Wednesday, April 29, 2015

GOSSIP - the devil's radio!

Pic.source www.bigcheesebadges.com
In the recent times, 'crimes against women' is the most debated topic on media and internet. Women the world over are now more aware of their rights and choices than ever before. They are empowered and boldly stepping out of the closet. Of all the atrocities she lives through, rape is one horrific incident that leaves indelible scars on a woman's soul, one that she rarely recovers from.

Today, let us flip the coin to discover an unexplored side in which women are the brutal offenders who leave their victim stripped off all privacy and dignity. That crime is - GOSSIP.

Gossip is against humanity, akin to rape or terrorism. This is an evil that brings out our animal instincts and destroys the soul of fellow beings. It nourishes neither the gossiper nor its subject. 

Both Men and Women are guilty of this crime. However, it is the feminine gender that unabashedly indulges in this hideous activity. If the Right-to-Information act could be used for this purpose, they would leap at the opportunity.

George Harrison of The Beatles fame rightly said, "Gossip is the Devil's Radio." And, women of all class and stature tune in to this channel drooling-at-the-mouth to seek an unexplained orgasmic pleasure.

At work or home, women brandish the devil's horns and pitchfork in a quest to keep tabs on one and all. Clothes, Make-up, Relationships, Academics, Grades, Career, Food, Cooking, Health, House, Car, Family, Failures, Success, There is no dearth of topics that women gossip about, and, enjoy every bit of it.

If a student at school does well, it is because he/she apple-polished the teacher. If someone is promoted at work (primarily a woman), its because she stepped up the oomph chart. If someone does well financially, he might have made money under-the-table. 

Why do women want to GOSSIP around other people's misery? What sadistic pleasure do they derive from someone's misfortune?

The questions baffle me. 

There are times when I want to gouge out those twinkling eyes that scream, "I know what happened at your house last night" and slap those obnoxious smiles off their faces that seem to taunt "I know your little secret".

I regret the harsh words used above but not apologetic. Since my childhood I have hated gossip in all its forms but there is no escaping this horrible social disease. 

When chatting in a group we tend to share some aspects of our lives and that's fine, only as long as people don't keep tabs thereafter and do not repeat in other groups. What goes on in their lives is their business, not mine. I have my own mountains to conquer and they are more than enough.

Of course, If any of them was in some kind of an emergency, I would be the first one to reach out. And I have, on several occasions. One of my neighbors' husband was travelling and she fell sick. Alone at home and no one to fetch her medicines, I voluntarily ran her errands. A child was hit by a two-wheeler playing in the block, I rushed him to the doctor for first-aid as his parents weren't home. I offered tea to the family of bereaved neighbors. And more.

Why can't women just accept things on face value and be kind; if they know some personal details about someone's life, why is it difficult to leave it alone and not blow the horn for all? Why do they just HAVE to be judgmental about everything and everyone?

I guess the answer would be, "it would take the fun out of life". Believe me, I have heard that answer more than once in my lifetime. Because of this belief, I have been the social outcast of several groups.

I am aware I cannot control what people talk about or their social actions. Also, I cannot keep turning people away because of their habits. But, sometimes it is frustrating when you know all they do is gossip.

I have been reminded several times over, that there are all kinds of people in this world and we have to learn to deal with them or to get above those petty issues or tactfully cope with such situations.  Blah Blah Blah!

Don't we always do that. Get above the issues I mean. But hey, I am human and have those moments when I want to shut all those depressing people out of my life. Since man is a social animal, I do not know how long I can be away. One thing I know, I am unable to adapt to this kind of a social set-up that can best be described as drudgery. 

Just in a mood to be catty, I did a little experiment last Sunday. I took a planned late evening walk with my husband when I knew the lawns would be alive with kids enjoying summer vacations with their families. It wasn't just a casual walk, we walked holding hands lovingly, like a couple out on a romantic date under a starry moon-lit sky, laughing and chatting. As I looked around, several pairs of adult-eyes were on us; jaws dropped and rendered speechless.

