Kolkata- Fun and Food Capital- “Aami Shotti Bolchi”

Welcome to East India Company’s Capital of India- Calcutta (aka Kolkata). Well, this is what I said to myself, after landing at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. I purposely made sure that I avoid Durga Puja time because, this time the whole city goes crazy in the festive mood and most of the places are either over-crowded or closed. Month of January in the year 2012, looked ‘just fine’ for me. A little bit of negotiation with Cab drivers made me see myself on the VIP road sitting on the seat of the taxi calculating cash in my wallet and enjoying the cool breeze.

A mist drenched Kolkata Airport in a winter morning

After not-so-tiring journey of 2 hrs and 10 mins from Palam Airport, I asked my cab driver Santosh Ji to stop at any ATM before we go to “Broadway Hotel” at Ganesh Chandra Avenue. I usually prefer calling a cab driver by his name instead of a generic “Bhaiya“, “Bhai” or just rudely “Driver”, suffixed by a “Ji” or “Bhaiya“. It makes him feel good and you tend be friendly with him and gather information from the horse’s mouth. Well, there were at least 40 ATMs before I reached the hotel.

I intentionally had chosen this hotel for 3 prime reasons, namely:

1. I planned to stay for few days and I had to make sure that my lodging won’t create a hole in my pocket.

2. While visiting a city, which is almost 325 yrs old, I wanted to have the antique feel of Old Calcutta.

3. I wanted to stay at a place, which would be the heart of the city in terms of transportation and travel attractions.

Kolkata Metro Train and Station- Crowded

I checked in around 12 noon, at this pocket friendly budgeted hotel near Chandni Chowk Metro Station of Kolkata. For those Delhites who never visited Kolkata, I would like to mention, that there are only 2 cities in India, Delhi and Kolkata to have wholesale market with the same name: Chandni Chowk. Chandni Chowk in Delhi is the Food Street and perfect for Shopping done for Marriage, whereas in Kolkata, its Delicious Food and Wholesale Electronic Goods (quite similar to Nehru Place of Delhi).

Indian Coffee House-Restaurant in Kolkata

I had lunch and decided to have a short nap. In the afternoon (around 3pm), I hired a cab for spending some time in the lush green “Maidan“. I asked my cab driver to drop me in front of Victoria Memorial Hall. After reaching Victoria Memorial Hall in 12-15 mins, I was informed that the Victoria Museum closes at 5pm. Almost immediately, I went to the ticket counter and paid 14 bucks.

Yes Your Highness- Queen Victoria Memorial Hall

4 bucks for Garden Entry and 10 INR for Museum. I thanked God and my parents for my birth in this country otherwise I had to pay 150 bucks for the museum entry like any other foreigner. I rushed inside. It would have been really foolish to miss this colossal collection at a cost cheaper than a 300 ml soft drink bottle. After relishing the collection, I came out for an evening stroll at the garden. Apart form couples in the garden, I also saw some immensely beautiful work of architecture. I was happy that the British did “Quit India” but they left some terrific amount of art behind. After realizing that I might be perturbing the privacy of couples, I decided to take a leave around 5pm, not before some clicks of this mind boggling memorial and purchasing one ticket for the sound and light show of 7:15 pm. Ticket was for 20 bucks.

I came of out the memorial premises and after sipping a local tea for 3 bucks, I also wanted to feel like a Chancellor. I hired a chariot car drawn by 2 white horses for my Royal Evening Stroll. I guess, the chariot driver murmured faintly (in English).. “Your Highness, step up please”. I was almost in seventh’s heaven by then, but when I looked at him, I could figure out his speechless angry face almost saying (in Hindi)..”Kab chadhega be…Kal Subhah?

Tea in Clay Pots – Reminding you to stay DOWN TO EARTH

Royal transport personified- Horse drawn Chariot Cars

 

Golgappa- known as PHUCHKA

I decided to be in my dreams and ignored every other activities. Hence, I went for the 30 mins ride around the “Maidan“, without any further delay. I returned around 6:50pm. Entered Memorial premises around 7:10pm, after munching some peanuts and local fuchka (That’s what Golgappa or Panipuri is called in Kolkata). The educative 45 mins show was over by 8pm and I reached Park Street around 8:25pm by a cab after paying him 35 bucks. Cabs (a typical yellow colored Hindustan Motors Ambassador car)  in Kolkata are used as Autos in Delhi.

