Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bombay to Bozeman/Missoula - the journey so far.

Two huge bags of approximately 25kg slid painfully away from me on the conveyor belt as I proceeded towards the security check at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. 31 hours later, I was in Bozeman, Montana. Most people don't know what Montana is and where it is. The only way to explain the concept of Montana to someone in India, who is not unbelievably aware of geography, is to say "Yellowstone National Park". There is a typical raising of eyebrows that is followed by a long nod of approval which all starts to become rather boring when this whole process has to be repeated a few hundred times.

I had arrived. I had broken every promise I had ever made to myself about "never going to America". I had gone through the incredibly tedious process of obtaining a student VISA and what's more, I had been granted one. At that point on the 10th of August, 2011, I had a huge loan looming over me like an evil cloud, an extremely upset Labrador at home wondering why I hadn't shown up for over a day, and a surprisingly heavy heart. My phase of introspection had begun the moment I set foot on that Lufthansa flight [which by the way, landed at the world'd most boring airport - Frankfurt].
A couple days into being the promise-breaker, I was finally seeing the silver lining that I had convinced myself, was there. If all of Montana was like Bozeman, I thought, it must be way more beautiful than I think it is. In hindsight, if I hadn't spent those first five days in Bozeman with 'the mister', I would have taken much longer to acclimatize to the situation and would have been a rather unpleasant person to be around during that time.

For the last 22 years I've been used to waking up early on the 15th of August and attending the flag-hoisting ceremony as a part of Independence Day celebrations. This year, we woke up early to shift base to Missoula, Montana. I'll admit now, I felt like a child on a road trip, and looked like one of those dogs that sit in the window of the car with their tongues hanging on one side of their face, enjoying the wind in their "hair". A couple of pit-stops later, we were finally here- in Missoula. I was still getting used to not being in India.
We spent the whole day calling people, checking out houses and freaking out about not finding me a house [the guys were fine. I was beside myself]. I was awe-struck with the campus and the fact that two 'Bobcats' walked around the 'Griz' campus and said it was better than theirs, sealed the deal for me.

Campus was indeed, an amazing expanse to explore and feel good about. Then came the best part. Don Anderson Hall. That's when it hit me, "In two years I'm going to be a journalist. I'm going to be studying here. This place is awesome!"

From day 1 of orientation itself, we've been on-the-go. I'm still trying to figure out whether it was smart to choose the 12 credit pact over the 9 credit pact but either way, I could not be happier about breaking those promises. I'm absolutely loving journalism, especially because it's environment oriented and offers such a giant scope for progress and work.
One absolute relief here is the entirety of the education system. I know most of us back home have heard this time and again but you really never know for sure until you've experienced it. We're a class of 8 people, each from a different , diverse background, with diverse interests, and with an infectious amount of energy. Our faculty is just top-notch. They're like our support pillars. Our therapists. We can bounce anything and everything off them. They're human [and that's what's so comforting] as opposed to 3 years of "faculty" who believed they were god-sent miracles. These people here, are the kind of people you want to respect effortlessly, and you do. They make you work your ass off and you love it.

I feel great being in this absolutely corner of USA that no one has ever heard of or been to because: a) it's a small, cosy place with no traffic jams, no noise, and downright beautiful, (b) because it's 2.5 hrs away from Glacier National Park, 5hrs from Yellowstone, and moreover 3.5hrs from Bozeman[!!!], (c) because this is the kind of course and place where you are required to be working 24x7 if you want to fulfil those bags of dreams piled up in that corner of your mind, (d) I would go mad in any place that didn't keep me so frightfully busy all the time.

Another completely unexpected turn of events [and there were a lot of these "events"] was finding the perfect Fall semester time-table. That means, being able to register for the classes you really want to get into and it is almost as hard to decide on just what to keep and what to chuck, as it is to try and get a hard-core scientist to talk about his research in 500 words. No matter when you arrive at a "course consensus", you are always going to be wondering if you made the right choice, especially when you do miserably on one of the assignments for a class. But two minutes later you realize just why you don't care whether it's a perfect schedule or not. You took that class because you absolutely love its content and you will not let one grade shake your faith [in what, I'm not entirely sure].

