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My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective

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Shwetha Kalyanasundaram rebuts this story which lambasts India and makes you feel the country is made up of vultures only looking for prey landing in form of women tourists. A must read for all, no matter what nationality.  

Ms. Rose Chasm’s article “India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear” has been trending for the last couple of days, with many of my friends sharing the story on various social networking sites. The headline of the article prompted me to read and I was shocked to read about Ms. Chasm’s traumatic experience in my country. As a woman, my heart went out to Ms. Chasm. When I read your article Ms. Chasm, I was ashamed of my country (for the first time!). But pondering over your article, I realized that I cannot sit in my comfortable space and watch people tear my country down (with reference to the 1000+ comments left behind by people to your story).

As a citizen of this wonderful nation (and not a nation of snake charmers and elephants), I am writing in to clear the air and do my bit to support my country. I love my country. And I am not blind to the flaws that exist today.

India has been my home for over two and a half decades. As a woman who bears resemblance to a South East Asian (rather than having the typical Indian features), I have always been looked upon as a foreigner in my own land. I can understand how it feels to have hundred pairs of eyes follow your every move. There have been many instances when the local people have tried to sell their wares to me; with a hope their goods reach foreign shores. I wouldn’t call them advances, rather we are just a group of people who take pride in what we do and feel the need to be appreciated by somebody from a foreign land.

We have always been dubbed as a nation of brown-skinned people and I don’t have any qualms in accepting that we have an obsession for the “white” skin. That could probably explain why people stopped and gaped at you in the bazaars. And I can bet they weren’t just men who stared at you – women and children would have looked at you as well. As a foreigner, you must have been prepared to stand out in the crowd. I am sure you would have been briefed about the cultural differences between the two nations. Yes! It can be uncomfortable to be stared at and photographed but lady, you know ignorance is bliss.

Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendoes. For the millions of women who use public transportation in India, there have been numerous cases of “accidental” brushes and gropes. There have been numerous cases where women have been stalked and flashed – at. But for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be ten men who will fight for you and your dignity.

The recent spate of rape attacks and incest cases that we hear and read day in and day out have definitely tarnished my country’s image. And your story just adds more fuel to the fire. If there had been an attempt to rape against you or your friend, did you reach out to the local police to lodge a complaint or did you approach your consulate for help?!? I assume, as an exchange student, you would definitely have been briefed about all these formalities in the event of any untoward incident.

In Sanskrit, we say “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” (translated: Mother, Father, Teacher, God). The meaning of this adage is the greatest truth and is the order in which we offer reverence. This is the basic tenet in existence from time immemorial and every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God. The Indian men know to treat their women with respect. And I cannot tolerate your generalization that Indian men are bad. You cannot blame the entire male population for the actions of few.

I have seen the best and worst of both the worlds, having spent a considerable portion of my adult life in America and the Middle East. In all the countries I have been to, I have been subjected to roving eyes and sexual overtures from men. I have been leered and heckled by cab drivers and pedestrians alike. Even a middle aged woman is not spared!! Let’s not be too dramatic here and accept that sexual crimes against women are a problem world over.

Do you know that every 1 out of 5 women in America are raped every day (This is according to a UN report published in 2011 and the same figure has been quoted in a NY times article, published December 2011). Does this mean I can issue a travel warning and tell people how unsafe America is?!? Your country is a beautiful place Ms. Chasm and a few bad moments are not going to deter me from travelling again. I just hope your personal experiences don’t make you too judgmental about our great country.

Ms. Chasm, I sympathize with you completely. As a woman, I understand the trauma of your three months stay in my country. Your problem is with that category of homo-sapiens bearing the Y-chromosome and not with my country.

It tears me apart that men and women have apologized on behalf of the Indian population and have left comments to your article. I’m not going to offer apologies. I can only offer you an olive branch and hope you visit my country again, and view this nation from a different and an unbiased perspective. 

33 comments

  1. Do you really feel all that you have written? I am surprised to see your response to the article and I am wondering How can you support something like this? Every indian women faces rubbish from indian men does not mean that it becomes justified. The gropes and touches are not accidental always, you also must have traveled in public transport in india and must be aware about that.

