The Fabled Jand (prosopis cineraria) Tree

There are many references to “Jand” tree in Punjabi literature. Foremost it is connected to a place called Danabad the village of Mirza in the legend of “Mirza-Sahiban”. After getting Sahiba from her home on the day of her marriage to someone else, and sneaking on his mare-called Bakki in local language, he decides to take rest under the cool shade of Jand tree. He was overconfident that even after taking rest for the summer noon, he will make it easily to his native place before the end of the day. Rest is well known. He was killed by Sahiban’s brothers who came chasing them.

Then there is a famous Gurudwara called “Jand Sahib” in Bathinda Punjab where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have rested under a Jand tree. And and there is one tree located behind Kiran Cinema in Chandigarh which I saw today. This is said to be very old and indeed it looked like that as only skeleton was there. Many people worship it.I always thought about how this tree must look.

I found a very beautiful video describing the beauty of this tree by Mirza. it is in Punjabi language but brief summary of the meaning is “Mirza describes the cool shade of Jand tree, the branches are touching the ground, you shouldn’t say no to sitting under the shade of it. And why to stress the mare in the hot sun because it is not rainy season. You don’t worry, we will reach Danabad (his native village) before the sunset.

Before Chandigarh came into existence, there were villages here. People lived mostly rural life based on agriculture. They worship female goddesses which is attested by many temples in the area. Like Hindu culture they worshipped trees and idols. The Jand tree is one such tree which was worshipped in the area.

image

There are not many trees of this species in this area nowadays. I was curious to know how this tree looked like and other details. I found an article in the English daily “The Tribune” which gives the good information about the tree.

The tree known by scientific name of “prosopis cineraria” is endemic to dry areas and is found mostly in Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Punjab and Haryana. It is known by is known as “Jand” in Hindi and Punjabi, “jandi” in Haryanvi, “khejri” in Rajasthani, and “sami or samri” in Gujarati. The tree plays an important role in ecosystem of arid and semi-arid areas. All the parts of the tree are useful, it is called kalp taru or wish fulfilling tree.

During Vedic times, khejri wood was used to kindle the sacred fire for performing yajana. There are references of it in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Lord Rama worshipped khejri tree known as Sami  Pooja, which represents the goddess of power, before he led his army to kill Ravana. The worshipping of this tree is referred to as samipuja. Pandavas also worshipped this tree and hid their weapons in it during their agyatavasa.

Khejri tree provides shelter and protection to animals and birds in desert areas. This tree is home to many large birds like kites, hawks and vultures.

Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (known as sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles. The importance of the medicinal value of samitree has been highlighted in our ancient literature. The bark of the tree provides immediate relief to a person bitten by snake or scorpion. Its leaves and fruits are used in preparing medicines for curing nervous disorders. The medicines prepared from its bark are also used for treating diarrhoea, dysentery, piles, worm infestations and other skin problems. The bark is also used to cure leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, tumour of muscles and to improve concentration. The gum of the tree is nutritive and good in taste and is used by pregnant woman at the time of delivery.

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Land Stories 

Land used to be like one’s mother in India as more than 70% people were connected to land. Before the introduction of modern agricultural equipment like tractors, bullocks were used virtually for agricultural jobs like tilling the land, pulling the cart which the farmer used for bringing the produce and fodder home for cattle. Agriculture was completely manual and commerce was not in force. Farmer produced only enough for his family needs. Agriculture was dependent on the surface water available through rivers and rains.

Now the story is different. Even small farmers own the tractors which is economically not viable for small pieces of land. But it is a rat race. Many of them take the loans which become difficult to repay. A tractor can do many days work in a few hours. Need for manual labor arises only during the sowing of the crops. Bullocks have been faced out and are facing the same fate as the girls faced: they have become unwelcome.

Land is so much precious to the owner that hawks are on the outlook to grab any piece of it by hook or crook. Wars had been fought over the land. Most prominent example is the epic story of Mahabharata in which cause of the biggest battle between cousins was about the possession of land and women.