The yellow Ambassador car shares my name -JEET

After grabbing a double egg chicken roll, I started walking towards Music World Store. After reaching there, I could not stop myself from entering Flurys- A traditional famous Swiss Confectionery of Kolkata for ages. My stomach was full. So, I packed one Truffle Pastry as a dessert after my dinner in Hotel Broadway. I thought returning by Metro Train. After all, could not miss the luring chance of riding the 27 yrs. old pride of Kolkata. Kolkata metro is one of the oldest one which started its operation in 1984. Remember the famous “Miley Surr Mera Tumhara” song sequence of Celebrities de-boarding metro train? That was in Kolkata. I reached Park Street Metro station around 9:15pm and reached hotel by 9:30pm.

Faith fades away all worries – Dakshineshwar Kali Temple

Next day, I had different plans. Around 7:30 am, I visited Dakshineswar temple, famous for Goddess Kali and Ramakrishna Paramahansa Dev. After paying a visit to the temple, I headed towards Belur Math Shrine (Vivekanand Ashram). I chose the waterway for a smooth boat ride as my mode of transport for 7 bucks only. If you really want to experience Peace of mind, a small meditation in Belur Math is what you should opt for. Around 2 in the afternoon, my stomach gave me a green signal. So, I left the 40 acre campus of Belur Math on the bank of Ganges, in search of food. I easily found a local Dhaba. After gobbling some paranthas, I left for Howrah.

Water water everywhere – Boat ride in Ganges

 

Thank You For Your Visit – Porter at Howrah Station

Howrah Bridge

After reaching, I wasted no time, but started clicking some quick photographs of the iconic landmark of the city- THE Howrah Bridge. “The 650 metre gigantic bridge allows almost 1.25 lac vehicles every week to pass through”, said a local Traffic Official who was on duty at Howrah Bridge. Had to cover a lot, and was already running short of time. Hence, I kept my jaw dropping astonished feelings restricted to myself, and proceeded towards Prince Ghat followed by Fort William. Two of the “must see” places in Kolkata to have a feel of the East India Company luxury and some “never-seen-before” work of architecture.

My next destination was the ancestral house of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at Elgin Road. After few clicks, I entered a mall- Forum Mall, almost opposite to the Legendary house. It’s so strange to find that Mall was crowded like any other mall, but hardly anyone even stopped in front of Bose Residence. I tried one Pan (Beetle) flavored Hookah at the Forum food court with one mouth watering Pasta. Exhausted like a pig, I headed towards hotel and reached in 20 mins. To my surprise, I was lost in peaceful dreams after I hit the sack at my hotel room. Well, my intention was to catch a nap, and not sleep like an idiot at 6pm in the evening. But, I fell asleep. Around 10:30pm, I woke up. I thought of experiencing the night life of the “City of Joy” and to figure out how “joyous” the people are at night.

Lonely night roads- actually not so lonely

I went outside and almost immediately got a taxi. Asked him to drop me at “The Park” hotel. I intended in not hitting the disc because, its not fun without a gang. So, I headed towards “Someplace Else“- the famous pub of the city. Though its a small place, but was big enough for me to get a table grabbing a beer pitcher and listen to a local rock band (live music everyday). After some food tapping music, I had my dinner. After swiping my card, I headed towards my hotel around 12:30. I was taken back to find a Kolkata Police Patrolling Car just in front of me. One of the officers politely asked me, where would I go and whether I would drive back (as he could sense that I was drunk). I said him, that I need to get a cab for Chandni Chowk. He stopped a cab and asked the cab driver to put the metre down. I thanked the officer and headed towards hotel.

