Tag Archives: mughal

INTERESTING FACTS: THUGEE IN INDIA

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     ‘Thuggee’ refers to the acts of ‘Thugs,’ who were, organised gangs of professional robbers and murderers. The English word thug traces its roots to the Hindi word thug, which means ‘swindler’ or ‘deceiver’. Related words are its verbs thugna ‘to deceive,’ from the Sanskrit स्थग ‘sthaga’  cunningsly or fraudulent.’ The term ‘Thugee’ describes murder and robbery of travellers, which was popular in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent.

    Thugs are said to have travelled in groups across the Indian subcontinent. There were numerous traditions about their origin. One recorded by D.F. McLeod traced it to some Muslim tribes formed from those who fled Delhi after murdering a physician. Another traced it to some great Muslim families who fled after murdering a favourite slave of Akbar. These, original Muslim thugs’ spread, thuggee, amongst Rajputs, Hindus, Lodhis and Ahirs. According to some other traditions, thugs were Kanjars or they descended from those, who worked in Mughal camps. Others have blamed the rise of thugs on the disbanding of armies in employment of Indian rulers after the British conquest. Thugs are said to have operated as gangs of highway robbers, tricking and later strangling their victims.

    To take advantage of their victims, the thugs would join travellers and first gain their confidence. This would allow them to surprise and strangle the travellers with a handkerchief or a noose later. They would then rob and bury the victims. This led to the thugs being called Phansigar (person killing with a noose). During the 1830s, thugs were targeted for eradication by the then Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck, and his chief captain, William Henry Sleeman.

    Thugs resembled travellers in physicality. Initially they wore turbans and carried with them some kind of baggage. Their attire as travellers, would deceive, any peasant and royal alike.

    The methods used in ‘Thuggee’ were meant to reap maximum loot without being caught. They did not accost travellers unless their own numbers were greater than the target. They first flattered the travellers they met, and that gave them a chance to assess, what wealth they were carrying. Many thugs avoided committing thuggee close to their native. So that their crimes were difficult to discover. They often pretended to be either Hindu or Muslim to fool their victims.

    They usually attacked in the evening. A common method used by them was to distract their targets while attempting to strangle them from behind. In order to avoid any suspicion, they avoided carrying more than a few swords for self-defense. Sometimes they even mutilated corpses of their victims to avoid detection. The corpses were then hidden or buried.

    The leader of a gang was called jamadar. Usage of military-style ranks such as jamadar and subedar among thugs, suggests, that the organisation of their gangs had a military construct. They used a secret language known as ‘Ramasee’ to disguise their real intentions from their targets. Although strangulation was one of their most-recognised methods of murder, they also used blades and poison.

    The thugs comprised, both men, who had inherited thuggee as a family vocation, as well as those, who were forced to turn to it out of necessity. The leadership of many of the groups tended to be hereditary with family members sometimes serving together in the same band. Such thugs were known as aseel. Many thugs, insisted, that novices were not taught thuggee, by their own family members but by others who were often more skilled and experienced. They were called a guru. Thugs usually kept their acts a secret. Female thugs also existed and were called baronee in the secret language Ramasee, while an important male thug was called baroo.

    They would often avoid, killing children of victims, and instead they would adopt them. At times they tended to murder women and children to eliminate witnesses or in case they had substantial loot. Some of the thugs avoided murdering victims they considered proscribed according to their beliefs and let other unscrupulous members commit the murder.

    It is on record that during the 14th century 1,000 thugs were captured and hanged in the streets of Delhi. And, 200 years later Sher Shah Suri organised a cavalry of 1,200 men to keep them at bay. Akbar and his successors also launched widespread drives against the thugs, though it was only in the 19th century that Sir W. H. Sleeman succeeded in wiping them out after a relentless operation lasting seven years.