    “every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God. Indian Men know how to treat their woman”

    My dear friend do you 100% believe it? Ok, they must have been taught but do they exercise this today? Agar aisa hota toh Nirbhay rape case jaise cases nahin hote. Don’t be proud of this. Truth is something else. Yes, generalization can not be done but one will say what one has experienced. No one today wants to send their daughters and sisters alone anywhere. We are all time worried till they reach home. isn’t this the truth.

    Other countries stats of rape and crime should be no justification for crime against women in any country. Bcoz one nation kills its 10 women a day does not mean we have the right to kill 5 and say we are still behind them.

    I visit this website regularly but today seeing such article on this site has really really disgusted me and discouraged me.

    1. Dear Ritu,

      Firstly, everyone’s entitled to their opinion bout Ms. Chasm’s story and this is my take on it. I felt bad reading her story but I will not tolerate anybody tarnishing the image of my country. My sincere sympathies to Ms. Chasm but I just found her story too far fetched and hard to believe.

      I have spent most of my life in India and I have always found this place to be a safe haven, when compared to living abroad.

      Rape has become a social menace world over and sexual crimes against women have doubled over the last couple of years in India. Today women stand up and report such incidents – a social awareness has been created and thanks to our media, even the tiniest of incidents gets reported.

      And yes, I sincerely believe that men know how to treat their women! Just because a few lechers exist in our society, doesn’t mean that men don’t know how to handle women, And this is exactly what I meant by generalization. Looks like you’ve fallen a prey to that as well!!

      What better way than putting up the right statistics to justify your point. I had to highlight the fact to prove that sexual crimes happens everywhere. Her story talks as if these crimes happen only in India. And yes, it does sadden me that you seem to accept a foreigner’s take on your country
      , rather than one of your own.

      Ritu, thanks for your views on my article defending my country. I stand by what I said and meant every word. I write what I believe in,

      1. Good, that you believe what you have said. Luving one’s country is not a crime. and I also don’t say defending is bad. But we should also try to see the truth. The way we stand by goodness of our country, same way we should accept what is wrong. because we can not change it if we don’t acccept it. Like they say you can not manage what you don’t measure.

        But I would like to clarify, its not a foreigner’s point of view that I am believing. It is something that happens here everyday. Walk on the road and you are always worried about your safety, travel alone in a train, metro.. you always have to be concious. From a foreigner or an Indian, it does not matter. Its good that you never ever experienced all this and thus have an opposite view. But the day one goes through all this, point of view changes.

        Sign off from my side.

      2. There may be good men, but Chasm’s story is hardly far fetched! I myself have faced, and could have faced more, had I not been smart (which I was only because I have learnt things the hard way, being an Indian).

        I have myself advised my female, foreign friends to stay in safer locations like Mumbai, etc, or travel in large groups.

        If you keep your eyes open, you will find lots of such articles by Indian women themselves.

    2. Agree with you whole heartedly Ritu. Defending such actions and saying – go to the police, 10 ppl will save your dignity is utter bullshit. I have faced most of the things this lady has faced, have hardened, as I’m sure many other Indian women have. We cannot, however, defend these actions. The fact that a visit to India has given her PTSD is horrible enough and I do offer apologies to all foreign travelers to India.

      1. DM – I would say Ms. Cross/Chasm is suffering from a serious bout of Attention Deficit Disorder rather than PTSD. And it’s sad that people like you offer apologies to an attention seeking woman. Anyways, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and this is yours!

      2. wow!!! you are accusing her of seeking attention? lol this is insane!! indian men rape and indian women defend the rapist by blaming the victim.. this is another reason many victims are afraid to come forward!! as a woman, you should be doing the opposite.. shame on urself!!