I am now just waiting for the word to come around a full circle from where it began. Me.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mango Manic Delight..

pic.courtesy: Wikipedia.org
Mango mania hits India as summer blazes its long scorching trail. The local road-side vendors and super-markets are stocked with the first harvest of raw green mangoes. Living in Hyderabad, I am fortunate that I get a glimpse of the magnificent mangoes on trees here and there in private residential courtyards. The Mangifera Indica trees are resplendent with luscious green gems dotting their lush foliage. It is like our very own Indian summer-christmas tree decorated with festive ornaments.
While the aromatic fleshy pinkish yellow sweet mango is the king of fruits in India, the crisp & sour raw green mango holds its own forte among kitchen recipes, with a name to reckon -Kairi in Hindi and Mammidkai in Telugu. A darling of expecting mothers, a favorite in Indian kitchens and the frothy cloud of childhood memories.
It is said that motherhood completes a woman. I believe it is women who can pickle a mango that are an all-rounder and bow to them. This is also one time of the year that I feel completely left out of conversations as my personal use of mangoes is limited to the ripe juicy fruit that will hit the markets later in the month or maybe a couple of random uses of the raw mango. It amazes me how women discuss the varieties & uses of this delectable fruit like a pro. Whether at home or work, raw mango as a topic occupies a place of pride like the annual budget presented by the central government.

The wednesday fruit & vegetable market was abuzz with women bargaining with the vendors for raw green mangoes. Their discussions in simple Telugu about the humble Mammidkai sounded mouth-wateringly spicy and tangy. Pachchadi, Panakam, Mammidkai Pappu, Avakkaya were some commonly heard names of Andhra delicacies that sent me scampering to pick out the most luscious looking pieces.
The keen eyed women noticed me, an outsider among the stalwarts. I wanted to clarify that I understood every word & expression. I didn't bother. The mangoes had all my attention. A couple of elderly aunties took it for granted that I needed help in picking the right pieces. They did not hesitate to remove the one's chosen by me from my basket and replace them with better choices. You can’t mess with raw mangoes, I guess. I didn't complain since I got the right price for them too. With their help, of course. I overheard a deviation in discussion from mangoes to me for a few minutes. I imagine that for them it was a “her mother didn’t teach her anything” moment.
Walking home proud with my purchase, I mentally scouted for websites that might have easy raw mango recipes. Some neighbors noticed the mangoes in my basket; more talk of pickles, chutney and what not. I never knew I had good acting skills for they never guessed my limited knowledge on the subject.
My husband and daughter were mighty amused to see the raw green mangoes in my basket. They made no efforts to hide their curious expressions that clearly defined "what are you gonna do with it, you don't know how to make Avakkaya - the fiery red andhra mango pickle nor have you ever made a Mammidkai Pachchadi - raw mango chutney?"   I gave them my hurt expression, trying hard to look confident and declared my intentions of churning out a gourmet dish from the precious green mounds; now they laughed out aloud and I stuck my tongue out.
pic.courtesy www.lifepositive.com
Thinking of some good recipe I washed them well under running water and wiped them dry with a kitchen napkin. Looking at it for a few seconds, I just picked up a knife and chopped one shiny mango into thin slices, sprinkled some black salt and red chilly powder. As I put one slice into my mouth, the sour salt n spicy tangs burst through my taste buds. The family couldn't help but greedily join a sheepish-looking-me in the Mango Manic Delight. Much laughter and banter ensued around the Kairi.
My daughter's favorite is the Andhra Mango Pickle and the Aam Panna or Panakam, an Indian drink known for its sweet sour & salty cooling properties in summer. I settle for Aam Panna (Yes, because I am a pro at it). 
The summer is long so I have enough time to dish out other tempting delicacies. For now, it is indulgence in the simple & pure magic of cut mango pieces with salt and chilies.
xxxx



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Twenty first century politics is not a game of heirarchy, nor is it a conquest!

