Hey! Welcome back!

Can you believe we’re in December already? I’ve been in Goa for the last 10 days or so, and I hoped to catch up on my posts, but as usual, there’s so much to do here, in my home-state, that I have EVEN MORE to fill you in on!

In case you missed it, check out the highlight of my November – the World Fair Trade Week in New Delhi, where I spent 7 days learning about the fair trade movement.

No, it’s not one of those boring history-economics type of ‘movements.’ It has something to do with how we live every day, the products we use and the clothes we wear. It’s hard to fathom that if everyone made a conscious decision to support poverty-stricken farmers, weavers and artisans rather than already-rich MNCs, the world would be so much richer in terms or art, and fairer, by providing a decent living to everyone.

While the World Fair Trade Conference fed me all the info, it was the Fair Utsav and Fashion Show that drove the point home.

fair utsav dlf place

indian handicrafts

The Fair Utsav was held in the courtyard of DLF Place, a mall in Saket. Over 100 stalls saw craftsmen from around the country sell their wares – accessories, clothes, trinkets, jams, pickles, cloth, shoes, and artifacts made of cane. These items were made by hand through trade secrets passed down from generation to generation and many were symbolic of the area from where these craftsmen came.

indian artisan

artisan fron india

The sheer variety was outstanding and in many cases, you would never have guessed it was handmade at all! The attention to detail and perfection in many items could fool someone into thinking it was bought at a luxury market. And in fact, many ARE sold in luxury markets at quadruple the price, while these artists struggle for their next meal. They don’t have the means or knowledge to open an e-store and as their reach is limited, NGOs step in to help them sell to a wider audience.

handicraft shoes delhi

DLF Place fair utsav

I could think of a dozen friends who’d love bags and accessories like these, and I’m sure you do, too. Sadly, as is our nature and habit, the next time a birthday is around the corner, we’ll all rush to the mall to pick out a gift instead. That’s probably why we need to turn into fair trade consumers – the items are gorgeous and unique, the cause is worth it and all it takes is a little extra effort and will to support local craftsmen by buying local.

artisan jewelry

artisan bags

fair utsav delhi

The Fair Trade Fashion show was probably the highlight of the event! I always thought sustainable, fair fashion was restricted to khadi items. You know – those loose dresses and kurtas! I first got a real glimpse into it when I checked out Ninoshka’s workshop. But nothing could have prepared me for all this fair-trade glam! <3

The Fashion show conducted in collaboration with the  Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North East. It was held at NIFT in Delhi and 7 brands showcased their collections and amazed the crowd with the ingenuity of their designs coupled with social responsibility.

Upasana from Auroville focuses on ‘design for change,’ and the brand showcased its Indigo Collection made using khadi (handspun cloth), organic cotton grown by local farmers and Khadi Jamdani, a traditional weaving technique.

upasana artisans

The brand Sasha from Kolkata is engaged with over 5000 artisans, 100 craft enterprises and 16 craft lines, connecting craftsmen to new audiences. The collection showcased ensembles primarily for women in woven textiles and Kantha embroidery.

sasha fair trade

Mahila Umang was next, a collective of women farmer-producer members and is located in Uttarakhand. Through a consolidated network of 1500 members involved in various viable business activities, small, yet significant income is made and every business activity is directly controlled by the producer group. All the garments were hand knitted by the women of Uttarakhand.

mahila umang

Rangsutra, the next brand is a community owned craft company comprising of artisans from remote regions of India. Rangsutra ensures sustainable livelihoods for farmers and artisans by creating top quality handmade products celebrating India’s rich craft heritage.

rangsutra

rangsutra fair trade

GoCoop, an award winning company for hand loom marketing owns a brand, The Good Loom, the designs of which were also showcased. Like all their collections, this menswear line symbolized a thoughtful approach to retail, the environment and Indian arts and crafts.

the good loom

Eco Tasar Silk Pvt Ltd runs a sustainable and commercially competitive textile business to help generate wage opportunity for rural based producers like yarn makers, weavers, dyers etc. Through these activities, small artisans and producers do not need to migrate in search of work.

eco tasar

Lastly, the AagorWeavers from Assam showcased a vibrant collection and even had a weaver walk the ramp, much to the delight of the audience.

aagor weavers assam

I’d also like to give a special mention to the brand  Ethic Attic by Fairkonnect, who help their clients source ethically produced, sustainable and Fair trade products. All the ambassadors and hosts were presented with an Ethic Attic stole during the course of the conference.

ethic attic

Models walked the ramp to the mesmerizing voice of Sunita Bhuyan, a leading violinist and singer who blew the crowd away with her breathtaking performance. Finally, the event was brought to a close by Fashion designer Jay Ramrakiani who created some gorgeous designs especially for the occasion.

jai ramrakhiani

Hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at the World Fair Trade Conference, organized by World Fair Trade Organization and Fair Trade Forum – India. Do try and visit one of these exhibitions and buy fair trade products when you can. We’re in dire need of protecting age old crafts in this age of technology, and a little support goes a long way.

Next up, all the adventures here in Goa! See you soon!

As most of you know from my barrage of posts on social media, I recently attended the World Fair Trade Conference at Crowne Plaza, Delhi from 9-14th November 2017. It took me until now to actually sit down and write about it, because over the course of that one week, I was exposed to so many new things, met delegates from all over the world and was bombarded with information. I needed to sort out my thoughts before actually blogging about it in order to do justice to the experience.

A lot of you asked me how I landed up at a fair trade conference, when it has little to do with my areas of interest – food and travel. Well, opportunities like these don’t come along everyday and I was privileged to the only blogger invited by Escape To. Secondly, a lot of us, including me, are experts in our own field of work but there’s a mind-boggling amount of things we don’t know and may never know.