Every night though, before you head to bed, your mind reminds you how blessed you feel to be here and to have learned in less than two months, more than what you learned in a whole year before. [After this it reminds you how you have only 3 more days to go till you can sleep for more than four hours before you have to wake up and get back to your assignments again.]

It is almost 2 whole months since I first set foot on US territory and I have to say, I'm glad I did, but irrespective of everything associated with being glad, I intend to remain a non-immigrant so I can head back to where I belong - on the banks of a river, studying crocodiles with the man, or just simply, in a word, home. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Gharials Are Adapting?

Publication: The Times Of India Lucknow;Date: Jun 19, 2011;Section: Times City;Page: 4

Gharial hatchlings sighted in Yamuna

Faiz Rahman Siddiqui | TNN 

Kanpur: The wildlife experts have spotted nearly 46 gharial hatchlings in Yamuna river at National Chambal Sanctuary on the borders of Etawah and Auraiyya. Gharial hatchlings have been seen in this area for the first time. 

    Gharials have been declared as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union For Conservation of Nature. A giant female gharial (around 12-15 feet long) was also sighted near the nesting site. 

    The hatchlings were noticed in the first week of June in the sand-beds after the 60-90 days of incubation period, the forest officials said. 

    Rajiv Chauhan, secretary, Society for Conservation of Nature, who is working on gharial conservation, said, “It was during a visit after being informed by the locals of Gohani Kalan village situated at the borders of Etawah and Auraiyya districts, on June 2 that I first spotted nearly 46 eggs of gharial at a nesting site on a Yamuna river bank.” 

    He added, “The villagers were surprised when they came across unusual beep sounds coming from inside the eggs and alerted us. This happens only when the eggs are about to hatch. It is a very good and positive sign for the nature lovers that for the very first time, gharials have chosen Yamuna river for breeding in India.” 

    Principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) B K Patnaik said, “It is indeed a good news for wildlife conservationists as gharial is a critically endangered specie. Going by the latest sighting of gharial hatchlings, that too in Yamuna river, their number is surely going to increase.” 

Hatchlings in Yamuna at National Chambal Sanctuary 

Can we really afford to make such statements at such at early stage in what seems to be a complete turn over from usual nesting habits? "The numbers are sure to increase"! We'd love for that to happen but how does one issue such a statement without waiting to see what actually happens?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Of the Daddy and the Daughter

Everything's gone according to plan. My VISA's been approved and I'll be leaving in some 51days. Relocating to completely different continent, a new culture, new people, new friends. One thing's never going to change though - my family. I've been wondering what to get my Dad for Father's Day today even though I genuinely believe these days are pointless. Maybe it's the sinking feeling that I won't be around my family for a significant amount of time once I'm gone or maybe it's just that today's a very emotional day. 

Paa and Maa dancing at his 50th birthday surprise party
 I thought of a lot of stuff I could get him that he could use but in the end, I decided to write him this. For there is nothing more profound than love. 

  I've never seen my paternal grandfather except for his pictures and my daddy looks just like him. I've had a very loved childhood and I'm very grateful to my parents for that. They've worked through thick and thin just to make sure things stay stable. As a rebellious teen I often fought with my father and my eternal in-your-face-line would be "you were never there". I've ever felt stupider in my life than I do now that I realize he was right there. Always. 

  So Baba : I'm not sorry for all the fighting because it only brought us closer but I am sorry for the crazy stuff I must've said to you and the several things that hurt you. You were always right there. Behind the scenes. 
 I'm fortunate enough to be doing what I love today because you always told me how you never wanted to be a C.A. but you had to take over ajoba's office due to his ill health. You didn't get to follow your passion and you didn't want us to end up doing just that. For all those mornings when you sat on the straw chair in your balcony, and I sat on your lap and pestered you to tell me stories.. and for all those stories you DID tell me, I am eternally grateful. 

  For all the times I crept into bed with you and Mumma because I was scared, and you hugged me to sleep, I love you. For the number of times you supported all the crazy things I wanted to do, for all the arguments which you let me win, all my dreams you let me chase, all the time you spared from you crazy busy days just to make sure I don't get things wrong.. for all of that, I will always respect you more and more each day. For the person you are, the honest, clean, and hard-working person that you are, I can only hope to imbibe those qualities from you on a permanent basis. 