    The earliest known reference to the Thugs as a band or fraternity, rather than ordinary thieves, is found in Zia-ud din Barni’s History of Firoz Shah written around 1356. He narrated an incident of sultan Jalal-ud-din Khalji, having 1,000 arrested thugs, being sent to Lakhnauti or Gaur:

    Surdas, in his allegorical couplet, mentioned robbers called “thugs” who lured a victim, while also, killing and looting his property. The Janamsakhis, the legendary biographies of Guru Nanak, used the term thug to refer to a robber who used to lure pilgrims. Jean de Thevenot, a French traveller in his account referred to a band of robbers who used a “certain Slip with a running noose” to strangle their victims. John Fryer an English doctor and Fellow of the Royal Society, mentions, a similar method of strangling used by robbers from Surat whom he saw being given capital punishment by the Mughals in 1675. He further mentions that three out of them were relatives, which Kim Wagner a Danish-British historian notices, is similar to the thugs, who were thought to have engaged in this as a family profession. A decree issued by Aurangzeb in 1672 refers to a similar method and uses the term “Phansigar”.

    The garrotte (killing by strangulation) is often depicted as a weapon of the thuggee. Other evidences suggest that the Katar (dagger) was their personal status weapon. A thuggee wore this weapon proudly across his chest. Early references to thugs reported they committed their strangulation murders with nooses of rope or catgut, but later they adopted the use of a length of cloth that could be used as a sash or scarf, and thus more easily concealed. This cloth is sometimes described as a rumal (head covering or kerchief), translated as “yellow scarf”; “yellow”, in this case, may refer to a natural cream or khaki colour rather than bright yellow.

    Thugs preference for strangulation might have originated from a quirk of the law under the Mughal Empire that ruled most of India from the 1500s. For a murderer to be sentenced to death, he or she must have shed the blood of their victim. Those who murdered but did not shed blood might face imprisonment, hard labour and paying a penalty—but they would not risk execution.

    A poison called Datura, derived from a plant in the Nightshade family, was sometimes used by thugs to induce drowsiness or stupefaction, making strangulation easier.

    The “River Thugs” preyed upon people including Hindu pilgrims, travelling through the Ganga River, and became, mostly active during the winter like their compatriots from Murena, Bundelkhand and Awadh. Their dialect of Ramasee differed from the one used by their compatriots on land and used boats taken on lease from their builders or from a jamadar called Khuruck Baboo. Sleeman states that they tapped three times to give the signal to murder, which they always committed during the day. To avoid detection of a corpse, they broke its back and threw it in the river to be eaten by crocodiles and only looted money or jewels.

    By the 1870s the ‘thug cult’ was essentially extinct, but the history of thuggee led to the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871. Although the CTA was repealed upon Indian independence, tribes considered criminals still exist in India. The Thuggee and Dacoity Department remained in existence until 1904, when it was replaced by the central Criminal Intelligence Department (CID).

    There are many movies that have been made by Bollywood on thuggee,  such as Gunga Din in 1939, Sunghursh in 1968 and Thugs of Hindostan to name a few.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai and Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida, India)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K.)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories. It is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June 15 & 20 2020; Indica 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu August 31 2020.

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

   

INTERESTING FACTS FIGURES AND QUOTES–EPISODE 26

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  1. Silicon Valley lives in a bubble and its gods are oblivious of the havoc they have caused. Their technology is wonderful but is subverting elections and you are accessories to it. Liberal democracy is broken and you (Silicon Valley) broke it—says Carole Cadwalladr, the Welsh journalist who had exposed Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s messing with the Brexit referendum.
  2. Shiva alone is usually not represented by a deity, and instead, is depicted by the lingam. Hindu mythology speaks of Krishna and Rama as avatars, they were born and they died. They are said to have worshipped Shiva. Other Gods also take physical birth, but Shiva neither takes birth, nor dies. Shiva incarnates himself in a human body, an occurrence that is celebrated during Shivratri.
  3. The British pound is the world’s oldest currency still in use. It is 1,200 years old. Dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, the pound has gone through many changes before evolving into the currency we recognise today.
  4. Egypt is considered one of the oldest countries of the world and was first settled around 6000 BC. The first dynasty was believed to be founded around 3100 BC. India and China are the other two world’s oldest countries.
  5. Damascus the present day capital of Syria is widely believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city of the world, with evidence of habitation dating back at least 11,000 years. Its location and persistence have made the city a nexus for civilizations that have come and gone.
  6. Let me remind you about the great mystic Kabir Das the legendary poet and saint who celebrated the breaking of his earthern pot. For him it meant emancipation from the daily drill of trudging far for filling water. Where, he further alludes to the joy of renouncing the false sense of self-pride.
  7. Kesaria is a place in Bihar about a 90 minute detour enroute to Patna from Motihari. This was where according to the legend, Buddha performed his ‘bal mundan’ and assumed his kesaria (saffron) robe.
  8. Buddha spent his last night in Kesaria en route from Vaishali to Kushinagar where Buddha believed, he attained Pari-nirvana, forseeing his end. When he asked his Lichhavi disciples to disperse and return to Vaishali. He gave them his alms bowl, to still the chorus of dissent. After his death, they built a mud stupa to house the bowl.
  9. The Ordnance Factory Board that supplies ammunition to the Indian army has 41 factories.
  10. Writer Somerset Maugham, a medico who never practiced, learned to play violin to tide over his loneliness in his old age. Bertrand Russel would regularly listen to Beethoven’s ethereal symphonies to fight his sporadic schizophrenic bouts. Victorian English poet Alfred Tennyson started playing the piano at 70 when he felt that his poetic prowess was waning.
  11. Contrary to the general belief that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb abhorred music, some accounts say that the Mughal court chronicler Khafif Khan mentioned in his court despatches written in Persian that Aurangzeb’s chronic insomnia at the age of 78 was cured by the court musician Ahmad Rasool Khan.
  12. In any merger the biggest challenge is always integration of human resources–Arundhati Bhattacharya, Ex-Chairman, SBI.
  13. The direction in which education sets a man will determine his future life–Plato Athenian philosopher.
  14. The Greek tragedian, Aeschylus was right when he said, ‘the first casualty of war is truth.’
  15. John Dryden, English poet wrote, ‘beware of the fury of the patient man.’
  16. If you have surrounded yourself with assholes, you’re going to be more of an asshole.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

