Category Archives: Dreams

Takeoff and Landing

My native place is not exactly a village. One could see latest cars on its streets. However it was and is way behind in time compared to metro cities like Mumbai and Pune. I was in 7th standard when we had to shift to Mumbai. I still remember the day. It was impossible for me to accept my dad’s decision. I loved my city, I loved Barshi. You might have never heard about it, and probably will never. All my friends, relatives, schoolmates, theater mates, my cricket team, my dog Sheru were here. I was a hero of my town. What was the need? All my efforts and tactics failed in front of my dad. The bus was to leave in the night. I was seriously hoping to catch fever, break my bone or anything that could prevent me from going to the big city. What would I do there? Alone?

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And I was so right. I hated Mumbai. It was the hate at first sight. Everyone in my school used to make fun of me, my mannerisms and my dialect. Back at my town I was a topper. Here I was nowhere in the competition. I remember crying in front of my dad, urging him to take me back to my town. He said that he was not worried about me missing my town, but about something else. I dint understand his words at that age.

Slowly I got acclimatized to the polluted culture of Mumbai. In fact I started enjoying it. I made some “buddies”. I started enjoying my privacy. I loved the glamor and glitz of the city. Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. With computers came video games, with internet came chat rooms. The smell of perfumes was winning over the smell of first rains. Cafe coffee day was winning over the cutting chay at the railway station. Skype was winning over the missed calls. NFS won over the cycle races across the field.

Very quickly I understood the formula for “Winning”. Winning is that ruthless horse that does not stop or care for anyone. If you want to ride it you are not allowed to doze off even for a single moment. Winning earns you respect, Winning makes you popular, Winning makes you successful, Winning makes you a hero, Winning is addictive, and Winning is everything. I used to make fun of my dream of becoming a Painter back then in my childhood days. Everyone used to say that I was gifted. And today I had the offer letter with a fat package in my hand.  It was one of the reputed firms in the field of Animation. It had always been my dream ever since my college days to work for them…at least for next 2 years before I ditched them for a bigger and better package. I almost laughed at my retired father when he asked me whether I was interested in relocating back to Barshi. He had a concerned expression on his face for some reason unknown to me. I dint care much.

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Behind every successful man there is a woman…I disagree….behind every successful man there are many. Although I dint have time for silly girls and any relationships, I was master of flirting. I have won many dates with gorgeous girls. They all were good but nowhere close to what I was expecting.

And then I saw her. Alisha was Hottt man. She could kill anyone with her smooth legs and hazel eyes. She was the daughter of a famous lawyer. She never tried to hide her riches. She was social, she was irresistible. Every boy wanted to talk to her. She used to be the center of attention of all the parties. She was a dancer, she had acted in dramas, she was into adventure sports, she was in my heart. I knew I wanted to marry her. I wanted to win her over all possible contestants. I wanted to appear better than all her ex-boyfriends. I wanted her at any cost.

Shit! I messed up my first date with her. After 6 months and 23 days I had convinced her for a date. She turned out to be too smart, too bold for me. Never mind, losing is something I am very bad at. This time I won’t fail.

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I hate parents when they pressurize us into these bloody old fashioned arranged marriages. They told me that she was my childhood friend Vrushali. Yuk, that stupid village girl! Out of question my dear dad and mom. And who has time for going to Barshi. We have a new project in pipeline and yes this time I do not want to go unprepared for my second date with Alisha. This is a do or die situation for me. Look, I have nothing against the small town. It is good. But the place from where I am standing, it appears like a small insignificant dot. Agreed I liked it once, but things have changed, I have changed. I have become a shark, and Barshi appears like a small stagnated smelly pond.

Indian parents are very good at “Emotionally blackmailing” their kids. I don’t understand what pleasure do they derive out of this. It was impossible to believe that I was standing at Barshi bus depot…at 5 in the morning…with no one to receive me. That was humiliating for the man of my stature. If my parents were smart, I was smarter. I had already mailed that Vrushali gal about my decision and about how I was being forced into this. I dint get any reply. This village people open email accounts and never visit it for years. Stupid! And I hate being forced into something I don’t like.