  I can't even imagine how things are going to be in Missoula. No one to ask for back rubs, head and neck massages, or just company. I'm going to have just memories of me walking up and down your back when I was a kid because you'd say it made you feel better! What will I do when all that commerce stuff comes up? Who will I ask? Who will I scold for not eating on time or not taking medicines on time? Who'll teach me Math!? 

  I don't want to stop being daddy's little girl because all these years, it's made me feel super secure, it's made me feel like anything under the sun can happen and I can come tell you about it. Growing up is difficult and even more so without all the "laad-pyaar" and the home-ground advantage! 

  All those drives and treks and walks and the Boney M and The Carpenters songs ..and singing them loudly while sticking my head out of the car's window as you'd drive :) The times when you'd hand over the car key and say - drive and you'd sit patiently in the passenger seat :) 

  Sitting beside you all through the day ajji passed away and watching you read the Bhagwat Gita .. You don't always have to display so much strength. But I guess I'm so used to the outer strong you that if something hurts you and you go all gooey, it makes me all shaky and nervous. The morning of your birthday and dada's engagement, when you asked me to come sit next to you, I knew something was wrong. But when your eyes got moist I couldn't help hugging you and holding you. I hate it when people hurt you, take you for granted, or misbehave with you. I will probably never regret screaming at a certain famous balding client of your's [:) I know you wouldn't like me mentioning names] and throwing him out of your office for raising his voice and being arrogant with you. 

  You're too good for your own good you know and people out there aren't all as honest and good as you think them to be. Just because you know them for a long time, does not mean they're good people. Even if they're family. If they can't respect you or be cordial with you [at least], they do NOT deserve your time and effort. Stop going out of your way for people who give a damn about it. 

   They say you can judge a person by the quality of friends he has. On 1st April 2009, when ajji passed away in front of me, hardly an hour from that moment, there was literally a gang of people working in sync with me. your friends were here before any of our family members were. That's the day I realized what kind of a person you are and how pure your heart is. All of them, left everything they had to do, to be there with us. They didn't budge till you reached hours later. They wouldn't listen to us when we told them you'll reach safely and that you weren't driving. That day Daddy, my respect for you went sky high. I can only hope to be as good a person and have as many true friends. 

  When the Vento came home, you were beaming like a kid who just had a whole surprise package of all his favourite things delivered at his door step. :) Your beloved car was finally in your hands and you went about showing me all the buttons with so much pride and excitement it was super cute. 

  When Mama joked about yelling at me last night, you, out of nowhere said "Oy! No speaking to her like that! She's my girl." :) I didn't show it then but having you stand up for me even against his joke transported me to my school days when you were my shield. All the bad stuff bounced off of you and I remained protected from it all. 

  Yesterday Pushkar was telling me how I am lucky to not have seen even half the bad side of the world and believe me, I was so grateful in my heart when I said, "Yeah I haven't. And I'm glad I haven't." All through my teenage years I believed I was the one fighting off the evil and that what I was seeing, was the ultimate horridness of the world. A couple of years more and some more maturity, some more experiences made me realize, that wasn't even the tip of the ice-berg and that I've been so freakin fortunate to have had you and Maa as my protective cover! There are children with abusive parents, abusive childhoods, children who have no access to education and no exposure to the opportunities out there, children who don't have loving families! All the complaining I did as a kid, seems so useless now. 

  I see the way Ginny is around you and I feel happy about her being here with you when I go off. I know you'll take good care of her, I know you'll love her and scold her and play with her, just like you did with me when I was an enthusiastic little soul. She'll be all sad initially and she'll keep looking for me all over the house, she'll sit in a corner quietly waiting for me to show up but as the days go by, she'll get used to it. She'll have all of you here to cheer her up. All of this makes me worry about how I'm going to deal with the absence of my 3 stars.. Paa, Maa and Ginny :( 

  Just need you to know, that I'm always going to argue with you, disagree with you regarding certain things, and throw tantrums.. only because I love you :) And because, no matter how old I get, I'll always be your little girl. Always. 
Daddy and me :)

Thank you Baba.. for everything you've done for us and for everything you still are doing :) Oh and by the way, Happy Father's Day :) Cheers! ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Natural Skills and Scrub Jungle Ecology with Rom Whitaker