    3. thank you rite for replying to this defending men like this is total rubbish and insult to women!!! when i was in india.. i saw a man slap a girl in a market full of people!!! (perhaps that was his girlfriend and they were fighting..!!) couples everywhere in this world fight..!! i know nothing about their story.. but i witnessed this in a short time i was there.. and i never saw something like this else where..!!!! indian men have a problem!!! lets just admit it!!! indian men think they have the right to hit women like that.. and that too in public.. and bystanders like myself…. dont really care to defend or to stop any kind of abuse..!!! i was in shock after that happened and quite disturbed but others around me didnt care much… maybe it happens often?when i was in india.. i saw a man slap a girl in a market full of people!!! (perhaps that was his girlfriend and they were fighting..!!) couples everywhere in this world fight..!! i know nothing about their story.. but i witnessed this in a short time i was there.. and i never saw something like this else where..!!!! indian men have a problem!!! lets just admit it!!! indian men think they have the right to hit women like that.. and that too in public.. and bystanders like myself…. dont really care to defend or to stop any kind of abuse..!!! i was in shock after that happened and quite disturbed but others around me didnt care much… maybe it happens often?

  2. Hold on. Why are we trying to justify what happened by saying your country is equally worse or the same happens in other parts of the world? Because it doesnt.
    India is not safe for women. Period. And if the woman has white skin, then god save her. I happen to have met a woman from France who shared an experience with me on how some guy had felt her breasts while she was sleeping on the lower berth in a train. You think that kind of thing would happen in the USA? Nope. And if it did,the authorities would have surely helped out. Whereas the authorities in India are scarier than the goons of India.
    “Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendoes. For the millions of women who use public transportation in India, there have been numerous cases of “accidental” brushes and gropes. There have been numerous cases where women have been stalked and flashed – at.” – By saying this you are accepting that this kind of behaviour is very much prevalent in India.

    And like you say that Indians treat women above god, you really are mistaken here. If they were then you would not be listening to so many domestic violence cases. Rapes would not be justified by saying that girls should not wear skirts, and that fast food is to be blamed. If Indian men did really put women above god then this would not be happening – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FkfUTgSqSo

    And this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UG-Ldvipp4

    The first step towards making things right is by accepting that something is wrong. And that something is wrong in a very fundamental manner.

    1. SIddharth, reminder again that sexual crimes against women happen world over and is not limited to India alone. There are many interesting facts on sexual crimes on the Internet which are worth a read and trust me, most of these crimes happen in developed countries. I have written this article, keeping in mind the various statistical figures that have been published by the UN and other leading dailies across the world.

      You think women are safe in all the other places except in India? Google it out and you’ll be surprised to read the number of cases against women across the globe. And I don’t write based on facts and stories written by other people. I have personally experienced overtures from men both in the US and in a conservative place like the Middle East. And we have been taught to ignore such advances, unless some physical danger ensues. And none of us rant bout it like Ms. Chasm.

      And in reply to your take on domestic violence, I would like to reiterate that let’s not generalize because of a few incidents. I agree it happens everywhere and it happens in India as well. Personally, I know a lot of men who treat their female counterparts like royalty. A few stray incidents is not going to change my opinion bout men treating their women with reverence.

      Thanks for your take on my article. Definitely an eye opener of sorts to see how close minded we are as a nation!

    2. Dude,

      A French women told you that she was molested and what did you do? Joined her and said – eff indians? Lol at you man… let me tell you something very clearly no matter where you were born or grew you still are still on of the uncontrolled libido men… happy to see wife swapping programs and talk shit…

    3. The only thing that i could have done was apologise to the french woman for what happened to her in my country. I think what everybody on this blog is misunderstanding is that whosoever is speaking in favor of the american woman is anti india. They are not. The fact is that we all connect to what happened to her. I am writing this when only a couple of days back a woman was gang raped in mumbai. Supposedly the safest city for women in india. When as a brother, a son or as a friend i am afraid for the women around me.

      And saying that US or many other of the developed countries are just as bad is simply wrong. There are more reported cases in these countries because in these countries the authorities do register the cases. When one of my friends was getting obscene calls everyday from some random number she tried to report it to the anti stalking helpline. But she got a reply that this is not stalking at all. Its only calls.

      And even if that was the case. That the developed countries are just as bad. Doesnt mean that we accept it and say. Well we are only as bad as those countries.

      And to answer if i would enjoy wife swapping stories (really dont know where that came from). Whatever happens with the consent of the male and the female involved is not a concern of mine. Be it wife swapping or whatever other forms of sexual relationships.