But as the cities are expanding at a furious rate, the value of the land is increasing. What the land can do to its owners will be illustrated by three scenarios.

Scenario No.1

State of Haryana was carved out from Punjab. It is a fact that people of Haryana were neglected by Punjab and so the state was separated from Punjab. But city of Chandigarh, which was the capital of Punjab was not given to any one of these states but made a union territory. It was also made the capital of both the states. The reality now is that the capital of both these sites is located nor in the centre but in one corner of the states.

As Chandigarh could not be expanded more, both Haryana and Punjab decided to construct the extensions of it on their own sides. Haryana thus acquired the agricultural land adjacent to Chandigarh. There were many villages in the area with farmers having small land holdings. All were given a meagre compensation. Overnight they become lost what they were dependent on. Being conversant with agriculture only, they faced difficulty to carry on their lives. They migrated here and there and on their lands mushrooms the concrete buildings with their owners being outsiders who could afford to buy them.

Scenario No.2

This one is a really interesting and shows how in same country but at different time points, the fortunes can turn for some. District of Mohali in Punjab was carved in such a way that it’s one side touched Panchkula district of Haryana. So some villages which though were very near to Panchkula became part of Punjab and their lands were not acquired by government.

These villages are situated near the ghaggar river and land is very poor for manual farming. The reason is that where the land is situated, the river flowed once and thus has left huge amounts of pebbles and sand covered with alluvial. Thus it is full of pebbles and bullocks were unable to till it.  Additionally there were uneven land surfaces which again posed challenges for farming.

Thus the land owners eked out a pathetic life. They lived hand to mouth. But somehow, barring a few they didn’t part off with their land which in any case no other farmer will buy due to poor quality.

But the demon of city expansion and opening of information technology parks and some pharmaceutical companies resulted in the large influx of people from interiors of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,and so on resulted in the construction frenzy. There was no scope for expansion of Panchkula. So these adjoining areas became the focal points of building activity. Overnight, the land which was useless became the gold mine for the owners. They sold portions for a windfall. The farmers who have not seen money were dazed and it took them days to come back to reality from dream.

They constructed palaces for living. They became educated suddenly. As the money came, so we’re associations with powerful people like politicians. Some of them even began to grab the unoccupied or reserved lands. With a part of money bought tractors and modern equipment for remainder of land and procured cheaper land in the nearby districts. The elderly still can be identified to have done back breaking work but new generation is all like managers and leaders.

Scenario No.3

This story is similar to previous one but with small difference. It is from Sanand district in Gujarat. As the Tata nano car factory relocated here, the villagers nearby had windfall. Their used to be working as labors, peon and other lower rung jobs in the future Factories and manufacturing units for monthly wages like rupees 6000 to 15000 as their land was not fertile or due to lack of resources was not providing them with enough. Suddenly the arrival of entrepreneurs they became millionaires overnight by selling their land. After the initial excitement, Many of them have decided to carry on with those peanut wages jobs to keep themselves busy. More than hundreds of millionaires are working as helping hands in the factories there. The interest on their fixed deposits is enough for their requirements.

Thus as the Mark Twain once advised someone who came to him for investing the money to “invest in the land because they don’t make it anymore”, land can catapult your future.

Corn: Propeller of lives

Corn along with rice and maize are the basic grains used all over the world. They evolved in different parts of the world in different climates and conditions. Wheat for example is said to have originated in Middle East. Rice requires plenty of water for cultivation and thus grown where rains are heavy or other sources of water are easily available. Here we are talking about the evolution of corn.

Evolution of the parent wild varieties have taken place man’s patient, persistent by a method of selective breeding over the centuries.  The history of modern-day maize begins at the dawn of human agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. Ancient farmers in what is now Mexico took the first steps in domesticating maize when they simply chose which kernels (seeds) to plant.

These farmers noticed that not all plants were the same. Some plants may have grown larger than others, or maybe some kernels tasted better or were easier to grind. The farmers saved kernels from plants with desirable characteristics and planted them for the next season’s harvest. This process is known as selective breeding or artificial selection. Maize cobs became larger over time, with more rows of kernels, eventually taking on the form of modern maize.