Hi all,
I thought this workshop might interest you, especially since we are camping at Rom's backyard and Rom is going to take a couple of sessions!
I have pasted the info below:
Naturalist Skills and Scrub Jungle Ecology at Rom Whitaker's - 14 to 17 July 2011
Rom Whitaker is a pioneer in reptile conservation and has been at the forefront of the field for around four decades. He founded the first snake park in India, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team, Irula Snake Catchers’ Co-operative Society among many other achievements and endeavours.
                              morning birding and tracking.jpg   Lopard at
                              Roms.jpg   on a
Rom now lives on the edge of a reserve forest about an hour away from Chennai. He has set up a small campsite to allow enthusiasts to experience Nature and also build skills in field biology. 
The Gerry Martin Project will be taking a group over to Rom’s campsite to run them through the basics in field biology. 
We will be staying in shared tents at the campsite. The bathrooms are permanent structures which have running water. 
We will explore the surrounding forest and fields learning

  - Tracking skills 
  - Mapping 
  - Outdoor skills 
  - Camera trapping 
  - Faunal Surveys
  - Biostatistic methods 
  - Reptile biology 
  - Bird watching and a lot more.
There will also be discussions and presentations addressing various interest levels and dialogues.
Russells at Hunsur.jpg   Civet at Roms.jpg   Mugger mug(email).jpg
Dates and logistics: The group will leave Bangalore early morning on 14th July and will return around 5 pm on the 17th.
To register or to know more please get in touch with Conan on +91- 9972068300 or /
If you're interested, I can send you the registration and payment procedure. The workshop fee would be Rs.12,000/- including travel from and back to Bangalore, and Rs.10,800/- if you commute to the location on your own.
The highlights would be learning field techniques, scrub jungle ecology and a couple of sessions by Rom himself! Also, at the end of the workshop, you will get a certificate signed by him.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Colour can mean and represent such a myriad of emotions and memories.  It can give form to so many moods, so many wordless smiles, so many shared silences, so many dreams! So many things in life come alive simply by adding colour to them.  A simple photograph, after customizing a black-and-white effect, can suddenly look beautiful. Some say, sometimes all you need, is a little colour to your life. Some say, all you need is a little life to your colour. I say, all you really need, is an eye for both, life and colour. :)

Break an egg above a frying pan and even that has two colours to it! Try adding a red sock to your pure whites in the washing machine and see the magic one sock can do to a bucket full of white clothes. :) I believe, as we get older, we forget to stop and look, and more importantly, to stop and appreciate the various colours in and around our lives. The reason children are always so full of life and enthusiasm is not because they’re biologically younger, it’s probably because their innocence too, is a massive rainbow of colours we don’t even know of! It’s because their minds are so open to everything around them, so pure and honest. As we get older, I guess the bad experiences we have, taint our innocence and we become what is thought to be “worldly wise” but in reality, we start blocking out the yellows, oranges, reds, blues, pinks, greens, purples of our lives and focus on just the blacks and whites instead. We think, having just two categories to our lives will make things easier for us to deal with but we rule out the monotony we’re introducing to our own lives.

We completely forget to have fun. We’re suddenly career oriented youngsters who’re in a race against everything and everyone it seems. And life then, is indeed, crazy.
We suddenly forget how wonderful it felt to lie on the floor with one arm around the dog lying beside you, and the other under your head, staring up at the fan and drifting slowly off to sleep. We un-pin cartoon strip cut-outs from our soft-boards and they get quickly replaced with neatly made exam time-tables. Somehow though, those time-tables never come off. They just stay there till they’re yellow and old and torn.

Children today probably have to grow up faster than ever before. They barely have any time to live their childhood;  to jump in front of the pipe in the garden while watering the plants, to throw tantrums for new bicycles, to carve faces out of their food and be told off by parents.  It’s a dangerous thing, this trend. To keep up with time, today means – to move on from your current phase in life onto another phase, with your innocence and carefree attitude diminishing at each new step, at each new phase.  

And we wonder why children today losing their childhood at such an alarming rate. We’re constantly pulling them away from it, that’s why. We’re brainwashing them with the fear of competition, of being a winner in everything and a loser in nothing, of growing up fast so they can stand on their own feet and earn a living. What I don’t understand is, if we didn’t meddle so much and nag them to bits, is Time going to stop? Aren’t they going to grow up one day anyway? Aren’t they losing a day of their lives, as every new day that dawns, ends with a tired child falling asleep without any cartoons, any books, any sports? Why do children need Horlicks and Complan and Boost and Bournvita? Because they’re pushed to that level of neediness by the people around them. We’re the largest example of mocking the natural system. We don’t even allow growth to be natural!