  3. Phew! Why the hell are we ‘Indians’ so self critical about our nation? One foreigner writes on her terrible experience and the story starts trending. Hello! Inspite of all this the tourism in our country is booming, maybe the good stories outnumber the bad ones. We have got into this weird habit of liking dark shorts on India. And which America do we discuss all the time? Likewise India there are huge areas of USA where crimes happen and the law does nothing. If cinema is parameter to reflect on ones society, gangster and crime films have dominated Hollywood. Now this lady, she’s had a traumatic experience, all that aint means you genralize my country. Exceptions dont make the rule my friend. Coz if it did then as a destination 4 travel v wud b zero. And ppl if u fl disgusted after reading someone defending deir nation den you need to apply for a new citizenship. Cheers!

  4. Its good that you are defending our country by writing this rebuttal; its the kind of thing i would have said some years back. But having faced many issues stated in Ms. Chasm’s story I cant help but agree more with her rather than your point of view.
    “But for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be ten men who will fight for you and your dignity.”– Is it? Wonder where you got this statistic from. Based on my two and a half decades in the capital of our country i find it incredible.
    One thing I wholeheartedly agree with in your article is the Sanskrit phrase. It was coined ages ago, and i feel good that at least in theory if not in practical we(women) are given respect in our country.

    1. Shruti, I back your point that women do take in a cartload of s*** from men! Yes, Ms. Chasm had issues in our country and most of us relive her situation everyday. But her story is not the complete truth. As far as Indian girls are concerned, the art of intuitive and preventive self-defense is inculcated into us growing up and that has hardened us all. But this can seem stifling to foreigners.

      And if you have read the comments that still keep pouring on Ms. Chasm’s article, there are several Indian men who have apologized to her. The Delhi rape case saw a lot of men protesting. I wasn’t quoting any statistic there. All I meant to say was men can’t tolerate any injustice, especially when a women’s modesty has been outraged.

  5. Well written article Shwetha!
    I cant begin to describe how horrid it is when people start to generalize the populace of an entire nation! [Especially when its your very own!]

    The girl undoubtedly had a bad experience, but to debase the entire nation is a tad harsh, don’t you think?

    And I’d just like to say, there is a difference between accepting that something must be done to improve, and rubbishing the worth of every person (or in this case, male) in a nation!
    [Just cause I get treated like a criminal by Chinese or Russian authorities due to my skin color, doesn’t give me the right to say that the Chinese or Russians are racist.]

    1. Thanks a lot Adith 🙂 You’re one of the few who have accepted how terrible stereotypes are!!

  6. The problem is world-wide, and it IS a problem. Women should be free from unwanted harassment everywhere. To say that one country is bad and another worse is not the point. To say that there are ten good men for every bad person is not the point. The point is that the one bad man needs to behave differently. The point is that men need to be raised by their parents to respect women, ALL women, not just “respectable” women. India is a wonderful country and the vast majority of Indians are wonderful people. But that does not excuse “accidental” groping on public transit, nor does it make it acceptable that women such as Ritu should have to fear for their safety or violation of their comfort.

    1. physical touching whether accidental/incidental is not a question of violation of anybody’s comfort but violation of ones’ dignity….so where is the common sense here?

  7. Shwetha Kalyanasundaram: For all that we know Ms Chasm or CNN might just be trying to gain some attention.

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023426

    Especially read this para “I have met a solid handful of warm and honest Indian men- men who are also college students, men who also love the thrill of riding on a motorcycle in the busy streets, men who defended me at necessary times, and men who took the time to get to know me and my culture. And that should not at all be surprising”.

    Now can we ask a bunch of unnecessary self critical Indians their opinion on this. A white-skin girl came, maligned your nation, you said yes ma’am yes ma’am and now we might just be knowing that the female might have been lying all through.

    As the famous Madhavan dialogue goes “no nation is perfect” but it certainly doesn’t help if the nationals want to blame the nation for all allegations made without understanding anything.

  8. I do not want any ‘man’ fighting for me I want my dignity I want to be treated neither as a goddess nor a demon but like a human being. I do not want to be subjugated exploited because i am low-born woman. I do not want to be killed before I am born because I am a female. I do not want to be protected like some material wealth ….I want freedom which is my birth right and do we have it here in India? I wonder..

