The Bereaved Wife

“I came home from office and found my husband like this”

“I’m sorry for your loss, Ma’am. There are signs of forced entry. It appears that he interrupted a burglary and got shot.”

“Oh, God”, she cried. Then, “Was that convincing enough, Dev?”

Investigating Officer Dev wiped the unmarked gun. “That will do, my love.” 


Sampler : 55-Fiction

Sibling Revelry - Sisters are from Venus, Brothers are from Mars

"I hate you. You pull my hair and push me in the sand. You tease me constantly. You take Susie’s side when we fight. You ate my ice-cream yesterday. You pulled off my doll’s head. You broke my favourite pencil. Why do you do it?"

"Because you’re the one I love the most."


***

Acceptance - Fathers look Behind, Children look Ahead


"Daddy, I need you to understand. He loves me. And I love him. That is all there is to it. Why is that so difficult for you to accept?"

"You ask me why I can’t accept your relationship? Or why I can no longer accept you?"

"Both. I am, and always will be, your son."

***
Abandonment - Debts left Unpaid, Repaid in full by Fortune

"We can’t keep you with us any longer. With rising expenses, we can’t have a non-contributing member in the family. I’ll arrange for you to live in an old age home starting tomorrow."

"I sacrificed for you all my life, only for you to abandon me. By the way, I won the lottery yesterday. Goodbye."



***

My first attempt at 55-fiction. More of observations than fiction. Trying to find my way around this form of writing!

The Lady on the Bench

This post was chosen as a Blogadda WoW contest top post


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Write Over the Weekend theme for Jan 25, 2013 -
You meet a random person and start talking… What happens next?

***

Ruby sat at her usual spot in the park, the bench on top of a grassy knoll. It was her favourite place in the whole city. She loved spending an hour there every morning, basking in the sunshine, watching the world come to life from her vantage point at a height.

Morning joggers passed by. Some of them nodded at her. She nodded politely back. The people she knew, the familiar figures on the jogging track, were somehow no longer visible these days. She sighed. That was the way of the world. New faces replaced the old ones. But memories would still remain, she mused.

As she sat thinking, she heard a soft voice say, "May I join you on this bench, please?". She looked up. A serious face, with large brown eyes looked back at her. A boy of about thirteen, neat, tall and lean.

"Of course", said Ruby, smiling at the boy. "Thank you", said the boy and took his place beside her on the bench. They sat in companionable silence for a while.

Ruby looked at the serious, contemplative boy. He seemed lost in deep thought. As though sensing her gaze, he looked up at her. Ruby was shocked by the sadness in his warm, liquid eyes. He looked away again, observing a point somewhere far in the distance.

He spoke in a weary voice, "Would you believe me if I told you I am the loneliest, most unfortunate boy in the whole world?"

Ruby felt a tug at her heart. It was disconcerting to hear the child, yet to stand on the cusp of adulthood, speak in tones that conveyed such intense pain. "I wouldn't know what to think until I know more about you. But I can, and do, believe that you are unhappy. Would you like to talk about it?"

The boy spoke again without looking at her, "It is my birthday today. It is also the day I lost my mother, twelve years ago. I was just one year old then. My father tells me she loved bringing me to this park, particularly this spot. So, every year on my birthday, I come here to feel closer to her. I miss her almost unbearably, even though I hardly knew her."

"How did you lose her?", Ruby asked quietly.

"She was taking me home from the park and got hit by a car. She managed to push my pram out of the way before the car ran over her". The answer seemed practiced, almost mechanical. Ruby realized he must have answered this question a thousand times in his life. "What bothers me most is that she never got to know me, her son. She doesn't know the medals and prizes I've won for her, the cards I've made for her on Mother's Day. I don't know if she thinks about me at all".

"I'm sorry to hear that. I too have a baby boy. I love him more than anything in this whole world. Even if I were to die, I would watch over him always. I am sure it is the same with your mother. She is sure to be looking out for you from heaven. And if I were to guess, I would say your father loves you a lot too", said Ruby.

"Oh yes, he does. He is my best friend, the only one who truly understands me. But he misses my mother, probably even more than me. It hurts me to see him heartbroken. He tries to hide it from me and stay upbeat for my sake, but I know how miserable he is every single day. And I can do nothing about it. My father shares his joy with me, but never his sadness. Do you understand now why I am lonely and unfortunate?"