In Indian arrange marriages there is a ceremony where potential bride’s family meets potential groom’s. Presence of everyone ensures that the two get no privacy and then the family members declare that they have no problems with the marriage. How stupid! I had made my plans. I went out to the nearby town in the morning asking my parents to directly go to her place. I ditched them. They deserved some punishment. It was no big deal. I apologized to Vrushali on her mail ( which I knew she was never going to check).  I was expecting a big fight at my home. Surprisingly no one especially my dad dint say anything. They behaved as if nothing had happened. Man, that was damn suffocating ! Brushing aside my guiltiness I decided to enjoy next couple of days there.

Day1: I decided to go on sight seeing. Barshi had changed. New malls were coming up. There were many new colleges. One could sometimes spot Audi A7 and BMWs on the streets. I had to agree that it was still beautiful. The outskirts of the town were still green. Nothing had disturbed it over so many years. I visited every place I used to spend time in my childhood. In fact I clicked so many pics. Probably I was never going to come back again.

Day2: I had to attend some stupid marriage ceremony in the afternoon. It was hot and it was humid. The village people showed their skills in making the place dirty in their own way. Anyway it was my penultimate day there. I decided to ignore it all. I met my old friends and cousins. They behaved as if they had just met me yesterday. There was no formality between us. They made fun of me, I in turn pulled their legs. The old days were back. I do not remember laughing my lungs out in recent times. And I got humbled listening to their stories. I was not the only one who was making rapid strides in his career. Some of them were more successful than me, yet they dint have to show it off. They were so good at mixing with elders, kids and villagers. This was the World I left behind a long time back. Something was not good about it.

In the evening we decided to play a game called Mafia. It is very addictive game. There are two teams: good guys and bad guys aka mafias. No one exept mafias knows who is who. Mafias kill one person at night. And everyone votes out a possible Mafia in the day. The Priest has the power to give life a limited number of times. Everyone tries to prove that he is not a Mafia. An umpire, or God controls the whole game.

Our team won the first game. My friend Anil had to go. We needed one player. Suddenly someone asked Vrushali to join us. Shit! What was she doing here? I couldn’t look up at her. And when I did….I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was the most beautiful lady ever I have seen since the time of big bang. Wow! How could I be so cruel so someone as petite as her? BIG MISTAKE! My heart was kicking my brain hard in his butt. She was a flawless beauty. She was comfortable in her own skin. You know the kind of persons who know they are special yet are down to earth. And her dressing, it was so elegant. She carried herself well. She looked like an angel in front of whom even the worst of the criminals will feel ashamed of doing something wrong. And she had this natural smile on her glowing face. Everything about her was so uncomplicated, so pure, so natural.

sweet and simple

She waved her hand at me. There was no hurt or sarcasm in her mannerism. She sat near me. Her mild perfume was making it impossible for me to concentrate on the game. Yet she was so comforting. She appeared like a old lost friend. I passed a cheat saying ” I am sorry” and made a crying smiley. She replied by sketching a smiling clown sans his front teeth.

We kept on playing till the dawn. Sometimes we two were in the same team, sometimes we were in the opposite. There was a game in which she was the priest and game me a life. Two days later(in the game’s context) I killed her. I was the mafia. How true the situation was! I won that game. But I felt like I had lost the bigger game of life.

After the game me and Vrushali kept on talking like early times. There was so much to talk about. We never ran out of topics. She surprised me when she told me that she had done phd in Microbiology from Georgetown University. I instantly felt naked in front of her. What attitude I was carrying for so many years? It was so hollow. I was so hollow, so shallow. Success had made me the most unsuccessful man in my own eyes. There was sparkle in her eyes when she talked about immunology and discovering god knows some protein-protein interactions, and alien stuff like that. She had come back to Barshi to open her own research institute there. Hmm, interesting. She could live in her home town + generate employment there, thereby giving back to the society + take advantage of very low running cost of the institute apart from the climate suitable for the experiments.  ” Everything has beauty. It’s us who choose not to see it. Don’t waste your life fooling yourself.”. Those were her last words for me. She told me that wherever we would be 10 years from then, she had great expectations from me. I was always a topper for her. It’s just that I chose wrong subjects to top. I felt a strange kind of emptiness while saying her goodbye. Something was not right.