LITERARY CORNER: THE INDIAN MUTINY OF 1857

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

THE INDIAN MUTINY OF 1857

by

George Bruce Malleson.

Pages 278

Publisher: Rupa Publications.

Price Rs 278.

(Caveat: Most foreign writers especially of British origin call it a ‘mutiny’ which means a rebellion against authority. Whereas, Indian writers and more so Indians like calling it a ‘War of Independence)

    The fifth print or impression of this book came out in 2016. Malleson lived from (8 May 1825 to 1 March 1898). He was an English officer born in Wimbledon and educated at Winchester. Thereafter, he obtained a cadetship in the Bengal infantry in 1842, and served through the second Burmese War. He was a prolific writer. He had written extensively on the Sepoy Mutiny. His important works include, ‘History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58’ that runs into six volumes, ‘History of the French in India’ and the ‘Decisive Battles of India.’

    He even authored the biographies of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, the French Governor-General Dupleix and the British officer Robert Clive for the Rulers of India series. He died in London on 1st march 1898.

        Mutiny of 1857 remains an event shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Its very significance, whether it can be considered as the first war of Independence, continues to be questioned. The causes of the mutiny are many but all elusive, and so are the consequences of the mutiny. But the moot point is did the mutiny ring the death knell of the British Empire, or was it a mere speck of exaggerated trouble? The book takes you through that.

    It serves to fill a tremendous gap in narrative accounts of the mutiny, and demystifies lay assumptions. It begins with a sizeable background on the genesis of the British Raj in India—a move not deliberate but powerful enough to shape history for decades to come. The author delves in great detail into the causes of the mutiny, unlike preceding writers who mostly concentrated on the consequences. And this the author could do because he was a serving officer and therefore privy to many decisions and happenings. With the aid of personal knowledge and observation he attempts to pin-point the ‘latent power’ that drove the mutiny on.

    He provides a realistic account of all the important operations that took place, praising the heroic and criticizing the undeserving. He is careful not to overlay his work with too much tedious detail, where his writing remains lucid and interesting. 

    The subject book captures successfully, and even uncompromisingly, an event that was perhaps disorganized but large in scale. It deals with each individual and geographical area separately, analysing the causes and effects, both locally and nation-wide. It captures the spirit of the time, its people who fought and died, and the changing attitudes of the British Raj, which was gradually losing control of its Empire.

    In writing this short History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The author has aimed at the compilation of a work, which when complete in itself, should narrate the causes as well as the consequences of a movement unforeseen, and even undreamt of. For the mutiny as per the author was sudden and swift in its action, and therefore taxed utmost the energies of the British people. Preceding writers on the same subject, whilst dealing very amply with the consequences, have, with one exception, but dimply shadowed forth the causes. Even the very actors of the Mutiny failed to detect them.