The recently concluded elections in New Delhi reminded me of an anecdote that took place on a domestic flight a few years back. Returning from a vacation, my hopping flight was on a forty minutes stop-over. A casual chat with the pilot revealed that he was an investment banker who switched professions to do what he loved since childhood. To fly. Interesting. One chose to be a commercial airline Pilot rather than stay a white-collared sophisticated banker with a multiple figure salary and a safer, plush life. Not many of us can say or do that.
Parents decide the academics and career options of their offspring. Sometimes, people simply follow their parents’ career path in medicine engineering or other supposedly lesser professions.  More often than not, it is the lure of money and power that forces one to follow a certain profession rather than what the heart wants. Perhaps a case of mind ruling over the heart. 
This professional conundrum is not restricted to the middle/working class people, even the educated experienced elite in-the-limelight have fallen prey to various pressures to follow a career not of their choice.
Politics is one such field that has suddenly become the chosen profession for one & all. It has a magnetic attraction of glossy & glamorous image of power, fame, money, Z class security, red-beacon cars and what not. Bureaucrats, Government executives, MNC professionals, Bankers, Armed Forces personnel. Suddenly, all are viewing Politics as a viable career option either mid-way through their present careers or after retirement.
To be a politician one does not require any expensive or status oriented academic degree. Any person who is a natural orator combined with skills to command and lead effectively can be a politician. However, it is crucial to identify one’s niche. Each human being has a certain skill set. Some are natural multi-taskers but not all can boast of being one. Alas, greed is like the tempting devil, and hunger for power and more power only sucks us into a whirlpool, drowning us deeper and further.
pic.courtesy rediff.com
Kiran Bedi is India’s first woman IPS officer with many feathers of administrative acumen adorning her large cap. While I am personally saddened by her loss in the elections, I am surprised she could not anticipate that her niche lay in efficient administration and not as a crafty political leader. Not one to wield a cunning clout to gather profits for selfish purposes, throughout her glorious highly-decorated career as a police-woman, she went about her work with honesty and dexterity.
Two months into power and the AAM Admi Party is embroiled in a bitter internal struggle. It only reflects that Arvind Kejriwal was a successful bureaucrat with the Indian Revenue Services and that his leadership skills are doubtful. Free water & Wi-fi or cheap electricity; is that all the Chief Minister of India’s capital city will guarantee its citizens? 
pic.courtesy wikipedia.com
Mahatma Gandhi led India’s freedom movement but it was Nehru who dominated nearly two decades of post-independent India. Gandhi was a revolutionary and led mass movements, but I doubt if he had the makings of an astute politician, whereas Nehru’s good looks and charm won over the gullible Indians with his eloquent speeches.
Rajiv Gandhi was a successful pilot with the Indian Airlines. A modern Italian wife and two good looking children completed his happy family picture. The untimely death of his brother and mother forced his entry into politics, on a sympathy wave and to retain his hold on the Congress, and power. However, his faulty political decisions cut short the Congress’s rule and eventually led to his brutal assassination.
Sanjay Gandhi was known as a spoilt brat who also lacking in political diplomacy and met a tragic end. His soft spoken much younger wife, Menaka, was left to carry on his legacy but failed miserably. Not because she wasn’t qualified but because her acuity was as an environmentalist and an animal rights activist. She too lacked the presence, thought, speech and body language required of a political leader. My thoughts on her were confirmed as I watched her take oath as a cabinet minister in the Modi government in 2014, hesitating and shy on the podium.