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Back at my office, everything had changed for me. Everything had changed in just 24 hours. My mind kept running back to Barshi. Something was not right. I remembered those trips, my friends, rather my true friends. I remember that fallen tree I clicked during my trip. I kept remembering the fields, the farmers, their cattle, the river, the boat, the colleges, the stupid marriage and the stupid people. I laughed at myself. I remember playing tricks at the game of mafia. I remembered the “cutting chay” treat. Something was not right.

A week passed, yet another, and yet another. Something was not right. My mind kept going to my native place. My family was winning over the corporate family. River was winning over the water parks. Cutting chay was winning over the Cafe Coffee day. The temples were winning over the Multiplexes. Flowers were winning over the artificial scents. Vru was winning over Ali. Ignoring Alisha’s 15th missed call, I booked a ticket for Barshi.

If last trip was hard, this was mission impossible . I hurt some good people out there. I would apologize, I would beg, I would do anything to win their hearts back. The toughest moment was to face Vrushali. I had broken her heart. I had insulted her like no one else would. I deserved punishment. I wanted her. I wanted to marry her, and only her, and no one else. I knew this time, rather for the first time in my life that everything was right.

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10 years later: Now:

My wife runs her research lab. To make a long story short,  after a lot of failing, soul searching, getting rejected and failing again, finally I opened up an educational cum commercial institute dedicated to drawing, painting, photography and animation. I take external animation projects. Even though it’s not a giant yet, it’s gaining momentum. May be I don’t want to grow it into a giant. And yes sometimes my wife forces me to do some projects for her institute: some protein folding and horrible stuff like that. she says that that is my punishment for breaking her heart some ten years ago. That’s totally unfair. But I love getting manipulated by her.  We have made many educational animations and sell it at a very nominal cost to villagers for their kids.  People come from faraway places  just to visit our institutes and to see the changes they have brought to the lives of people. Our combined efforts by the grace of god had motivated many people to follow their hearts and to do give back to the community. Overall, life is good. And we are content.

And yes, this is something private. Do not tell this to our students and to my kids. Me and Vru still go to that secret place on the west side hill and watch the Sun setting holding each others hands. I whisper in her ears: “thanks for coming in my life”. I do not get any reply from her. I just feel a wet patch on my left shoulder.

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A cab with its back door opened

I  was greeted by light Mumbai drizzles. I can’t explain you the pleasure of coming come after a gap of 8 months. When my plane landed on Mumbai airport, it was difficult to believe that just 24 hours before I was slogging on the final part of the project. These IT projects I tell you seem to be on track for the first 99% of the part and then just at the last moment something goes wrong. Anyway past is past. I want to thoroughly enjoy these 5 days with my friends and family.

I told my plans of going to Pune next day to meet college friends, while taking out gifts from my bag. Mom complained as usual. Dad showed no emotions (as usual).  There was contempt in her eyes. With pride she was announcing my arrival to neighbors. I had become hero of the building for that day; or at least that is what I would like to believe. I have almost become used to hearing some uncle asking me for my help in getting a good job for his son in our company. It was difficult to explain them, so I never did. I used to dryly ask them to email me the resume. This trick worked all the time. I never used to get any email. The bottom of the story is that young guys in our colony wanted to emulate my success and their parents were envious of me. I really never bothered. I was her to meet my family.

I was not surprised to hear the compliments from my friends too. It was an unexpected boom in my career. Compared to last year, my progress chart has taken a vertical take-off. Even I don’t know how. So I realized that I have climbed up one more step in Moslow’s pyramid. My success and me overall was socially validated.  From my childhood I wanted to be center of attraction. May be that’s why I was so glad with myself.

It was Saturday afternoon. Everyone had gone to temple. I followed atheism quite religiously right since my childhood. And no one forced me or convinced me to believe in god.  So I was alone in my house, in my room, in front of my old PC. I replied to my friends, checked newspaper sites, uploaded pics on facebook, checked a few profiles here and there, and then suddenly for the first time after 8 months I dint know what to do. It was as if I was trying to run away from this hollowness since last 8 months and today it had caught up with me. And today I dint resist it. After all I was the winner today, or was I?