Evolution is said to be gradual and slow. But in the case of corn, it evolution occurred in a burst of fairly small time. After a long search, the scientists became sure about the ancestor of maize. Its name is Teosinte. Plants are totally dissimilar but the DNA is very similar and two can be easily crossed to produce modified intermediate varieties. Samples bear an unmistakable resemblance to modern maize.

Following shows a collection of sizes and shapes of cobs beginning from the earliest.

CornProgression
Second picture shows the comparison of Maize and Teosinte plant and cobs from which Corn has evolved over thousands of year. The hybrid corn resulting from crossing the two is also shown at bottom.

MaizeTeosinteCross

Milestones in Food Technology

18000 B.C.

Pottery vessels

Invention of pottery vessels. The earliest vessels were probably used just for cooking before the development of impermeable ceramics made them suitable for long-term storage. (“Dishwasher safe” is, however, still a work in progress.)

7500 B.C.

Agricultural revolution

The beginning of the agricultural revolution. Raising crops allowed people to shift away from a migratory existence. And with our feet up after a good meal, all sorts of other ideas started to occur to us, setting the stage for civilizations to develop.

6000 B.C.

Irrigation

The regular flooding of the Nile begat the earliest form of artificial irrigation: basin irrigation, in which water channels were allowed to flood but prevented from draining.

2500 B.C.

Pesticides

The Sumerians create the first pesticide, in the form of sulfur, which was dusted on crops. (No historical evidence is available on whether this was followed by a demand for appropriate cuneiform-tablet labeling.)

1500 B.C.

Aquaculture

The development of aquaculture in China focused on carp, leading to the accidental creation of the goldfish and the later emergence of the concomitant toilet-side funeral service.

475

The horse collar

After its invention in China, the introduction of the horse collar to Europe about 400 years later led to the horse becoming the go-to source of animal labor, replacing oxen as plow animals and leading to higher food production levels.

900 — 1300

Crop rotation

Sustainable agriculture took a huge leap forward with the introduction of three-field crop rotation, resulting in the one fact about medieval farming that modern schoolchildren are likely to retain into adulthood.

1799

Steam-powered farm machines

The slow industrialization of agriculture started with the introduction of fixed steam-powered machinery for threshing wheat. Making this machinery more and more portable would lead to the first farm tractors.

1810

Canning

Glass bottles were initially used for canning, but it is Philippe de Girard’s invention of the tin can that really put this food technology on the map. (The invention is often attributed to de Girard’s French friend Peter Durand, who secured the English patent on de Girard’s behalf, as France and England were inconveniently at war at the time.)

1836

Gas stoves

The first gas stove factory opens. The stoves give chefs a much greater degree of temperature control in cooking but would ultimately lead to the deep charcoal-versus-propane barbeque schism.

1849

Artificial flavors

The advent of organic chemistry opened the door to artificial flavors, although not without some misfires, such as the promotion of nitrobenzene, once considered usable as a replacement for bitter almonds in confectionary with “perfect safety.” Alas, it’s now known to be a toxin capable of causing kidney, liver, and brain damage.

1851

Refrigeration

Artificial refrigeration made it possible to warehouse food for long periods of time and transport it over previously impossible distances, such as with the SS Dunedin, the first refrigerated cargo ship to be commercially successful. In 1882 it carried meat from New Zealand to London.

1855

Can opener

Forty-five years after the invention of the tin can, the other shoe drops with the invention of the can opener.

1864

Pasteurization

The introduction of pasteurization was a huge leap forward for food safety, if something of a sad moment for cheese gourmets.

1879

Artificial sweeteners

Saccharin, the world’s first artificial sweetener, is discovered by accident when chemist Constantin Fahlberg forgets his parents’ advice and doesn’t wash his hands properly before eating.

1889

Instant coffee

Recent research shows that instant coffee, the bane and blessing of modern office life, was first created by David Strang in New Zealand—not, as previously believed, in 1901 by Satori Kato in Chicago.