Ruby felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. The poor child! To bear such a heavy burden at such a young age. The mother in her saw a lost little boy. She moved closer to him, put her arms about his shoulders and hugged him.

She felt hot tears against her cheek. His tears. They sat together, a mother and a son, in a warm embrace. Time seemed to stop still for them both.

Minutes seemed to meld into years. When they finally broke apart, Ruby felt as though they'd exchanged a lifetime's worth of love.




***

The boy walked up to where his father stood under a tree, looking at the lady on the bench. "Dad, did you see that? Ma hugged me. She really hugged me. I could feel her love flooding in through every pore of my body. I think she remembers me. Do you think she knows, somewhere in the recesses of her mind, that I'm her son? I know Dr. Mathers thinks she can't form memories from after the accident, but she remembered me as a baby."

His father smiled at him. His look held all the tenderness in the world. "I don't think she knows it in her mind. But I believe she knows it in her heart."

The Dying Soldier - 'Divine Is You' Contest Entry

This post is a part of the Gillette Satin Care contest in association with BlogAdda.com


He lay on the battleground
Bleeding in a ditch
His guts were spilling out and around
His wounds split stitch by stitch

And even as he lay in pain
He saw her face before his eyes
He knew not if he would see her again
But he'd love her till he died

"Don't leave me here, please don't go"
Her words rang clear in his ears
But he was a soldier, strong and sure
And he would not stop for tears

They'd spent a summer of love together
Engaged to be married when he returned
To spend the rest of their lives with each other
And as he remembered, his eyes burned

He knew his time was running out
He wouldn't return to her now
He could not even scream or shout
His breath grew ragged and slow

He wished he had more time with her
He had no hope of revival
He thought of the last time he touched her
"I wish she had opted for her hair removal"













This post is a part of the Gillette Satin Care contest in association with BlogAdda.com

What happened last night?

This post was chosen as a Blogadda WoW contest top post



Write Over the Weekend theme for Jan 18, 2013
Begin your story using this ‘You wake up, go to the bathroom and look at the mirror.’

You wake up, go to the bathroom and look at the mirror
You rub your eyes, and see a blurry figure
You blink once or twice, time's lost track
The bruises on your face shine purple and black
Your neck is scratched, your shoulders hurt
You look down at your hands and notice the dirt

"What the hell happened last night?" you wonder
You pause to remember, and hear lightning and thunder
No, it isn't raining outside as you thought it might
It seems they are flashes from what happened last night
The face in the mirror stares open-mouthed and pale
You slowly turn to look back the way you came

Through the bathroom door, you see the bed
There's someone on it, someone dead
Or so you think, when she suddenly stirs
The bedsheet doesn't quite cover her 
There's a girl in the bed and she's got no clothes on
She crooks a finger at you, and beckons, you go on

You approach her cautiously, you're not quite sure
"Good morning", you venture tentatively anyhow
"Good morning, tiger," she drawls and winks
You gulp and swallow and once again blink
"I hope you're alright, I hope you're not hurting"
You don't know if she's sympathetic or flirting

She's a beauty she is, the girl from the bar
The girl you've admired for so long from afar
"I'm fine", you reply, "no broken bones, I think"
You gulp and swallow and once again blink
"I don't mean to sound rude, but if you might,
Could you do me the favour of recalling last night?"

She looks at you puzzled, then laughs full-throated
"You really don't remember why I'm in this bed?"
You look sheepishly behind you, at your own reflection
"I'm sure to recollect if pointed in the right direction"
"Okay then, champ, let me tell you the tale
Of how you succeeded where so many failed"

"I'm a waitress at the bar, the one you visit now and then
Even though you never drink anything and leave sharp at eleven
You came in yesterday, ordered the usual bugger
A hot coffee, black with no cream or sugar
Even though we never serve coffee at the bar
I made you one every single time that you asked."