And then one day, while sitting by yourself at home, while hanging like a bat from your couch, as the blood rushes to your brain, you realize all these things at once and it dawns on you how many colours you must have missed because you were busy being pushed around. It makes you remember how much you loved your life of colour and how today, after a long break, it’s back to being how it was meant to be. Colourful, bright, and meaningful. :)

So whether you see it as adding colour, or as adding life, I still believe that those who develop and appreciate their perspective for both, and above all, those who respect and nurture individuality, are doing the world a HUGE favour by being who they are. Maybe someday, the world will pause to look at the little yellow flower by the sidewalk that you never even knew was there though you walk down that path every day. Maybe you will look up at the sky to appreciate its sheer beauty someday, instead of -to call out to “god” and beg or threaten him to improve your life. Because you know, as much as people have told you, the world isn’t all that bad a place to live in. The human inhabitants though, are a completely different ball game. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011


1.       Civet cats
2.       Anteater-like pangolins
3.       Bobcats
4.       Badgers
5.       Baby deer
6.       Squirrels
7.       Frogs
8.       Geese
9.       Bats
10.   Flying foxes
11.   Herons
12.   Cranes
13.   Sparrows
14.   Black beetles
15.   Turtles
16.   Pigeons
17.   Starfish
18.   Scorpions
19.   Caribou
20.   Foxes
21.   Raccoon dogs
22.   Snakes
23.   Yak parts
24.   Elephants parts
25.   Orang-utan lips
26.   Rabbit
27.   Hawks
28.   Owls
29.   Seal
30.   Hedgehogs
31.   Wild boar
32.   Armadillos
33.   Bear claws
34.   Mantjac
35.   Giant salamanders
36.   Expensive dog breeds
37.   Golden monkeys
38.   Cats
39.   Rats
40.   Sharks
41.   Crocodiles
42.   Tiger meat

Monday, March 21, 2011

Juliet,Cinderella,Rapunzel,Snow White...Me?

The stuff that dreams are made of, the stuff that has painted our history red with love, red with blood; Red - symbol of two extreme feelings. All the while when I was growing up I prayed and prayed to "God" knows who [pun intended]. I asked for my knight in shining armor and no, I wasn't one of those Cinderella or Rapunzel or Snow White kinds. I was, however, a very very lonely and misunderstood girl thrown in with a very large bunch of people at every stage of her life. Her biggest challenge was to survive all that. To blend in or not, was entirely up to her, even at the age of 3, it was her decision. What "decision" that tender mind could take, I don't remember completely but I suppose, the person I am today, is a combination of those shaky starts, and the bold steps that echoed confidence as they walked from corridor to corridor. 

Through the phases I labelled as "one of the most difficult" times of my life, I realized many-a-times that a single companion who understands you, and loves you unconditionally, is what would solve "a problem like Maria" [reference to The Sound of Music- please listen to the song "How do you solve a problem like Maria"]. 

People made movies. Movies in which love was the centre of everything. If you Google "Love", you will probably have to have a lease on your next life to combine it with your current one so that you can read all the stuff that's written or centred around Love. 

It's no wonder than that even today, Shakespeare is read across the world. Human emotions very often govern human actions and that is not necessarily always a bad thing. 

So, when, as a child, I would dream about a "picture perfect" [pun intended] life, I had no idea how that dream would modify and practicalize itself as the years passed. I wanted the best of everything that I thought I deserved and according to my calculations of good and bad behaviour, I was sure I deserved that one person whom I would love beyond eternity and vice versa. 

I went from 7th grader to a 17yr old and a few typical teenage heartbreaks later, it was time for the big stuff. I was off to college, and not just any college. I was going to be a graduate. 2007. I thought I was all grown up and that life had put me through the worst already. And by then, I had become a bitter person on the inside. I had stopped believing that all those wishes with folded hands I made silently in my balcony corner as a child, would ever come true, and with good reason. 2009 saw the worst that could ever be fit into a single year and by the 31st December of 2009, my hopes were long shattered, my battery discharged, and my heart almost non-existent. 