Sonia Gandhi has been trying valiantly for over ten years, to project and plant her son Rahul Gandhi as the prospective Indian king. All in vain. It amazes me that the veteran congressmen have shamelessly bowed down to her demands and project him as their capable leader. Even her daughter Priyanka is unable to hold her ground. Unfortunately, the Prince and Princess have not inherited the legendary political vision. My guess is, sooner or later, Sonia will herself jump into the fray to revive the party to its former glory, her foreign origins notwithstanding.
Manmohan Singh’s policies and strategies as finance minister led India to successful economic heights. But, his tenure as Prime Minister of India for two consecutive terms was mired in bitter corruption scams as his team of ministers ran amok. It can said that he is a skilled policy maker but seriously lacks leadership skills and should have had the foresight to identify his strengths.
Uddhav Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is a photography enthusiast and does not have manipulative skills required of a politician to ruthlessly retain its seat at the center. His photo books on nature trails of scenic Maharashtra are among the best sellers. Pursuing his creative field would have taken him far. Alas.
Renowned Indian film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, was initiated into politics by his good friend Rajiv Gandhi to cash in on his cinematic popularity among the masses. Bachchan failed miserably in his maiden political innings, swore off politics and humbly accepted that he is not cut out for the role of a politician. A wise decision. His huge presence in the world of cinema and television overshadows all old and contemporary legends. Clearly, his niche is on celluloid and he should stay there.
Several other film and television actors over the years too have migrated towards politics trying to gain a foothold of power. Very few have been successful in climbing high on the ladder of success.
At some stage they all were either forced, coerced or gave in to temptations to join the political work force they were ill equipped for, and therefore, failed. Though, this temporary political setback does not take away their accomplishments in their respective non-political fields, the point in case here is that all past and present aspirants to the top post have failed in their political ambitions simply because in their greed for power and to fulfil the aspirations of their political families, the candidates and their kin have overlooked their skill set which eventually led to their nadir.
A true politician can succeed with simple common sense and a good connect with people. However, one with any lack of it thereof will not be able to go far. The twenty first century politics is not a game of hierarchy not is it a conquest. The need of the hour is that a politician working in modern India should have a vision for the growth of its nation, sustainable development, elimination of poverty, restoration of critical natural resources like water.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Help.

An ode to the unknown young girl, a domestic help, driven to extreme. I never knew her, never met her, but her pain I feel as she went over the edge that night. A young teenage life that must have been full of dreams and desires, cut short by cruelties. Her death is a topic, her final journey was in the stillness of night so none could see what happened. I think of you. Rest in peace Dear...

Pic. (c) http://www.layoutsparks.com

On a morning jog
commotion I see
none was allowed
as they wanted a peep
it was the help, they said
who gave up on life
she was young, someone said
driven to extreme

You were set down
but lifeless you lay
a life you carried
in whispers I hear
dry were the eyes
hearts devoid of grief
while they feasted
tranquil you remained

I know you not
but a beauty you must be
cherubic your desires
shiny & glittery
your dreams may’ve been
was the pain so deep
that a noose you adorned
where the pearls should’ve been

On your last journey
forlorn is the sky
for moon lights up your path
& stars trail the hearse
go my dear
to a world unknown
where life abounds
and cherished you’ll be

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

'Celebrating India - Love Without Borders' an Anthology of Prose & Poetry.


'Celebrating India - Love Without Borders' is an Anthology of Prose & Poetry, published by Nivasini Publishers in January 2015.

Anita Desai's short story 'Epileptic' has been featured in this anthology that brings together budding and noted writers across different state of India.

'Epileptic' is the story of two people from different religious backgrounds who come together breaking through the barriers of social parameters. The author narrates the tale of Adwita and Jared from the time they first meet as adolescents, fall in love, separate and meet again as young adults. The story is unusual as it does not reflect on religious differences but highlights other social pressures that hinder acceptance of love.

The proceeds from the sale of books have been donated to Glow Tide, an organisation that feeds healthy food to the orphans.

The book is available on Amazon.in:
http://www.amazon.in/Celebrating-India-Love-without-borders


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Friday, December 12, 2014

Defining Rape: Summarizing 'Rape' as Mistake.


What has changed since December 2012?

Nothing.

The over all situation on matters concerning safety and security of the common man, especially women and children, remain unchanged. Even our reactions to the reported crimes remain the same.  One sensational incident and we sizzle, the media goes on an overdrive, the political opponents skin each other, those who claim responsibility for the crime watch the drama on their TV sets and have the last laugh. In a few days, things are back to normal.


The only visible difference, if any, is that Nirbhaya rape case has set a precedence for all subsequent offenders to threaten their victims with similar dire consequences.

Read the full article at https://www.saddahaq.com/humaninterest/sexualviolence/defining-rape. 

(SaddaHaq, meaning 'Our Right', is a social journalism platform. https://www.saddahaq.com/aboutus) 

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Monday, December 8, 2014

A Sunday with Bloggers at Saptaparni.


Receiving an invite for the 4th Hyderabad Bloggers Meet was exciting. That I would be one among the established writers, bloggers, travelers was a proud moment with instant acceptance of the invite J.