Trams in Kolkata


After having a light breakfast at the hotel on day #3, I started walking towards Esplanade- Almost the heart of the city. It was just a stone throw distance from my hotel. I stopped at K.C.Das- the enormously renowned sweet shop of Kolkata. Despite not being a sweet lover, I gobbled some Rasgullas, Gulab Jamuns, Mishti Doi(Sweet Yogurt) and Sondesh. Please confuse the tasteless can packed rasgullas with the heavenly delicious K.C.Das rasgullas (native pronunciation- Roshogolla). My inner self finally said the famous dialogue of Jim Carrey Starer Hit Flick- Mask: “Hooo..Somebody Stop Me

Rasgullas


After filling up my dessert fantasy, it was my turn to head towards Shaheed Minar, dedicated to the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country. After few clicks, I caught a cab to St. Paul’s Cathedral- One of the renowned Churches of the city. Soon after I left for a 45 min journey to Salt Lake Stadium. This time, I boarded the local bus (not cab), for a change.

St.Pauls Cathedral – Holy be thy name

I never intended to enter the Stadium as there was not a single Soccer Match going on. The purpose of my visit, was a heritage park: Swabhumi, which is quite similar to Dilli Haat (a smaller version, though) of Delhi. I had one plate of idli only at Dakshina as I was in no mood to have food. The food court at Swabhumi has 4 sections namely Purva, Pashchima, Uttara and Dakshina respectively. As per name Dakshina serves South Indian dishes and Pashchima is a bar. Purva had East Indian foods and Uttara- North Indian cuisines. After spending an hour in Swabhumi, I got an auto (shared auto) for Chingrighata. A few mins of walk took me to a place called Nalban. Yes, for all you Sonu Nigam fans, this was the place where he tied knots. Nalban is a park ideal for boating and evening chats at small food kiosks. I also took a shikara for 30 mins on rent for 80 bucks and enjoyed the January breeze. Nalban has an amusement park: Nicco Park adjacent to it. It was almost 3pm. I headed towards my hotel. Suddenly, I remembered that Kolkata is known for sweets, Durga puja and Fish. But, I, despite having a non-veg eating habit missed the last one. I asked Quereshi Miya (my cab driver) to take me to a place, which is famous for traditional Bengali food. He said me straight away that he can take me there but that would get the metre of my cab running high. He proposed me to get down at M.G. Road Metro Station and catch a metro for J.D. Park Metro station and walk for 5 mins to go to Bhajohori Manna. That’s the main branch of the restaurant. But, if I intend in going to any of it’s other 7 branches, the nearest one being approx. 2 km away. I looked at my watch, and asked him to drop me to the nearest one, which was at Salt Lake Sec V. I filled up my stomach and contented my heart with the delicious food. I got another cab to M.G. Road metro station. I came out of Esplanade Metro around 5:30pm and went to traditionally renowned New Market (aka Hogg Market).

New Market aka Hogg Market- your shopping hub

If any one needs to shop in Kolkata, Esplanade and Hogg Market are just 2 options that will suit you. Please don’t hesitate to bargain while you shop. Well, there were some departmental stores too, but I intended in buying some typical local stuffs. While returning, I took a hand pulled rickshaw  (a typical rickshaw catering to the old heritage of Kolkata) costing me 15 bucks for a distance of approximately a kilometre. After reaching hotel, I took a shower. I kept on watching TV until the room service knocked . I opened the door and found my delicious dinner being served with Crab Curry as per my order. I had to hit the sack after such a lip smacking dinner, as I was terrifically sleepy.

Hand pulled Kolkata rickshaw – Sticking to its roots

Next morning, I woke up late, around 9am, got my bag packed and went to a nearby cyber cafe (with Voter ID Card) to get my train ticket print out. I checked out around 11:15 am to Howrah Station to catch New Delhi Duronto Express departing Howrah at 1pm.

37 Comments

  • ???? ??????? ?? ?? ????? ??? ???? ???? ………????? ???? ?? ???? ?? ???? ????? ??? ?? ………????? ???? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ???? ??

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Hi Manu,
      Science City 9:30 baje khulne ka time time hai. Sahi rahega, agar aap cable car se entry lo to. Baaki to aap ko pata hi hoga ki wo E.M.Bypass pe padhta hai (opp. ITC Shonar Bangla Hotel).
      Metro ki sair, agli baar kar lena. Aur, main kaun hota hoon ghumane wala? Kolkata dhang se ghumne ke liye 5 din haath mein samay leke jaana chaiye. Kalighaat mandir, E.M.Bypass pe China Town mein Chinese food…aur bhi bahut kuch hai.