My mission became work and the stoic in me decided that I would "marry my work" like most people do when they're down in the dumps. My heart, till that day, had played the roles of Caesar, Brutus, Antony, and Juliet during its many trysts with the world! [;)] 

But it's funny how, during your worst time, you end up having the most sensible and feasible wishes! I never once wished for love after that. I only thought about it. A lot. I thought how things would have been different if one day, I'd be telling my kids the story of how their parents met and fell in love and stayed together forever. I wondered what would happen if my life really became happy again someday?

Less than a year later, I was staring into the eyes of the person I'm going to marry. More than a year into this divine relationship, I'm convinced that if Shakespeare or any random person who ever wished to write about, to pen his/her thoughts on love, were around, that person wouldn't have to go any further. :) 

Modesty, is a virtue, sometimes best left behind. Love, can never and in my opinion, SHOULD never, be modest. It should be full of itself, full of so much emotion that it spills over and spreads everywhere, it should be, in all its entirety, worthy of being called Love. 

Moral of the story? Wishes do come true. Children on their knees, hands folded, eyes shut in tight hope, teeth clenched should ALWAYS believe, when they grow into teenagers who're fretting about shoes, clothes, people, marks, driver's licenses, alcohol, cigarettes, peer pressure, parents' constant nagging, food, fitness.. , they really need to do just one thing- believe. Believe, that all those wishes, do come true. And sometimes, all you need to do, is just make that wish. 

Because when you absolutely least expect it, your best friend, transforms into your better half and there is not a feeling on earth that matches the satisfaction and ecstasy of having your best bud as your life partner. Just when you think life cannot possibly go any lower, it surprises the shit out of you and you're suddenly back on top. And being on top of your own life is a miraculously empowering feeling. You hold the reigns. You, and your man. For now, the word "you" , doesn't mean what it has all this while. 

No amount of psychiatric counselling or therapy, punishments, lectures, lessons, articles, photographs, experiences, can teach and INSPIRE someone to continually make efforts to be a better person with each passing day; nothing is as inspiring as Love. Nothing. 

When you know the honest to god trust that your partner invests in you, the faith and support you're getting, and the unshakable strength, motivation, and most importantly, happiness that you have, all because of the love that your "special someone" has for you, you cannot possibly ignore your own heart when it makes decisions that shock and regularly, surprise you! 

The once aggressive teenager is now a mellowing mature person who makes decisions that are way smarter than before and even though not too much time has passed between these two phases, your life's most important event has been enough to keep you happily grounded on cloud 9 :) 

Because all those times you thought your heart has been reduced to a mere speck now, are a major build up to the day you discover that what you thought was an electron sized part of your body, has suddenly jumped into your throat. And in a flash, you know, it's back. Your blood pumping organ is back. And it's doing over-time because someone somewhere, is driving it bananas! 

Because, now, you actually WILL be sitting and telling your kids about how their parents have been together right since they've been 21 :) Because your children won't need Mills and Boons. They'll have you. 
I couldn't be more grateful to two people for the happiness in me today. The man responsible for keeping my spirit and soul alive as ever, everyday; and that kid in the corner of my balcony who secretly wished for her knight in shining armor :) 

It baffles me how MANY emotions are locked up in that four lettered word. How Love supplies endless energy, strength, and patience, I have no clue but I'm glad as hell that it does. How a word that looks so small, can be so powerful, makes me wonder if there could possibly be another word anywhere in any language that could be anywhere close to the power of Love. "Hope" maybe, but even that, ties with "Faith" and Love still wins. 

All those shooting stars, those eyelashes placed carefully on your fist, those birthday candles you blew out, the days you kneeled before your god and joined your hands in prayer [irrespective of whether or not you believe/d in god], the times you made a lonely wish as you stared out your window at the rain as the drops embraced the leaves they soaked as they slid down, - all those wishes, probably go someplace where they're stored, safeguarded, and looked after till the time comes for them to be granted. 

And my Angel, practically walked up to my door, rang the bell and wrapped my wish around me in a giant hug. And in all probability, had a neon-sign maker witnessed that moment, he'd have seen "GRANTED" flashing in bright red above my head like an enormous Halo. :)