hands.

    Muslims used to kill the goats and sell its flesh, bones etc. One Muslim bought a kid goat and it was seeing the deeds of his master daily. When the our small goat became big as that of the one his master bought from the market, the goat went into the big wooden table and, where flesh is chopped and sold, lay on it so that the master can cut his neck and sell the flesh? He stopped killing of the goats there after.

    It is a wonderful world. Only thing is that we do not have time to learn this creatures. This earth, this world is for all of us and not for human alone. Sorry doctor. You may have plenty of such stories to narrate to the Hindu readers..

    With kindest regards,

    P K Balachandran Nair,
    Suvarnrekha, Eklakollur PO KONNI
    (03.05.2016)9745722580

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Mr Bala for sharing these heartwarming stories. The sad truth is that we humans don’t give ‘lesser beings ‘ enough credit. Thanks again for your valuable input.

  22. Wendy Chaves says:

    Oh how I enjoyed this!! It brought back memories of happier times spent in an army bungalow. We were cheek by jowl with ‘jungle’ territory and the monkeys used to visit on a regular basis. They only got aggressive during the breeding season. They would be on one side of the windows and skylights and my childhood self would be on the other (safer) side and we would make faces at each other. Their expressions were so human!!!!

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Wendy. Yes the resemblance is uncanny. You just have to look closely.

  23. Kowsalya says:

    Hai Manju,

    This is kowsalya, will be better to say I’m one of the believers you were talking about in the HINDU article dated may 3 rd.

    I was astonished while reading your article. I felt fresh albeit I imagine.

    Nice to read..

    Regards,
    Kowsalya.

  24. Surekha says:

    Yes, Mr MKV, Mr Desikan,

    I have just read the truly absorbing, and pretty amazing story of the monkey-patient Believe it or not: A telling simian saga penned so well by Dr Manju Gupta. Of course I completely believe it.

    For, in my cousins’s home in Bangalore, she used to narrate the things monkeys used to do in their home- come in, open the fridge, scan around, and take what they wanted, and then, comfortably sit in the easychair in front of the TV, wear my br-in-law’s glasses, pick up the newspaper and read seriously (only at tims the paper would be upside down…) They were least afrraid of people, and had pretty aggressive hard stares, if ever they were tried to be shooed away.

    But obviously a simian attention-span being very limited compared to a human being, very soon, the monkey would up and sprint back to its place on a roof or a tree-top or wherever… giving looks all around which almost said, “I’ll be back !”

    But often I feel, much, much more research needs to be done on how close we are to apes, and they to us…Perhaps Hanuman did exist…!!!!

    Many regards.
    surekha

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you Surekha for the compliment. Your story is equally intriguing.

  25. Prof KL kumar says:

    Interesting episode of a simian!
    It is as believable as some others temples. Video of one accepting gifts and flowers at Sai Baba!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkTkh0Nxjj4
    Monkeys are known for aping; another one appearing devoted!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYi60Ss4YQE

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for sharing the videos. Very interesting indeed. Makes one think….. That we should think more before saying that ‘ humans are the only intelligent beings….’

  26. Jude Sekar says:

    Dear Dr. Manju Gupta,

    It was a pleasure to read your article in today’s “The Hindu.” First of all I must congratulate you for an excellent write-up. Well, let me introduce myself first. I’m a retired forest officer with a lot many similar experiences with monkeys. They are clever, no doubt. And a lot more agile and observant than we may assume. I would question your assumption that your dressings and operations are away from their gaze. You may never know when they sneaked in and saw you giving treatments. Well, their intention would have been to steal some fruits or bread kept by the patients and in the process would have seen you giving bandages or doing some minor operations.
    As for his walking upright, it was just a simple mimicry/imitation to get his job done. Haven’t you seen a street dog limping on its hind leg when threatened with a stone. It’s just like that. So I believe your story totally. Let me share with you some interesting real life anecdotes which show how ingenious they can be:
    a) In Courtallam waterfalls in Tamil Nadu, large number of tourists go for bathing and monkeys are galore. A colleague of mine noticed a tourist carrying some food packets in both hands when a monkey walked right up to him and simply tugged at his dhoti. Instinctively the poor guy dropped both the food packets and held on to his dhoti giving the monkey the food it wanted, which was promptly taken away and consumed at leisure.
    b) In a German Zoo a vet darted a monkey to give it an injection. And that gorilla or chimpanzee, promptly plucked it out of its back and shot back at the unsuspecting vet. This I read in the Reader’s Digest sometime back with the caption:”Tit for tat.”
    c) A friend of mine told me that a troop of monkeys had once got into her drawing room and were sitting on the sofa set much as we would, in front of the TV when her sudden entry scared them off.
    Have a great day.
    K. Jude Sekar.