      Note: Hindi font na hone ke kaaran, English mein type karna padha. Maafi chahta hoon.

      -Dhyaan rakhna
      Jeet

  • Sunandajit Ray says:

    Good one, Jeet, thoroughly enjoyed, I felt as if I am traveling with you.

  • Tx Jeet for such a sweet post – it reminds me about my days in Kolkata, which I miss now very badly. The pictures were beautiful and I am sure you came back with sweet memories. To know any city, you will have to love the people of the city and it is really heartening to note that you prefer to call the driver by his name, actually, it makes a lot of difference.

    November to February is the best period to explore the city. Kolkata has its own problem, but it has something in it, which is difficult to find anywhere else. May be this is my own feeling being a bong, but even whoever has stayed there for some time also feel the same.

    Just one for the sake of curiosity, was it your first visit to the city? Did you enjoy fish? Your photo of “Fuchka” will going to cost me some bucks straight away (as she is getting ready now and we will leave home for our “Golgappa” session)- as it was my wife’s wish to have it just now after seeing the photograph – though I know after that she will always pass a comment – “bhalo laglo na, okhankar moto nai” – I don’t like this, it doesn’t have the same quality, when I will go home, I will have …

    Once again Tx…and do hope you will go to our city once again whenever time permits

    Take care

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Hi Amitava,
      First of all, tonnes of thanks for your kind words.

      To clarify your curiosity I’d like to state: “No, this was not my first visit. I spent around 22 years in the city, which includes my birth too (at “Nagerbazaar”). I have my ancestral house in Kolkata.

      Kolkata can be visited at any time of the year. However, winters are the best time, as this city has almost moderate climate round the year, but with humid summers. And Kolkata doesn’t have any problem. Its just like any other metro. You’ll find almost the same type people in another state: Kerala. However, scenic beauty is much more in Kerala.

      I enjoyed Fish (both Hilsa and Bata), despite the fact that I’m not a fish lover.

      I’m floored to know that my post made you go for a Golgappa session. So, dis Mrs. Chatterjee pass the same comment as you mentioned. In case she did, I’d say: “Kolkata-r fuchka-r beypar i alada. Tachara, okhane tetul jol beybohaar kore, ekhane pudina. Bisheshoto, fuchka-r sheshe ‘fau’ ekta fuchka khete beshi bhalo laage.” – “Fuchka in Kolkata has a different taste attached to it. Moreover, they use Tamarind water, which is Pudina water here. Especially, after you have you normal fuchkas, the extra complimentary one given at the last tastes the most”.

      Yes, I do hope to visit it again.

      • So, I guessed it right…reading the post, I felt that you have some connections with the city, hence my curiosity. True, one can visit Kolkata anytime – I just wrote that for the travellers who want to explore the city…as people may not like sweating during summer while travelling.

        Earlier, I forgot to mention one more thing – the photo of “Tea in clay pot” is superb. We just returned from Home in June and was in the city most of the time.

        I do have a friend “Shankar Poddar” from Nager Bazar – though lost in touch now. Secondly, yes, “all bongs miss “Fau at the last” after they finish their end number of Fhuchka – we will pay for 20 / 30 but, still we will ask for one more as a free – that’s our birthright.”

        Have a great day, Take care

        • Jeet Kabasi says:

          Ha Ha Ha… Birthright of Bongs. May be. Well, my mother is bong, and my Dad was from Rajasthan. Hence, I do have a connection, including speaking, reading and writing Bengali.

          -Cheers
          Jeet

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Very well written post . you missed Birla temple & Belur math.

    I have been to Belur math two weeks back , very peaceful place. whenever you get chance try to visit it

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Mahesh,
      Thanks for your appreciation. Ya, I missed Birla Temple (Lakshmi Narayan Mandir) this time.
      But I didn’t miss Birla Math Shrine. I’ve mentioned about it in the post (above the Boat ride picture).

      Have a great day.

      -Adios
      Jeet

  • Roopesh says:

    Very nice post. You seem to have covered lot of ground in Kolkata. I happened to visit Kolkata in January this year but just had one day to sight see so could not visit as much as you. The city is enchanting and according to me it preserves its heritage and charm effortlessly. Longing to go there once again though with little more time.