18000 B.C.

Pottery vessels

Invention of pottery vessels. The earliest vessels were probably used just for cooking before the development of impermeable ceramics made them suitable for long-term storage. (“Dishwasher safe” is, however, still a work in progress.)

7500 B.C.

Agricultural revolution

The beginning of the agricultural revolution. Raising crops allowed people to shift away from a migratory existence. And with our feet up after a good meal, all sorts of other ideas started to occur to us, setting the stage for civilizations to develop.

6000 B.C.

Irrigation

The regular flooding of the Nile begat the earliest form of artificial irrigation: basin irrigation, in which water channels were allowed to flood but prevented from draining.

2500 B.C.

Pesticides

The Sumerians create the first pesticide, in the form of sulfur, which was dusted on crops. (No historical evidence is available on whether this was followed by a demand for appropriate cuneiform-tablet labeling.)

1500 B.C.

Aquaculture

The development of aquaculture in China focused on carp, leading to the accidental creation of the goldfish and the later emergence of the concomitant toilet-side funeral service.

475

The horse collar

After its invention in China, the introduction of the horse collar to Europe about 400 years later led to the horse becoming the go-to source of animal labor, replacing oxen as plow animals and leading to higher food production levels.

900 — 1300

Crop rotation

Sustainable agriculture took a huge leap forward with the introduction of three-field crop rotation, resulting in the one fact about medieval farming that modern schoolchildren are likely to retain into adulthood.

1799

Steam-powered farm machines

The slow industrialization of agriculture started with the introduction of fixed steam-powered machinery for threshing wheat. Making this machinery more and more portable would lead to the first farm tractors.

1810

Canning

Glass bottles were initially used for canning, but it is Philippe de Girard’s invention of the tin can that really put this food technology on the map. (The invention is often attributed to de Girard’s French friend Peter Durand, who secured the English patent on de Girard’s behalf, as France and England were inconveniently at war at the time.)

1836

Gas stoves

The first gas stove factory opens. The stoves give chefs a much greater degree of temperature control in cooking but would ultimately lead to the deep charcoal-versus-propane barbeque schism.

1849

Artificial flavors

The advent of organic chemistry opened the door to artificial flavors, although not without some misfires, such as the promotion of nitrobenzene, once considered usable as a replacement for bitter almonds in confectionary with “perfect safety.” Alas, it’s now known to be a toxin capable of causing kidney, liver, and brain damage.

1851

Refrigeration

Artificial refrigeration made it possible to warehouse food for long periods of time and transport it over previously impossible distances, such as with the SS Dunedin, the first refrigerated cargo ship to be commercially successful. In 1882 it carried meat from New Zealand to London.

1855

Can opener

Forty-five years after the invention of the tin can, the other shoe drops with the invention of the can opener.

1864

Pasteurization

The introduction of pasteurization was a huge leap forward for food safety, if something of a sad moment for cheese gourmets.

1879

Artificial sweeteners

Saccharin, the world’s first artificial sweetener, is discovered by accident when chemist Constantin Fahlberg forgets his parents’ advice and doesn’t wash his hands properly before eating.

1889

Instant coffee

Recent research shows that instant coffee, the bane and blessing of modern office life, was first created by David Strang in New Zealand—not, as previously believed, in 1901 by Satori Kato in Chicago.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

1893

Electric toasters

Although beginning a breakfast revolution, early electric toasters had a habit of melting their heating elements.

1893

Electric toasters

Although beginning a breakfast revolution, early electric toasters had a habit of melting their heating elements.

1893

Electric stove

The electric stove was a breakout hit of the Chicago World’s Fair, as part of the Electric Kitchen Exhibit. “Kitchen of the Future!” exhibits have remained a fixture of such fairs ever since.

1913

Haber-Bosch process

The Haber-Bosch process for producing ammonia allowed nitrogen-based fertilizer to be synthesized on an industrial scale. The result was incredible growth of the food supply—globally, 40 percent of the protein in our diets is due to the Haber-Bosch process—which in turn fueled human population growth.