    Sir John Lawrence the then Viceroy of India from 1864 to 1869, himself, writing with full knowledge of events in which he played a very conspicuous part, mistook the instrument for the chief cause. He stopped at the greased cartridge. But the greased cartridge was never issued to the great body of troops, if indeed to any. There must have been a latent motive power to make of an unissued cartridge a grievance so terrible as to rouse into revolting men whose fathers and whose father’s father had contributed in the making of the British Empire in India. The greased cartridge, too, did not concern those landowners and cultivators of Oudh and the North-Western Provinces, who rose almost to a man. What that latent motive power was, the author has described fully, in this volume.

    In the early chapters of the book the author communicates, ‘That his belief about the mutiny is founded on personal knowledge and personal observation. Locally chief of the Commissariat Department at Kanhpur when, in January 1856, Sir James Outram crossed the Ganges to depose or remove from office the King of Oudh, I had witnessed the indignation which the very rumour of his purpose caused among the sipahis of my own guard. I reported their excited state to my superiors, and was laughed at for my pains. But, impressed with the accuracy of my forecast, viz., that the annexation of Oudh would rouse indignation and anger in the sipahi army. Nevertheless, I continued. After my transfer, two months later, to an appointment in the Military Audit Department in Calcutta, to keep a careful record of several occurrences, all apparently of minor importance, which supervened when the effects of the annexation of Oudh had been thoroughly realised by the sipahis. My observations led to the conclusion that they were thoroughly angered, and, a little later, that their minds were being mysteriously worked upon. I kept copious notes of the matters I observed, and discussed them with my brother officers, without, finding that my views were shared by any one of them. Essentially, it was not alone the greased cartridge but a host of other factors that brought about the mutiny of 1857. It would seem, however, that the officer who held the responsible post of Town major. His name Major, Orfeur Cavenagh, had, from his own observation, arrived at conclusions not dissimilar. He has narrated in his admirable work the observations forced upon him by the changed demeanour of the natives of the North-Western Provinces in 1856. But he too, stood, amongst high-placed Europeans, almost alone in his convictions. The fact is that, up to the very outbreak of the mutiny at Mirath, which is present day Meerut, no one, from highest to lowest, believed in the possibility of a general combination. Those, and they could be counted on the fingers of one hand, who endeavoured to hint at an opposite conclusion were ridiculed as alarmists. So ingrained was the belief in the loyalty of the sipahis, and so profound was the ignorance as to the manner in which their minds were affected, that neither the outbreak at Mirath nor the seizure of Delhi entirely removed it.

    The book is divided into twenty eight chapters that begins with the introduction and then talks about the conspirators, to the first mutterings of the storm and the happenings at Barrackpur, Calcutta and the North-West. The revolt at Mirath present day Meerut is significant along with the seizure of Delhi. The effect of the seizure of Delhi across India. The author then goes on to describe the progress of the insurrection in the North-West. There are several other chapters as a spill over of the mutiny that leads to the march to Delhi and the author has listed the reactions and activities that flared up in Kanhpur, Lakhnao, Allahabad, and Calcutta. It also describes in great detail the Britishers taking back famous monuments from the mutineers such as ‘The Residency’ at Lucknow after Havelock’s first attempts to relieve it failed.

    The other places that the book covers are the events in Sagar and Narbada territories, Central India, Rajputana, the Mirath Districts, Rohilkhand and the Punjab province and even Gwalior.

   It then talks of the second attempt to takeover Lakhnao Residency and the Gwalior contingent. It also describes how Sir, Colin Campbell recovers the Duab area of Punjab.

    The book also covers the rebellion in Eastern Bengal, Eastern Bihar, Azamgarh, Allahabad and Eastern Oudh.

    The author has used the old names of the cities and places as they were spelt during those times.

    The book does impact you only if you read it in a continuous stretch. It brings you to a point where you start thinking that sure enough the ‘mutiny of 1857’ the forerunner to the fight for freedom in India that the Indians launched on the British Raj in the twentieth century under Mahatma Gandhi.

    Overall the book is a treat for history lovers. It is meticulously punctuated and that changes the style of writing automatically, and with that the speed of reading, where, you might take some extra hours to finish the book, as compared to some other present day book of similar pages. I would give the book seven out of ten. A must read for history students.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****