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Hi Roopesh,
      Yeah ..do go next time with a little more time. Kolkata can’t be covered in 1 day. Combination of 3 villages (namely Govindpur, Sutanati and Kolikata) formed early Kolkata, which has further expanded a lot. Hence, The City of Joy is having pretty much huge area to be covered, if you need to explore it.

      Wish you in advance for your future journey.

      -Cheers
      Jeet

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Hi Jeet,
    Very well description. really like rath, hand rickshaw, tram. Airport looks good. Tea in clay pot whenever I tried, I felt taste of clay. Rosgulla looks fine , now it is available worldwide.
    Thanks

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Thanks Surinder,
      Yes, tea in clay pot has its own taste. I’m glad you liked the post. Billions of thanks for your encouraging words.

      -Cheers
      Jeet

  • Wonderful post and beautiful Description of vintage monuments and culture of great city Kolkatta. Photos are really wonderful. Dakshineshar Temple looks very attractive . Secondly your description although very good, you could have described more on the information on each and everything making this brilliant post into two more detailed posts.
    Anyways thanks for sharing pics and information on GREAT KOLKATTA. My favorite.

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Hi Vishal,
      Tonnes of thanks for your kind words.
      Dakshineshwar temple has prohibition on photography. Still managed to click.
      Yes, I’ve briefed it into one post. I could have had split into two posts, but I thought of the fact that it might be lengthy.

      -Thanks
      Jeet

  • venkatt says:

    Nice post, Jeev. Valuable details about Kolkata’s must-see places.Is the Broadway Hotel suited for families?

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Hi Venkatt,
      Thanks.

      Though many families do stay, but, I would not recommend the hotel for families. There are many more hotels nearby. For families, 2 things count:
      1. Safety (Specially for females and children)
      2. Convenience (like Cab on Call, Proper room service and facilities like elevators if you have an elderly person and your room is on 2nd-3rd floor)

      Kankurgachi, Phoolbagan, AJC Bose Road, Sealdah etc. are having some options with the above facilities. All these places are mostly crowded but that almost assures you of safety. Moreover, it has hospitals and medical assistance nearby. You should always remain ready for contingencies. New Town has some new hotels with much more facilities, but its very deserted. For me, Safety comes first when you are with family.

      -Cheers
      Jeet

  • Bappa Mukherjee says:

    Mr. Jeet,
    It was a wonderful post, nice photographs, nice explanations and descriptions. But how much you like the City of Joy your ratings with other metro cities.

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Mr. Bappa,
      I’m glad that you liked.

      In a scale of 10, I would rate Kolkata, with other metro cities as 9.
      I would rate 12 out of 10 for one and only place- my place- Home sweet home.

      -Adios
      Jeet

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Jeet,

    Well described post on Cal. Broadway is nostalgically dated.

    From phhuchka to hilsa to Someplace else to Elgin and Swabhumi (while not missing Bhojohori Manna, a relatively new entrant) – its is a wide canvass on Cal painted in a masterly manner.

    The way you have covered the City of Joy (its official colour recently changed from red to green !), it is marvellous. Your ‘Bong connection’ perhaps explains it all.

    Great post, enjoyed,

    thanks,

    Auro

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Thanks Auro.
      Whether its “painted in Red” by the LEFT or “Green paint” by the CHANGE, it hardly matters. For me, the only concern is that readers like my scribbled idiotic lines.

      I’m really honored that you enjoyed.
      I got my reward.

      -Cheers
      Jeet

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Jeet,
    Its simply a great post. You covered everything in it, the trams, the metro, the temple, the cathedral, howrah bridge, Golgappa, Rasgulla etc. It was a complete virtual Kolkata tour for the people like me who haven’t yet been to Kolkata.

    The Rasogulla plate watered my mouth.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reema says:

    Awesome post on Kolkata!! and great pics! There are many more places to see like Science City, Botanical Gardens, Birla Museum, Birla Mandir etc etc. But you have covered a lot and managed to capture the essence of the city both in your travel and travelogue.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Very comprehensive post, Jeet. After reading it, I had the same curiosity as Amitava. The fluidity with which you articulate can not happen if one is not thoroughly familiar with the place.