This was the room I used to work on my not-so-clear dream project. Nothing had changed. It was the same old fan which was throwing warm air on my face. Yes it used to be the same time when I used to take break. Youth is cursed with unrealistic expectations from yourself. And one day someone or something shows you the mirror, and you get realistic with life. The story repeats generations after generations.

Social Cafeteria” caught my eyes. I right clicked it and clicked on properties. It was last modified almost 9 months before, and created almost an year before that.  What a crazy idea it was to bring social organizations and good people together on one platform. It was more than a website for me. It was my dream. Things dint quite work out. To tell a long story short, I gave up. I turned my back on my dreams never to return back.

Gosh it seems like ages ago. I remembered those old days. I had resigned from my earlier job along with four of my friends. I dint have much money, dint have much social contacts, rather dint have time to enjoy my life. I dint have time to enjoy the normal life, I never really wanted to be normal. But still I was ME, I was taking on the World single-handedly especially after other 3 made excuses and found safe jobs for themselves. I dint want to see them this time. Even though I was failing everyday, every hour, I still felt proud of being me. It was the only time spent doing what I wanted to do, it was the only time in my life I experienced true Freedom. It was just like old schooldays. Alas! All good things in life have to come to an end. Everyone has to become “Practical” one day; everyone has to fall in line, to conform with the society outside, who is constantly judging you based on your professional success. Today I have everything that I was longing for in those crazy days. It’s just that I am not me anymore. And I doubt I will ever be now. Everything in the room was the same. I was the only thing that had changed.

God(?) had given me one chance to prove myself, to be myself rather. I wish I had shown some more courage, be more optimistic, had not wasted my time on doubting myself. Today I hate to report to the idiot boss I have. I hate to see her going out with some Investment banker guy (who happens to be my bloody boss’s bloody younger son) from some shit US bank. Now she is above me, and I have to call her ma’am.

I remembered writing a blog post( btw I stopped writing a long time back, I do not even remember my password). I wrote about a possible incidence: I have a flight to catch at 8 am. I have to reach Delhi by 2 pm.  I have work pending there. It’s going to be a busy day. I came to the corner of the road, I see my cab with an open back door. How would it feel to see a cab ready to take you to the airport, a cab ready with its back door opened.  This is what I wrote: “It felt horrible. It felt like a lost opportunity. My life could have been different and much better had I tried little harder . I imagined myself turning back and going back to my home to pursue my dream.

That was not what happened on Monday morning. I had a strong urge to go back to my home. It was difficult to say good-bye to my family and to my dream. I had failed it once more.

Shit! How could I have not anticipated a delay, especially in the heavy monsoon season? I have a new project waiting for me in the afternoon. I could delay the video conferencing with the client by an hour. But it was not going to be enough. I imagined my boss giving me a firing in front of everyone, including my juniors and including her…. his would be bloody daughter in law.

It was then I saw through corner of my eyes a middle aged man in t-shirt, blue denim jeans looking at me with a smile on his lips. “Your generation is so incapable to accept unexpected delays”. His words caught me off guard.

“Pardon me?”, I said.

“You can call me Rakesh”, he said extending his arm.

Even though I was not in a mood to talk to anyone right now, there was something about him. You know the type of guys whose mere presence make you feel uncomfortable. And the worst part is you do not know why. Not talking to him seemed rude. I am aloof, I am self centered, I am introvert, but I am surely not rude. I said hi to him. We started off with an on and off conversation. It really irritated me when he dint show any excitement after I told him my job position and my employer.

He introduced himself as Technical director of Elexis ( a shorthand form for Electronic systems. Yuk!What a weird name.) He along with three other friends had formed this company in 90’s. They were specialized in making electronic systems for various purposes, like testing for adulterated milk, making a emergency call system for the doctors on the round, etc. I dint understand much. But I could not miss the sparkle in his eyes. And yes I was so surprised to know that he was 57! He looked so healthy, so full of energy. He told that he used to be a marathon runner, thank to his flexible schedule on his company.

I asked, “Don’t you get bored of making the same kind of systems?”. He gave me a pitied look, as if I had missed the whole plot of the story. He told me that when he was a kid, his father had bought him a make at home radio kit. He still remembered his joy while working on the radio set. Ever since then he is making those toys and getting paid handsomely for it! He said in fact he was making something similar. He showed me his presentation on his laptop.