"You think I don't notice you, but you're hard to miss
I mean, who drinks coffee where people booze and piss?
I know you're the quiet type, not much on words
But you seemed decent and gentle and gave more than money's worth
You were always respectful and thoughtful and kind
Not just to me, but also to Mrs. Rind"

"Mrs. Rind is old now, she lives with me
I love her to bits, she's my only family
She was homeless when I found her
And we took to each other
I brought her home as my own kith and kin
And I've never been loved more than what she's given"

"I live right above the bar in a room
It's tiny but cosy, and enough for two
Mrs. Rind and I make do quite well
And my commute is a stroll down the stairwell
Yesterday, she came down to work with me
And that is when it began, the real story"

"Mrs. Rind is a dear, no trouble or disturbance
She sits behind the bar, and minds her own business
Now, you may have seen him around, Rory the drunkard
Big chap, beer belly, drinks only in tankards
He's obnoxious and rude and violent to boot
He makes passes at me even though I refuse"

"He's handsy, is Rory, tries to grope me 'round the bar
I ignored him before, but he took it too far
He leered at me and slapped my ass
This time I punched him one first class
He saw red and hit me hard
and Mrs. Rind sprung to my guard"

"She flung herself on his legs, making him trip
He aimed a vicious kick and almost broke her hip
He kept hitting harder, and Mrs. Rind kept crying loud
I struggled in my corner where I had sunk to the ground
And when it seemed that it would be the end of Mrs. Rind
You sprung out of the woodwork like a spring that did unwind"

"Not one of all the bums who drank my beer
Came to my rescue when it mattered, except you, my dear
I don't know where you found the courage
But you pulled him back and could have caused some breakage
And it would have worked if you had the strength
But compared to him, you were one-tenth"

"So you did what you could, and fell on Mrs. Rind
You protected her with your body, while he pummeled you blind
Seeing you give yourself for her that way
It made you my hero that very day
Rage gave me power and I took up my hammer
And Rory was beaten to a pulp, then sent to the slammer"

"You were down but out you were not
Beaten but victorious, not cold but hot
You carried Mrs. Rind and followed me to my room
You placed her on her bed, and suddenly boom!
You clasped me to your chest and kissed me with emotion
After that there was no stopping the passion”

You gulp and swallow and blink once again
Your bruises and gashes throb in pain
You look around you, it's an unfamiliar place
You're in her bedroom, even with that face
And all of a sudden, everything fits
What gave you the courage to do what you did

"I've loved you for long", you confess
"But never have I been able to profess
Yesterday when Rory raised his hand
I couldn't sit and couldn't stand
So I dipped behind the bar and picked a bottle
i downed all its contents, and fought the battle"

She laughs delightedly, a hearty sound
"So that's what you did when I turned around?
Steal from my bar, and drink without paying?
Your first shot of alcohol got you saying
All that you wanted to but never could
Thank god you drank up, touchwood"

You sheepishly smile, then join in her laughter
But there is still one unresolved matter
"Pardon me, but I don't remember any old lady
Where's this Mrs. Rind I've been saving?"
She looks at you in disbelief, then starts
"Mrs. Rind is my pet cat, sweetheart!"

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda


Because I'm a Woman

I cower in a corner
My knees drawn to my chest
Trying to make myself as small a target as possible
Maybe then he won't attack me again
My own father
And I am not even ten yet.

I lie in a field
My dupatta in shreds beside me
Like my dignity
I know no one is looking for me
I'm a lowly farmer's wife
And my caste is too low for me to matter.

I'm naked in a police station
My protectors are my assaulters
My village razed to the ground
"Suspected terrorists" is the cry
My pleas are not enough to convince them
My body is my punishment.

I nurse my baby girl in fear
They might snatch her away from me any moment now
They haven't let me feed her
Her existence is an annoyance, an irritant
Her grandmother dropped her on her head
Two days after she left my womb.

I'm that sister whose brother had a fight
I was used as a tool for revenge
And so they raped me again and again
I crawled home in need of strength and support
My brother declared I tainted his honour
And put me to death himself.

I'm deaf, mute, blind
Handicapped in body, disabled in mind
I can't speak, I can't comprehend
So I can be used and abused
By anyone passing through
I'm not a person, I'm merely a toy.

My uncle sold me to these men
They pumped me full of drugs
Then raped me till I bled
I stand today on a balcony
Garishly dressed, exposing my body
The paint on my face covers the scars.