As the event updates flooded my notifications page with an impressive list of speakers and invitees, the apprehensions of a nouveau blogger reared its hood large, and I changed my RSVP from Going to Maybe and eventually, Decline.

My fears were soon waylaid in the face of more-than-subtle encouragement of striking updates and I re-confirmed my participation J.

A bright Sunday sun warmed up the venue, Saptaparni, in an obscure lane of Banjara Hills. It was evident at the outset that the team had put in considerable planning and efforts to mobilize an event of this magnitude.

The projectors, laptops and presentations initially overwhelmed me. 'Purpose' 'Clarity' and 'Impact'; Social Marketing; the expectations of the international community from humble bloggers, listening to the eloquent speakers  hit home the message that 'Blogging' is serious business, whether I write for money or for its simple pleasures.

Presentations on 'Imaging Best Practices' by Saurabh Chatterjee and an enlightening talk on 'Social Outcomes of Blogging' by Subhabrata Dasgupta were of interest to me in particular.

As pictures are essential to a blog post, the significant aspects of  photography were informative. A rib-tickling take away from Saurabh's presentation - "If you want to earn from your skills in photography, sell your camera." J 

While Subhabrata was speaking on his blogging odyssey and campaign, 'Voices for  Damini' referring to the horrific Nirbhaya incident of December 2012, a similar unfortunate episode had unfolded in New Delhi.  It was a revelation that Blogging has a bigger role to play in contemporary society, that of  propagating social causes and influencing favorable opinions against the evils plaguing our generation.

The presentations were an opportunity for good learning, food for thought and reinforce confidence.  The minor glitches of 'wifi disconnect' did not dampen any spirits.  

The winter sun wasn't the only reason for the comforting warmth through the day. Food is a gastronomic thread that influences many a tasteful discussions. The home cooked, wholesome meal hosted by Feazt was pivotal to fostering cheer and camaraderie among the Hyderabad bloggers. Feazt is a platform to bring together passionate home chefs and foodies together.

The joy of watching its patrons enjoy their culinary art was visible on the faces of the talented chefs. Though, I personally expressed my gratitude to the hosts for a sumptuous meal, I guess watching us ravenously tuck in the biryani, curry and raita conveyed more than any verbal appreciation J.

The dessert was a mystery waiting to be solved, so I took small savory bites to identify the ingredients, as did most of the others. Was it sooji halwa or banana pudding? I thought custard apple was the main ingredient.

Well, at the end of the day the hosts walked home with their mystery unsolved and undisclosed. Until next time.

Post lunch, the calls for Tea became strong and the troupe marched out to the amphitheatre. It wasn't a usual break for tea and biscuits. With Subho around can we have a normal, everyday tea experience? You guessed it right.

The Tea break held its forte high among the many intelligent presentations and foodie delights.

Subho's descriptions of the 'Blend of Tea' are ekphrastic. Holding the brewed Tea pot in his right hand he transforms into a sophisticated Tea connoisseur. We float on an imaginary journey through the misty hills that envelope the Tea gardens, as he lovingly recites the wonders of Tea from its inception, the quality of soil, the plant's life, journey of the dried leaves to the tea pot and visualize them coming back to life as they connect with water, the elixir of life.

My engagement with Green Tea and Black Tea ends here. I confess that I fail miserably as a Tea fanatic. Two cups of desi chai a day is all I indulge in. Perhaps, this is the reason why I would never be invited to any elite club of Tea enthusiasts.

At the commemorative photo shoot, we were asked to introduce and describe ourselves in one word. Tough, but interesting as it reinforced chatter and gaiety. I was looking forward to some games and music too, but hey, we are not the masters of time.

My day was made when a team of SaddaHaq.com, a social journalism platform that I contribute to, recognized me and walked up to say hello. I was pleasantly flustered and mumbled silly. I'm not embarrassed and treasure even those naïve moments.

Like good food, tea and drinks, 'Return Gifts' or 'Party Bags' are integral to a joyful gathering. I am reminded of my childhood and that of my daughter's when we would be eyeing the take away gifts at the end of a birthday party.