I told him about my site. I told him my sorry story. He said had he given up like me, he would have never got a chance to enjoy this life. And such situations are bound to come if you are in business. He said that I gave up too soon.

“What is the URL?”, he asked.

I typed it. The site opened. I still remembered the admin password! : impossibleisnothin !! How ironic! He said with wide eyes, I must be craziest, the dumbest person on the Earth to abandon something as beautiful as that. The angry face of my boss seemed receding in my view. It was as if he was losing importance in my life.

“The problem with your generation is you fall in love with money too soon in your life. You have patience for nothing. Money is important, but it’s too cheap a currency to chase for your entire lifetime.”

I heard an announcement. He quickly closed his laptop, gave me his card, and wished me good luck for choosing a right path in life. I saw him moving out of the gate. Someone had again shown me a mirror. No someone had slapped me hard and had woken me up from my deep slumber.

I checked on my cab driver. He was still lingering around. He looked surprised to hear from me. He parked his cab outside Gate 1B. I walked towards the cab: the cab with its back door opened.

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Why (the hell) did I choose this path?

SUCCESSFUL…. yes that’s what I am.  It should have been anyone’s dream job to be where I am today. My friends back there in India are envious of me, and the rate at which I became successful. My work involves assisting Dr. Coleman in developing new software tools that would help us in analyzing the tremendous amount of data generated out of our biological research.  I cannot tell you in details but it’s related to developing and testing a new model folding of Protein molecules. I am part of a team of highly talented and motivated scholars, who were born to spend their nights at Computer Lab. We do not discuss movies. We discuss stochastic models, we discuss polypeptides, we discuss Combinatorial algorithms, and we also discuss Markov state model. It instantaneously generates a Wow whenever I tell others what I do. I had always wanted to be a part of something BIG. I wanted to make a name for myself. The only problem is – well I am not happy. Life sucks.

I started off well when I joined this institute. In fact I used to finish the projects before time. I surprised everyone with my pace and my grasping power. They were so sure that I am going to make it big. Long working hours never bothered me. In fact it was the one thing that kept me above the crowd of mediocre.  Their only dream was to get any job, marry any girl of their parents’ choice, and produce children of God’s choice. (I wanted to scream in their ears that it’s simple genetics, God does not have time to get involved in 4.17 births every second).  I was a superstar in my circle of friends, I still am.

And then One night I saw her status changed. We haven’t talked since 2 years (26 months, 14 days and 17 hours to be precise). But that doesn’t necessarily meant she had to get married to some bloody MBA working in some bloody MNC. But why would she wait for me? Why would anyone for that matter. I saw life passing by me. Everyone was getting married, moving to new towns, falling in love, getting married, getting promoted, participating in Marathons, visiting Eiffel tower and statue of liberty and Vaishnodevi. Everyone was happy, rather content. And here I was getting late for the lab. Tonight my fingers dint want to enter a single character on the command console. I felt like running back to my city, to my family and mediocre friends. I wanted to run back to my childhood.

And since then I was a sulking child who did not want to complete his homework. Why has life taken a sudden turn? Why do I work twice as my friends and yet get paid 1/3rd of them? Why is being successful not synonymous with being happy? Or success has been just a delusion – a false image? Everything and everyone started looking boring. Life felt like a punishment. Lab felt like a prison. I started remaining absent from my work, watching rental movies, and in particular doing nothing. Why dint I go for an MBA? Or forget money, why dint I choose something easy, something interesting?

My boss had emailed me. He wanted to discuss something “important”. It would be embarrassing to go back to India now. It was impossible to go back to my parents and tell them that all their efforts in giving me the best…have been wasted by their son. That their successful son has failed miserable, failed big time in life.

I switched off the lights. I railed back in my chair, closed my eyes, thinking about nothing in particular. My left brain has gone on a strike. I sort of knew I was not made to handle deadlines. I sort of knew that this was coming. Why dint I choose and easy and well paid job somewhere? After all job is just a part of your life, and not your entire life.Did I choose this field just to dazzle others?  Had I been living in fool’s paradise? After my first job as Research assistant at my college, I had vowed to lead an easy, laid back life. Then why did I commit this grave mistake of living for a false image, and getting seduced by sexy Sci-fi wallpapers? I should have chosen something simpler- something that interests me.