I've been forced upon by my husband
Date-raped by my boyfriend
Sexually tortured by the police and the army
Forced to accept my rapist as my husband by a khap
Exploited in orphanages and rehabilitation centres
Abused in school by peers and teachers alike

Nobody looks for me
Nobody cares
I'm invisible and unheard
If I'm lucky, I'm a statistic
If I'm unlucky, I'm not even reported
Lost in the numbers, a speck of colour on a chart.

All I want is someone to stand up
And ask what happened to me
To think about me once in a while
As a woman, a human, a living being
Give me justice, respect, equality and empathy
Show me I too can live with my head held high.

I too am Damini, I too am Nirbhaya
I too am Amanat, I too am Jyoti.
Light a candle for me, walk for me
Speak for me, Look out for me
Don't forget me, don't ignore me
More than their brutality, your indifference kills me.

Reposted for Open Link Monday on Imaginary Garden with real Toads

Rakhi sales boom following Asaram’s speech, pepper-spray companies cry foul


Rakhi sellers all over India have reported a sharp increase in sales since yesterday, as women stock up on rakhis instead of pepper-spray, following Asaram Bapu’s recommendation.
“We usually don’t see any sales apart from two weeks in August each year. I usually just remove the gotas and the om symbols from the rakhis and sell them as friendship bands the rest of the year. But I have sold more rakhis in these past two days than the whole of last year”, said Dori Lal, a rakhi vendor in Delhi, even as women of all ages crowded around his thela.
Almost all shops, from grocery stores to garment showrooms, have introduced a rakhi section. Big Bazaar is offering annual and semi-annual super saver packs as part of its Wednesday Bachat Bazaar, with different coloured rakhis for different months. Reebok is reportedly coming out with a sports version soon.
“I have my eye on the annual super-saver pack for myself. I have anyway always called everyone “Bhaiyya”, from vegetable vendors to swayamvar contestants, so I don’t expect to be attacked. However, it pays to be cautious”, said Rakhi Sawant, out-of-work swayamvar convenor and loyal Wednesday Bachat Bazaar attendee.
Rakhi manufacturers have announced that they will soon release pre-knotted and elastic rakhis that can be slipped on to an attacker’s wrist without much trouble. “We want to do our bit to ensure the safety of our sisters. God willing, if we generate enough sales, we will even go to premier institutions like IITs, NITs etc. to hire the best engineers to bolster our design department”, declared a rakhi factory owner in the NCR region.
A statement, purported to have been released by the RSS read – “Asaram Bapu should be shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to promote brotherhood in India.”
Meanwhile, pepper-spray and stun-gun companies are contemplating a PIL against Asaram Bapu for offending the dignity of women, while secretly citing malicious intent to hurt their business. A representative of the companies remarked, “I don’t know what he has against us. We plan on presenting him with a gift hamper of self-defense products with a card reading ‘Get well soon, Bapu’.”
Scientists are also examining Asaram Bapu’s claims. A source, under condition of anonymity, revealed that efforts are on to try and clap with one hand.
“We have found conclusive evidence that it is, in fact, possible to produce a clapping sound with just one hand, provided a second surface of a sufficiently firm nature is within reach”, said the source, demonstrating the same by tapping this reporter’s bottom.
Being called “Bhaiyya” did not stop him, but a one-handed clap across his face did.
In related news, the sale of the Ramayana has also seen an unprecedented uptick. Roadside book sellers in Connaught Place say that ever since BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya commented on Sita, people are flocking to buy the Ramayana to try and make sense of his words.

Note : This piece by me was published on My Faking News yesterday - http://my.fakingnews.com/2013/01/08/rakhi-sales-boom-following-asarams-speech-pepper-spray-companies-cry-foul/

Asaram in Blunderland

When an Ass and a Ram collide

In its rich and diverse history, our country has produced gems of varying degrees of brilliance, but rarely have we seen one that shines so bright that one is blinded by sheer awesomeness - that self-proclaimed guide of souls, Mr. Asaram Bapu.

Today, Asaram Bapu Ji's words have brought solace to many of us who have been troubled by soul-searching and introspection. Turns out, none of us is to blame for what happened to that unfortunate girl who was set upon by six depraved fiends. It was mostly her fault. 