1927

Sliced bread

Setting a new benchmark for bright ideas, Otto Frederick Rohwedder invents a machine for slicing loaves.

1930

Frozen food

The fruits of refrigeration are brought home with the first retail sales of prefrozen food, laying the groundwork for its apotheosis 53 years later, in the form of the Hot Pocket.

1930 — 1940

Battery cages

Originally intended to improve the welfare of chickens, the introduction of tightly confining battery cages in the 1930s led to abuses that has resulted in many countries banning them in recent years.

1939

DDT

DDT’s effectiveness as a pesticide is discovered. Following World War II, it is applied worldwide. Later, its use is severely restricted after its environmental toxicity becomes evident.

1947 — 1949

Food extruders

By cooking and shaping food simultaneously, extruders made the mass production of many modern snacks, cereals, and processed cheeses possible. This forever transforms the eating habits of children left to fend for themselves on Saturday mornings while their parents try to get a bit of a lie-in.

1947

Microwave ovens

Two years after radar engineer Percy Spencer discovers a melted chocolate bar in his pocket after working on an active antenna, the first microwave ovens go on sale, another seminal step toward the creation of Hot Pockets.

1951

Animal antibiotics

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the use of antibiotics in animals, including prophylactic use in feed. This looks to have been another bad idea, with current concerns about drug resistance prompting FDA attempts to reduce the use of animal antibiotics.

1954

Teflon

Teflon was discovered in 1938, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it was used to coat frying pans. Shortly thereafter, “Use the plastic spatula!” would become a universal cri de coeur in kitchens around the world.

1957

Irradiated food

The first commercially irradiated foods are sausage spices produced by a plant in Germany. The process was banned by the German government in 1959. However, the technology was taken up elsewhere, ultimately allowing irradiated apples to provide the best joke in the 2002 zombie-apocalypse classic 28 Days Later.

1958

Instant noodles

With Japan still suffering from postwar food shortages, Momofuku Ando invents instant noodles as an alternative to bread, feeding generations of college students, editorial assistants, and open-source programmers.

1961

Asceptic packaging

Tetra Pak launches its aseptic packaging. Combined with the later introduction of the Tetra Brik, it had a huge effect on how liquid foodstuffs were stored and distributed, despite occasionally drenching consumers struggling to tear open the packaging correctly.

1966

Green Revolution

The International Rice Research Institute, in the Philippines, breeds the IR8 strain. This “miracle rice” helps kick off the agricultural green revolution in developing countries, which involves modern farming techniques, including the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides.

1968

Freeze-dried ice cream

Apollo 7 is the first—and last—NASA mission to take freeze-dried ice cream into outer space, creating a staple of science museum shops everywhere.

1969

The kitchen computer

The recipe-storing Honeywell 316 Kitchen Computer is the first computer ever offered to consumers. Nobody buys one, but marketeers continue to tout the virtues of recipe retrieval throughout the home-computer revolution of the 1980s.

1972

Remote sensing

The first Landsat satellite is launched to perform remote sensing of agricultural and other resources from orbit.

1983

Hot Pockets

Hot Pockets are introduced. Sadly, it will be another 15 years before your humble timeline compiler moves to the United States and discovers the joys contained within the microwave crisping sleeve.

1991

Lean, finely textured beef

Beef Products Inc. gets the okay to sell lean, finely textured beef, later known derisively as “pink slime.”

1992

Molecular Gastronomy

The molecular gastronomy movement kicks off at a scientific workshop in Sicily, Italy. Agar, once just the gunk used to grow bacteria in petri dishes, now gets a starring role in TV cooking shows.

1994

Genetically modified food

The Flavr Savr tomato is the first genetically modified food to be licensed for human consumption. It is too costly to produce profitably.

1996

Roundup Ready

Genetically modified to be herbicide resistant, Roundup Ready soybean plants are introduced by Monsanto, provoking protest and controversy, especially in Europe.

2000

In vitro edible meat

The first in vitro edible meat (goldfish muscle) is grown as a possible food supply for astronauts on long missions. Astronauts are silent on whether they would have preferred the freeze-dried ice cream research to have continued instead.