    I was in Kolkata for 3 days this April and we loved it. We could not do a lot but I would add ‘India Museum’ as an important place for any traveler. We would go again for sure. The city is enchanting.

    I liked the Poorvi/Paschimi…. terminology. I guess the Uttari stall also serve whisky after 8 PM. :-)

    @Auro – ‘Bhojohori Manna’ seems to be a popular joint. We also had food from them. Take away, hotel delivery.

    • “Bhojohori Manna” is a chain restaurants like “Oh Calcutta” and you can find it in Siliguri (WB) even in Mumbai and Bangalore. Hope you liked the food.

      There is a famous bengali song “Ami Sri Sri Bhojohori Manna” from a Uttam Kumar starrer, sang by the legendary Singer Manna Dey. The story revolves around a magical cook and the name of the restaurants comes from there. We brought up listening this song and often give the same name to our friends…

      Indian Museum is a place worth visiting, you need at least a full day to visit the place. Jeet might not had time in his last visit :)

      • Jeet Kabasi says:

        Yes Amitava,
        I ran short of time. However, it was very near to my Hotel. Its before Park Street Crossing, on the J.L.Nehru Road (For smokers, J.L.Nehru Road is a known name as you must have seen, it on the Cigarette pack of any ITC brand, even if haven’t been to Kolkata) :P

        And truly Indian Museum is worth visiting, but you need to devote 5-6 hrs for it.

        -Adios
        Jeet

  • Vipin says:

    Wow Jeet bhai, what a fun ride it was! The entire post was as rapid as metro with only photo stops in between. Wonderful clicks with beautiful captions showing the essence of the city……. policeman talking politely (& helping) is something unusal & surprising, though quite good…it seems the metro has changed a lot now (comparing it with the imagination of the one in ‘miley sur mera tumhara’)…..i thought the hand-driven rickshaws were banned….it’s shocking to hear that this is still going on…..a beautifully woven journey!!!

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Vipin Bhai,
      A zillion Thanks for your words. Surprising but true. The police were indeed helpful.
      Yeah, the Metro Train has changed a lot, so is the Metro city.

      Hand driven rickshaws are still there, though scantily in numbers. I happened to have a talk with few of them (rickshaw pullers). Most of them said, that the Government has asked them to call it an off. But, they are happy to continue the same profession. Lot of them said, “Sahib, itno saalo se kar rahe hai, purkho ne bhi kiya. Jab humein koi aitraaz nahi to Gorment (that’s how they pronounce ‘Government’) ko kahe matha pachchi karni hai? Upar se kamai ka doosra koi rasta bhi nahi batlate.” [Sir, we are into this work for ages, even our fore fathers did the same. When we don’t have any problem, why do the Government need to poke its nose. Moreso, it doesn’t give us any substitute mode of income.]

  • Mainak says:

    Hi,

    It was a fun viewing Cal thru the eyes of Delhite .. Nice pics.
    Your observation about Shubas Bose’s house is tragic but true.
    Also there is a big house just next to that ugly mall .Its called “Jahaj Bari” (Ship House) It has port hole type windows and has similarities with a ship’s upper deck. Not many people care , and probably they will “develop” the property some time soon.

    Tx,
    M

    • Jeet Kabasi says:

      Hi Mainak.
      Yes, Very true. “Jahaj Bari” was once used as a landmark. I guess, it was also known as “Sen House” or Sarkar House”

      -Cheers
      Jeet

  • Priyanka Roy says:

    Jeet this is really awesome …as I stay out of Kolkata , these pictures and your articles reminded me of my Kolkata Days . The photography is just too good :) Keep it up :)

  • You have covered whole Kolkata in one post in wonderful way. I have never been there but feel right there after reading your post. Photographs are too good.

  • Amit says:

    Hi Jeet,

    I have never been to Kolkata. I am planning for outing in February. I think Kolkata will be best place to go. Thanks for sharing …

  • Anupam says:

    Brilliant write-up with brilliant photographs.

    Regards
    Anupam Mazumdar

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