She would have left with her dignity and life intact, if only she hadn't fought the attackers, all decent, god-fearing men who were just trying to teach her a righteous lesson in morality and upholding the Indian culture and maryada. She should have thanked them for taking the time to set her moral compass right, called them "brother" and begged for forgiveness. After all, it takes two hands to clap. She should have used both of hers to applaud their chivalry.

Further, harsher punishment for rapists is totally uncalled for. Asaram Bapu anticipated that some of us may have trouble accepting the wisdom of his words. So he backed his well-thought out statement with unassailable logic. Look at what happened with the Dowry Law, he said. See how the Indian woman has been corrupted by the power to stand up against her husband and in-laws who beat her, hanged her, set her on fire, raped her and tortured her for not bankrupting her parents. We now have Indian women standing up for themselves and demanding to be set free from dowry-induced marriages. Just as Mohan Bhagwat feared

I wonder why I didn't realize this before. And here I was, blaming myself for what happened. 

It Takes One To Tango

There is a lot we can do with just one hand. Clapping may not be one of them, as pointed by that paragon of wisdom. But there are other activities that, if indulged in, could save us from raping and being raped.

One hand is enough to tie a Rakhi on. Instant brotherliness shall be attained. As soon as a would-be rapist tries to grab you, cling like a limpet to one arm of his, and slip a pre-knotted Rakhi on his wrist. Then simply watch the magic of Indian culture kick in as he walks peacefully away and leaves you with a pat on the head, and possibly some money as a Rakhi gift. I, for one, am stocking up on a lifetime's worth of Rakhis come August. Till then, I think I'll just stay home as advised.

One hand is enough for the sex-starved Indian male to relieve himself of pent up hormones. All that is required is some privacy and a stack of DVDs from Palika Bazaar. A note of caution here - this activity is not to be indulged in against an unsuspecting girl's shoulder while travelling on a bus.

One hand is all it takes to slap some sense into Mr. Bapu.




I Am Responsible For The Delhi Gang-Rape

On 16th December 2012, a 23-year-old girl was inhumanly raped on a moving bus in Delhi, the brutality of the assault leaving even seasoned doctors and policemen who thought they'd seen it all, disgusted and speechless with shock. What may have passed unnoticed as a not unusual instance of sexual assault in India (particularly Delhi) instead became the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

An outraged nation rose up in a wave of fury, angst, despair, helplessness and shame. There were demands of public lynching, castration and painful death for the perpetrators. Most blamed the government and the police for their indifference towards ensuring the safety of citizens, particularly women. Some sought to blame a warped notion of Indian culture that has cultivated a misogynistic and male-centric Indian society. Others highlighted the need to educate the Indian Male on respecting women. The public protests were demonstrations against a variety of issues that we Indians have been putting up with - bad governance, lack of justice, the sad state of women's liberation, an unhealthy tolerance of crime and criminals, the apathy of the police and the State towards the troubles of the common man.

In all this milieu, however, the real culprit slipped quietly by. I am every citizen of India, and I am to blame, not just for the Delhi gang-rape, but for every incident of violence against the women of this country.

Here's why :

I was indifferent and looked the other way.


The Delhi gang-rape was not the first incident of extreme sexual violence. The hundreds of rape cases I read about every single day in newspaper mostly left me unmoved and apathetic. I either became immune to the rape victims' pain or stopped caring. Either way, I accepted sexual harassment as a common occurrence - outside on the roads, on buses and trains, in the office, even inside the house. 

I did not drive away the louts that stand in front of the girls college gates, whisting at and manhandling students. I did not shout at the man who stood too close and rubbed himself against a girl in a crowded bus, even when that girl was me. I did not call out the casual sex offender, the everyday rapist who takes away a little bit of his victim's soul with every word and gesture. I was afraid to stand up to them, stand up for the girl in trouble, stand up for myself. I let them know they could get away with destroying my dignity.


I did not spare much thought for the rape victims. I did not bother to find out if they were offered psychological support, besides medical and legal help. I did not care to find out if and how I could help. I found out recently that it is common for the victims to be ostracized by their families and friends, as though by being subjected to such a heinous crime, they somehow became tainted and impure. Did I unwittingly condone such discriminatory and cruel behaviour by not actively supporting these women? Maybe I did.

I contributed to the notion of male superiority.