    GOD BLESS YOU

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for sharing these wonderful stories. Animals are much more intelligent than we give them credit for.

  27. Kumar Ramaswamy says:

    Dear Manju – Your story is another proof that human came from monkeys. They are just one step away from us. It must have closely observed over the yrs that people going inside with injuries come out cured. Amazing indeed!

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Yes. The similarities are striking. And this incident proved that they observe, they process these observations and are capable of making use of it. It’s a troubling thought but Isn’t that intelligence? The human kind…..

  28. Shahul Hameed says:

    Dear madam,

    I have nothing to say but I believed your story and it was heart touching indeed…
    Warm regards


    SHAHUL HAMEED A.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir for the trouble you took to tell me this.

  29. Manjesh says:

    Dr. Gupta,
    Delighted to read your story in Hindu.
    I have seen a wild life documentary where a (3 foot) shark injured with fishing hook in it mouth approaches a pair of divers. The divers help it by removing the hook. Later on when they are diving in the same area, this same shark circles them as if to say thanks.
    Animals have inteligence, which is just a manifestation of conscience, as confirmed by the monkey and shark behaviour. But we humans very badly underestimate it.

    Reg.

    Manjesh

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir for writing in and sharing the shark story. Yes, we humans are so full of ourselves. We overlook and underestimate everything else!

  30. P Chandra das says:

    p Chandra das from USA
    Never be worried if others disagree. I have witnessed such incidents in life. I believe you

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir. No i am not worried about my detractors. The first line was an attempt to arouse curiosity….a bit of reverse psychology!! I am an unknown writer and the Hindu reader has discerning taste….. Just wanted to reel them in

  31. Shiny Babu says:

    Hi Ma’am

    I enjoyed reading your true story in the Hindu Open Page this week. Hope you write more articles and stories.

    Regards

    Shiny

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Shiny for your interest. Yes, infact I have written more articles and stories. You can find them on my blog ALifeExtraordinarilyOrdinary.com. Do visit. Your input would be valuable.

  32. K Ramesh says:

    RESPECTED MADAM,

    I READ YOUR ARTICLE. IT IS A VERY INTERESTING ONE. I
    BELIEVE YOUR STORY. ANIMALS
    SEE ALL OF US AND KNOW OUR ACTIVITIES.
    SOME ANIMALS OBEY OUR WORDS.YOU NEED NOT
    GIVE ANY PROOF FOR THE INCIDENTS WHICH YOU
    HAVE TOLD. I BELIEVE YOU.

    THANKING YOU,

    WARM REGARDS.
    K.RAMESH/JE/BHEL/JAINAGAR/TIRUCHY-13.

  33. Bibin George says:

    Hi Doctor,

    Your article on the simian behavior in the open page was quite an interesting read.

    I am writing this mail because I wanted to know how long after you have submitted your article does The Hindu generally publish it?
    Because a friend of mine had once send an article and it hadnt been published even after 3 weeks. So she was just curious to know
    how long should she wait before she sends it to another platform or newspaper.

    Excuse me if I have been intrusive.

    Regards,

    Bibin George Varghese,
    Traveller, Musician , Teacher

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Hi Traveller, Musician, Teacher,

      Loved the way you described yourself. Thanks for liking Simian Saga. It was published a while ago.
      About your query, the first article I submitted ‘ Mad over Doughnuts’ was carried within a week. Greatly encouraged I submitted another one but was informed that there is a cooling off period of three months. The Hindu generally spaces out writeups from the same writer by 3-4 months. This time they made an exception and published me again within six weeks. Have had ten published so far….but still have not figured it out
      I think your friend should wait for two months before giving up. I hope she has sent it to the correct desk openpage@thehindu.co.in.
      No intrusion at all. I hope this helps
      Manju

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