The Christmas tree in camouflage harbored our gifts of exchange for the day. I had one eye on the big box wrapped in shiny red paper, but do we ever get what we want J. I got what I needed, a beautiful clutch wallet. My greetings to the anonymous blogger for this lovely gift.
Feazt left us with yet another surprise, a miniature cherry tomato plant as a take away. I know I would treasure and nurture mine.
The Hyderabad Bloggers Meet 2014 was more than just a lecture and speech event. It was an interesting blend of people, thoughts, knowledge, cuisine, and hearty laughter.

Apart from the core theme of the event, Blogging, physically volunteering and contributing to the event was a lesson in relationship building.

This rich experience will go a long way with me in my journey as a writer and blogger. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Media and Social Network. Striker and Runner: The role of media and social network in contemporary world.

Pic.copyright https://socialcode.biz

As Face Book and Twitter take over the role of information dispersion, what role does the media play in the society? Is it still relevant, especially given all the anti-media wave going around?

In the last two and a half decades, the world has witnessed a revolution in  Media. While the print media has more or less retained its dominance among the genus of readers and continued to nurture the intellects, the transformation of Television from a simple news broadcasting medium to a portal that encourages opinions and dialogue has been remarkable. However, the advent of social media changed the face of communication and flow of information in India.

Read the full article on  https://www.saddahaq.com/humaninterest/india/media-and-social-network-striker-and-runner
                                     

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Book Review: THE INCUBATION CHAMBER - BY Vandana Kumari Jena.


'The Incubation Chamber' by Vandana Kumari Jena is an anthology of 24 short stories that span various aspects of human relationships.

Vandana Kumari Jena is an IAS Officer of the 1979 batch Orissa Cadre. Her short stories have been published in over 15 anthologies. Much like her short stories, her first novel ‘The Dance of Death’ too explored the trauma and travails of a young woman dealing with myriad emotions and tragedies of life.

Set in the contemporary era, the collection of stories in ‘The Incubation Chamber’ is a testimony that emotions and sensitivity continue to occupy a significant place in our society. Each character in the stories is etched out from life, those that thrive among us. Each story is an experience someone somewhere has lived through.  From surrogacy to female feticide, blood relations vs. emotional ties, critical dilemmas to decisive actions, the stories are an amalgamation of life in all its dark and light shades.

The cover story, ‘The Incubation Chamber’ treads the delicate ropes of surrogacy. ‘Blood Ties’ explores the turmoil of a woman who embarks on a mission to find her blood-child. ‘Of Dreams & Desires’ breaks the social chains that bind women to morality and chastity. ‘The Testimony’ is a poignant saga of a woman who discovers her son as a rapist and her decisive stand thereafter. The heartbreaking travails of Indian students trying to adapt to a western life in a foreign land is an eye opener in ‘Birds Fly’. That a parent can be vulnerable in times of calamity and trial is a bitter yet shocking revelation in ‘The Aftermath of Tsunami’. Furthermore, AIDS & Autism, infidelity & domestic violence, insecurities & mindful living, all the victories and tragedies of human life are beautifully captured by the author.

If the stories are helmed from the author’s real life experiences, then it can be said that the writer is a keen observer of human behavior and has an emotional outlook towards life. If the stories are simply a work of fiction woven out of profound imagination, then the depth of the author's thoughts can be determined by the way women of varying social strata are portrayed in all their strengths and weaknesses.

With ‘The Incubation Chamber’, Jena has revolutionized the art of short story writing. In our contemporary world of emotional abyss, this collection plays with the readers’ psyche and promises to awaken and enlighten. A must read for short story lovers.


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Army Helicopter Crashes; Three officers killed.

Indian Government's obsolete military gear. The soldier pays with his life.

Pic. copyright http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/

Yet another Indian army helicopter crashes killing two pilots and an engineer. The Cheetah helicopter that took off from Bareilly airbase developed a technical snag right after take-off and crashed instantly killing all three souls on board.

India loses several highly trained personnel each year to similar freak accidents. No other country in the world has such critically high rate of ‘peacetime’ fatalities in its armed forces. I have highlighted in my previous articles that the Indian armed forces require a massive overhaul. It is the need of the hour to phase out second-hand, outdated munitions stock and replenish the armed forces with technologically advanced weaponry, combat/cargo air-crafts, accessories, and supplies.

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