Misogyny and male superiority are deeply rooted in the Indian psyche, passed down through the generations by way of social standing, religious teachings, gender-based role assignments in the family and society and a frighteningly biased set of culture-defined rules. 

Male chauvinism exists in every facet of the life of an Indian woman, be it in the rural and small town country called Bharat or the big city culture that constitutes India. Everything about her is questioned - the way she dresses, where she goes, what she does, when she does it and who she spends her time with. She is expected to be a dutiful wife to her husband, an indulgent mother to her son, a demure sister and daughter who never goes against her brother or father. Her sexuality is a weapon to be used against her, to teach her a lesson if she dissents, to put her in her place, to bring dishonour to her and her family.

I am part of this society, and I accepted this inequality as a natural part of life - both as a woman and as a man. I did not refuse to obey my parents when they treated me differently from my brother. I did not question the need and validity of innumerable fasts and prayers I was made to perform for the well-being of my husband while he was not required to do anything for me. I submitted to a lifestyle marked by conservative dressing and financial dependency. I accepted the definition of female decency as no drinking/smoking, no going out at night, no boyfriends and no pre-marital sex. I played my part in establishing what is socially acceptable for an Indian woman and what is not.

As a man, I did not treat my sister and mother with the respect they deserved. I expected my wife to serve me, rather than being an equal partner in my life. I grew to believe that there is a certain way for a woman to behave, and if she is ready to go out, party late, drink and have sex, then she will not mind some attention from me. I made crude jokes and passed judgement on a woman's virtue. I am culpable in creating a rape culture.



I objectified women.



I am the consumer of advertisements, songs and movies that sell the notion of women as objects to be consumed. 


I am part of a film culture that rejoices in its hero being an uneducated lout who will tease and chase after the heroine till she gives in to his unwanted and unwelcome attentions. Item songs with provocative and sexually explicit lyrics and gyrations serve to do nothing to raise the position of women in the eyes of the Indian Male, and yet every movie has at least one such crowd-puller. We dance to these songs, know them by heart, use them to tease girls. 


I am just as responsible for the popularity of Yo Yo Honey Singh and his depraved lyrics as the next guy who illegally downloads his songs off the internet. I have no right to condemn him and his songs, because he sings for me.


I did not choose the right people to run my country.


What began as an apolitical outpouring of grief and a united stand for reforms by the common man, quickly turned into a platform for political parties to further their agendas. Riots broke out, violence ensued, and a peaceful appeal for justice was trampled under water-canons and police batons. 

Several prominent 'leaders' of our great nation spoke on the gang-rape. A shockingly large number of them blamed the victim in some way or the other for inviting the assault on herself   ("She should not have struggled", "She should not have gone out at night", "Women are to blame"). An educated, young Member of Parliament made sexist remarks when protesters set out on a candlelight march and an all-night vigil for the gang-rape victim who was fighting for her life. No action has been taken against him.

These are not isolated incidents of shameful and regressive ideas coming from those who lead our country and create its policies. The Park Street rape case in Kolkata is a case study in what should never happen in a civilised country. The victim had to fight to register her complaint with the police, face a chief minister who declared that the rape charge was concocted and defend herself against a character assassination attempt by a sitting MP who is herself a woman.


Clearly, our government is made up of men and women who are uncouth, uneducated, uncultured and unethical in the extreme. And I put them there. I did not vote. I did not even care to find out who the candidates were. I did not read their manifestos. I did not play my part in the democratic process. And so, I played my part in their misdeeds and bad governance.


I need to be the change I want to see in the country.



It is time to turn apathy into affirmative action.

I pledge to stand up for that girl being heckled on the road, that woman being manhandled on public transport, that wife or mother or daughter that I know is being brutalized at home. I won't look the other way or be a silent spectator anymore. 

My son, my brother, my husband and my father have no right to speak to or touch or even look at a woman if she doesn't want him to. If they don't know it already, then it is high time I told them so.

I promise to never ever say or think or feel that the victim was at fault for dressing up or going out or being with a boy. I will no longer put up with people who think that the victim 'deserved' being raped for going against our 'culture' or for not being 'moral' enough.

I will not go on living in fear without doing anything about it.

I will not forget you, you brave girl. Rest in peace.


This post is part of the contest Who is to be blamed? on WriteUpCafe.com
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