My thoughts started drifting down the memory lanes. Today I dint stop them, rather dint have energy to control them. I followed them blindly. I saw my childhood, my brother, my mom, dad, Moti, my dog, and her puppies. I remember the big banyan tree in our school ground. I remember playing foot ball with my school friends. I remember watching movies in the vacations. I remembered reading stories on weekends. I remember finishing my history textbook on the day my dad used to buy them from the store. And then suddenly it striked me. I loved stories. How could I not notice that?

Suddenly I found a new source of energy in me. I opened my laptop. Searched for the “from old PC” folder in E drive. There I found them. Gosh there were so many of them, I I had completely forgotten. I opened Michael Crichton folder. I opened readme notepad file. I had mentioned the page number and the name of the novel. I suddenly remembered it all. I started reading the novel.  In fact I vaguely remembered programming something related in my PC. These Sci-fi novels I tell you are just impossible to resist. They make you do crazy things.And suddenly one day I got a call from Dr. Coleman’s assistant asking if I would be interested in joining them? Are you kidding? Only a bozo will say no to such offer. But before that I had to complete a lot of formalities…a hell lot of them. I dint have much time left. There was hardly anything to remember other than rushing to all sorts of different places I had never gone before. Then I boarded Lufthansa and then the rest is history.

I started reading “Prey” from the very beginning.

Suddenly I got hooked to the novel. Unfortunately could not go beyond a few pages. I was dog-tired . (Who makes such words by the way. I have seen dogs sleeping most of the time in the day). I went to bed. When I got up early, although it was a lazy Sunday morning, I was a man on the mission. I started typing all sorts of keywords in google: careers in writing, careers in travel writing, a day in the life of a documentary film maker, careers involving stories, how to become a Sci-fi writer…and so on. I kept searching. The more I read the more disappointed I got. Yes I had won some prizes in my school and college days in writing. But picking it up as a career dint seem that encouraging. I mean apart form the low income and a lot of struggle early on, I hated the idea of writing compulsorily everyday. Then I read some more experiences of people in the field.  Most of them had the same viewpoint. The picture looks rosier from outside. they told how they had to work as a ghost writer to pay the bills till his novel gets published. There was a fierce competition to  tell you the truth. And everyone of them seemed so good with words, so much better than me. Then why were they struggling?

Disappointed I closed my lappy. Shit.. I was supposed to attend a meeting at 11. It’s already a quarter past 2. I decided to have an afternoon nap, something I haven’t done ever since I left India.

I felt much better when I got up. I saw couple of new mails in my mailbox asking me to update them on the status of my work. The lab, the work seemed like a past life, a distant land, rather a detour in my life. I concentrated on the next page of Prey.

Yes the story was interesting. Life is good as a writer if you are at the top. People love you and idealize you. I kept reading. It was a deja vu feeling. Those words stood out: Multi-Agent models. the rest of the page has faded. Those words got back my old memories. Multi agent models are used to simulate the behavior of systems such as markets, flocks of birds, swarms etc. I remembered how I was naturally attracted towards them. I read everything about them. How I wanted to explore Evolution of cultures using them. How I wanted to simulate rise and fall of empires and businesses and religions simultaneously with these models. We usually study them in isolation, reliogion separate from politics separate from trade and technology.  It was a awe-inspiring idea to study history from the lenses of Science. In fact I consider History a sub-set of Science. As far I remembered Science appeared to my an ancient palace lost in the jungles. Every path was worth exploring. Science felt like a huge library full of stories written in a language that is difficult to read unless you are curious and patient.  I remembered everything. I wrote to my boss, I knew what I was doing.

then I phoned my brother. After a little hello-hi I told him the exact location of the file in my home PC. I asked him to email it to me. Gee, I dint know you did such things too. After a few minutes, it was there right in front of me. My dream project which I left unfinished. 2 years back I chose this job over my dream project. Today I am choosing you over my job.

But unlike every time I dint hang up. I wanted to talk to my brother, my best buddy since my child hood. “So… How is life? ….yes yes I have a lot of time today….we can talk……”

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