  9. I like this response to both the articles written on India… http://www.firstpost.com/living/tourist-trap-the-dumb-white-chick-vs-creepy-indian-lecher-debate-1052873.html
    While I agree that the narrative by Rose Chasm was dwelling too much on how she, because she was white, had such a negative experience and failing to understand then the plight of women (particularly the rural, low caste, single/widow woman) who have to face routine sexual harassment of one or the other kind cannot be trashed either.
    This article is actually contradictory and also biased. While you speak about “accidental” brushes and gropes, you then say that Indian men know how to treat ‘their’ women? So who are ‘their’ women?
    Also you quote statistics of the UN, where the reporting of crimes like rape are higher than in India( http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/01/02/are-women-safer-in-india-or-the-u-s/) but you could have quoted the figures for India too to put things in perspective.
    I also don’t think I have to apologize either for the actions of other citizens of my country because they don’t represent me so neither do I have to defend my country precisely because they don’t represent the nation either. While I also agree that women are not safe anywhere in the world, but I think we should be dramatic about every instance of sexual harassment, rape, “eve-teasing” and the like. How do the authorities respond to any report of such crime by an average indian woman (also to define what would be the average Indian woman definitely not someone who is privileged with the kinds of background you and I come from).
    Also I see people saying that she has exaggerated the incidents or that she wanted attention. I think exaggeration is not a crime, and why is the motive for writing such a piece important. Even of 20% of what she wrote is true, it would be anyone to go into depression especially if it happens at a place where you do not know anyone or are new to.
    I am an Indian very much look like an Indian. Currently I am posted at an interior part of a state in a poverty alleviation mission. People stare. Men stare even more. It is uncomfortable. It prevents me from heading out for a morning walk. I cannot go out for a movie, to eat out. This is because I am a woman, a single woman. I was told not to wear a helmet since that would kind of mark me. I was told that I should cover my face while travelling on my two wheeler, since that would make me inconspicuous. I was asked not to show ‘daring’ since it would invite trouble. This is the kind of India which many of us don’t see or experience.
    Why this kind of patriotism where we defend our country by saying India is not as bad as other countries? Does that justify anything that happened to this woman? Or to any other woman in this country?

  10. Ma’am don’t try so hard to defend a country where goddesses are worshipped and women are raped. White or brown or purple, whatever be a woman’s colour here, she isn’t spared the dirty looks. Nobody said that all the here men are like that. Obviously they aren’t, women would be extinct here otherwise.

  11. No disrespect intended but I think you missed the point of her article. A dear friend of mine launched an article on CNN yesterday that cleverly shares how in some small way that Bollywood, the term ‘eve-teasing’ and dowries help Indian society to have a softer view on sexual harassment and violence against women than other countries. It’s NOT that sexual aggression doesn’t happen everywhere as you pointed out, because it does, every single day. But that’s not the point. The point is that India should stop brushing it under the rug and making it acceptable. Please read her beautifully written article (a white woman living in Bangalore, married to an Indian) http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1024452

    To be honest, my jaw dropped when I read the ‘accidental groping’ reference in your article. I have been living in India 2.5 years. You’ve been here a lot longer … you can’t really believe that it is accidental? In 8 years living in Spain I was never groped once, not even on the most crowded of trains where we were packed in sardine-style. Since I’ve been in India, it happens all the time. At 5 star hotels, on the street, at the mall … I am there for any man to touch when he wishes it seems, with zero regard for how that makes me feel or the law. And it is NEVER accidental. Oddly enough, my most recent article on being groped on my blog (I have the Google ranked #1 ‘Bangalore Blog’), is the 2nd most popular blog post on my site. That is because men do Google searches here (80% at night, not daytime hours), every day, looking for photos and videos of women being groped, which I assume is intended as masturbation material. I see the search terms being used in Google and they are disgusting, and it’s no ‘accident’ they land up on my site, they just don’t like what they read once they get there sadly. >> http://wp.me/p2Im1v-1fK