2002

Rice genome

The genome of rice is sequenced, revealing that rice plants have more genes than human beings.

2007

Printed food

3-D printers are used to make the first printed food, hopefully marking the first step toward Star Trek–style food replicators.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

1892

Petroleum-powered tractor

The invention of the petroleum-powered tractor would sweep away the centuries-long association of horses and farming in a just a few decades, and so inspire several poignant James Herriot stories.

Observing the Nature

How often do we leisurely watch the nature around us? General answer will be not often. Do we sit out in the evening and watch the sun going down, its glow becoming golden, and shadows lengthening and blinking through the chinks in the trees? Do we watch the groups of birds flying towards their homes after spending their day in a far off place where the food is available to forage? Why, in the first place, they don’t make their resting places near the food. May be the supply is not available at one place throughout the year and their resting places are at optimum distance from the foraging places. Why do they always fly in the groups? Is not their pressure or competition for food? Is the father of Evolution theory listening?

After reeling under the sweltering heat for many days, if there is rain, it is like a fresh breath of life. The parched land is drenched with water pushing out the air filled with earth’s aromas into the atmosphere and filling our nostrils with ecstasy. The accompanying wind rushes into the branches which sway from side to side at the top such as in the mighty silver oak trees. One wonders how the topmost leaves are receiving their requirement of water and nutrients. In optimistic hope of supply from the soil, additionally they must be conserving the water by reducing their stomata counts, As they are in the top, they have the benefit of plenty of sunlight. I also wonder if the leaves at the top are in any sort of communication with those at the lower branches.

Rain patters on the tins of roofs. Water begins to flow over the soil surface seeking places which are at lower level to become pooled there. The dust on the leaves which was choking the plants breath is washed up and translucency returns. Sometimes after the rain, sun comes out and everything shines resplendently. The weather becomes bearable.

Harappa Culture Continued

In the last post on Harappa Culture we described some features of the civilization. Science and intuition of some extraordinary men have enabled us to understand the Harappa Culture and its people.

English: Harappa Pakistan Indus Valley Civiliz...

As mentioned the cities streets were straight and very broad. Then as usual there were side streets running into the houses. Houses were in general quite large and built on a uniform pattern. There was a large courtyard and on its three sides were rooms and kitchen. Courtyard opened on fourth side to the street. Thus the windows opened against the walls of the houses on the opposite side houses presenting a monotonous vista. There were baths without showers. People took bath standing pouring pitchers of water on the them as we still to today.

Drainage system was the most important innovation of these people and emphasized once again the desire for cleanliness. There were drains running from houses to the bigger drains running on the sides of the main streets.

There were bigger public bath tanks. The bottom was covered on stones and sealed with bitumen. On one side there was a drain opening for draining off the water during cleaning operations. There were steps leading to the water and people bathed on the lowest steps. There were rooms along the periphery of the baths. This indicates that these baths might have been used for religious ceremonies and rooms were where priests lived.

There were granaries for storing the agricultural produce. Rows of quarters have been found near these granaries indicating that these were living places for the labors who pounded the harvest and worked the crops. One granary of the size 150X200feet discovered at Harappa stood on a high platform to protect it from inundation during flood days. It is divided into many storage blocks of 50X20 feet size to store corn.

The main crops were wheat, barley and sesamum, the latter still an important edible seed for extraction of edible oil. Many domesticated animals were buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs asses, dogs and fowls. Although it is doubtful that horse was a domestic animal but few teeth of horse had been found in Baluchistan‘s Rana Gundai indicating that nomadic migrants from West began roaming the area. Bullocks were probably the beasts of burden.

On the basis of thriving agricultural economy these people built their rather unimaginative but comfortable civilization. They lived in good palatial houses. There was a well organized trade. They traded with village cultures of Baluchistan which were their North-Western neighbors. But their precious metals came from distant places. They imported conch shells from Saurashtra, silver, turquoise and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and Persia and Jade from central Asia.

We shall continue the story………..