    1. completely agree with you. as a woman i find this article really offensive!! i was born and brought up in india but lived in usa most of my life.. i never had anyone harass me.. when i was in india i had people stop and say things to me twice had a guy in market touch my hand once…had guys stare all the time..!!! all this happened in a month..!! her attitude is sickening. in the article she said you felt ashamed of her country but in your comments she is saying that the victim is seeking attention. she is saying sexual harassment happens in developed countries more..!! lol thats a complete lie india is the most worst country for women..!!! period!!! i am sorry if this hurts her nationalist feelings. things liek these are not reported in india because people are ashamed of being shamed by society.. victims (women in most cases) are shamed for their sexuality in india..!! and this article does a grow job of showing that. i think she wanted to write the most rubbish thing she could so she could get some attention!!

      1. Yes, I’m sure the author here started out of a desire to defend her brothers (or whomever), which we can all understand. However, IMHO if Indian women don’t stick together here (because this happens EVERY DAY to 1000x more Indian women than us white ladies), it seems to me that the struggle to end male dominance in India is going to be one loooooooooooooooooong road! Again, for me it’s not that violence or sexual assault doesn’t happen everywhere — because it does. It is the level of acceptance of it in India that is, well, unacceptable. And reading that an Indian woman refers to groping as ‘accidental’ while defending Indian men, does nothing to help Indian women and the fight they are in for equality and the safety they deserve.

        Like you said, many women would bring shame not only onto themselves in India but onto their families if they were to speak up. Statistically speaking, generally nothing happens to the man (only rarely), but the victims are forced to endure a secondary sort of hell for speaking up many times. If I was going to be kicked out of my village or forever ruin my chances to find a good husband or live a happy, normal life I would probably keep quiet too. After the Delhi gang rape I did research on the topic in India, but not about rape, but the reality of life for the victim following an attack. It is heartbreaking what happens to most children or women. I took a survey during my research and it turns out that only 11% of victims of rape in India have a chance to live a normal life if discovered! Here’s it is: http://wp.me/p2Im1v-1h5

        In the end, I think it’s easier for foreigners to openly discuss topics like this at times than it is Indians because we CAN, without risk of shaming anyone.

  12. “Do you know that every 1 out of 5 women in America are raped every day (This is according to a UN report published in 2011 and the same figure has been quoted in a NY times article, published December 2011).” when you say that you are trying to show that other countries are just as bad when its not completely true.. when i was in india.. (i didn’t look like a foreigner) i had men say random/dirty things to me..!! more than once!!!! NOTE: i dressed traditionally..!!! and i had a guy “accidentally” touch me!!! this has never happened in america i have lived here for many years!!!! and i was in india for a month! i feel like the article published by indian woman is a smart way to dull down the while girls story..!!! and just a cheap attempt to cover up india’s faults..!!!

  13. Article says that indian men put mothers before god. this proves nothing. they believe in “kalli mata” “shera wali mata” but they don’t believe that women deserve the same respect. although she is admitting that yh indian men do have a problem she still tries to defend indian ideology..!! her defense is weak…!!! i seen pages on facebook where men post photos of women and guys comment on them saying dirty and disrespectful things and then the same people comment on a deity’s photo saying “jai mata di” lol pretty comical..isn’t it?? but it definitely proves nothing.

  14. Sounds like the writer has her statistics mixed up… I’d be interested in seeing the original source that concluded 20 percent (1 in 5) of American women are raped every day!!!!!

  15. I will never stand behind this country’s treatment of women. I don’t need the stats from any other country to make me feel better about living here, being here. It’s not OK to be stared at, and as a local who looks local just today I’ve told off two, and stared back a a group of men. In one day, because it’s not OK to look at a girl and make her feel like she’s walking around with her zipper down. Or for a truck to honk when you’re crossing the road, or bikes to trail you. Where do you live? Because I live in India. Don’t confuse citizenship with expecting better standards of living..patriotism isn’t accepting that our country had a few lechers, But there are many good men.. it’s putting your hand up and doing something about the few lechers. That makes you a true citizen of a Democratic country. We can’t lambast a woman for writing her account, we take it on as feedback. And bloody work on it. It starts with you and me…next time you go to Goa, don’t stare at the lady in the bikini. Let’s admit it, we all do!

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