So I decided that even if my experiences and learning is just the tip of the iceberg in the field of Fair Trade, it’s better than knowing nothing at all.

Until I visited the Fair Trade Week organized by WFTO and FTFI, the terms ‘fair trade,’ ‘sustainable fashion,’ and ‘marginalized artisans’ were just words I read on labels. It was eye-opening to witness how many NGOs and organizations around the world work to uplift farmers, weavers and craftsmen, helping them to prevent being exploited by the middleman.

While a lot of these artisans live in poverty, practicing age-old crafts and keeping tradition alive, their wares are sold in luxury markets around the world. Yet, due to poverty, they’re forced to abandon their craft which slowly dies out. Fair trade helps them get fair wages for their labour, have a decent lifestyle and carry on their legacy by connecting them to fair trade consumers.

delegates wfto

The experience was intense, with a good mix of fun, networking, workshops and talks. Delegates would assemble at the Crowne Plaza at 9 am everyday for a keynote address by renowned name in the Fair Trade industry, followed by workshops, lunch-break, workshops again and then dinner. There was a Fair Utsav at DLF Saket and Fair Fashion Show at NIFT Delhi, followed by an outdoor dinner at a restaurant called Junction. A day would typically start at 9 am and end at around 9 pm or later.

On Day 1, Rudy Dalvai, the very charismatic President of WFTO aptly said, “As we’re in the peak of global economic changes, farmers struggle to survive, shops close and new sales channels emerge. It is a responsibility to ensure that these changes are positive and don’t create new poverty, Fair trade needs to be discovered in small things and needs to be rediscovered every day.”

rudi dalvai president wfto

Panchaksharam, member of the the Fair Trade Forum India who co-organized the event gave participants glimpses of the WFTO conferences through the past 14 years in all parts of the world, also sharing fun anecdotes. This was followed by Mallikarjuna Iytha, President of Fair Trade Forum India thanking participants for choosing India as the venue for the event as it will build credibility among policy circles. He expressed that fair trade can eliminate poverty and each case strengthens his belief that inclusion is possible and is the means to sustainable development.

keynote speaker wfto

Tomasz Kozlowski, European Union Ambassador to India also delivered an enlightening speech, stressing that Fair Trade is high on the EU agenda and there is a need to make manufacturers aware that Fair Trade is not a burden but an opportunity. “There is a need for clear governance in favour of Fair Trade,” he said.

keynote speakers wfto

While all the keynote speakers were brilliant, Devinder Sharma and Vandana Shiva had the most impact on me, personally.

Devinder Sharma is a food trade policy analyst and was once a leading Indian Express journalist. He said that the problem with mainline economics was that it covers how damaging unfair trade is through fancy words. With over 3,30,000 farmer suicides in 20 years due to income insecurity, globalization has destroyed livelihoods. India boasts of 8% rise in growth but there aren’t enough jobs,” he says. “If a tree is standing, GDP doesn’t change. If the tree is cut down, money changes hands and GDP increases. Don’t believe growth is the path to development. Believe in sustainable development.” Devinder Sharma also stated, “Importing food is importing unemployment. China has reduced its grain prices for the first time in 10 years. Fair trade can bring change to those who never dreamt of it and these changes have to move towards ecological stabilization.”

devinder sharma wfto delhi

Dr. Vandana Shiva, an activist for peace, sustainability and social justice had a message for small fair organizations fighting against giants – “We need to promote skilled entrepreneurship without migration.” Her words were backed by decades of experience and she shared snippets of the work she’s been a part of in various parts of the world. Vandana said that while coffee producers incomes dropped from 9 billion dollars to 5 billion, the profits on coffee jumped from 40% to 70%. Trade by ‘MNC dinosaurs’ is designed to transfer wealth not where it is produced, but where it is stolen, she said. She also educated the crowd about National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme and said that Fairness should take into account ecological sustainability, what is happening to the soil and climate.”

vandana shiva wfto

Other prominent keynote speakers included Nicolette Naumann, VP of Ambiente and Tendence at Messe Frankfurt and Geoff White, CEO of Trade Aid Importers Ltd, New Zealand and Vice President of WFTO, who said ” Fair Trade doesn’t connect with consumers well enough. We can’t be a passive retailers anymore. We need to be an active organisation.” True words, I realized, when I thought about how many fair trade organizations I was even aware of. Negligible!

wfto conference india

Workshops filled the rest of the day, again, held by notable dignitaries to educate and share experience in various countries and organizations. Gender policy, Go coop, Fair Trade Towns, Ethical design and trend forecasting, inclusion of refugees in fair trade, steps to attract new customers, using social media to reach new markets – these were one of many, many topics discussed. While I’d have loved to attend all of them (nerd alert!), there were 5 held at the same time in various conference rooms and I was darting from one room to the other to be a part of them all.

wfto workshops

world fair trade week workhops

The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets and coffee breaks provided ample time for networking, but still didn’t seem like enough! And of course, like every organization meeting, new members were elected to the board, changes in the constitution were made, and it felt pretty great to be a silent observer in the gathering, watching it all unfold. Over time, just like in a new college, faces became familiar and everyone started talking to each other much more freely.

fair trade forum india

The Fair Trade Week 2017 had activities outside the confines of the conference room, too, like I mentioned – the Fair Utsav at DLF Saket and Fair Trade Fashion Show at NIFT Delhi. But I’ll leave that for another blog post.

rudi dalvai wfto

Catch you on the other side!

xx

It’s not often that you find a 700 year old step-well in the middle of a bustling business district. It’s even stranger that the place ranks among India’s Top 10 haunted spots!

ugrasen ki baoli delhi

But that’s just what Agrasen ki Baoli is. It is one of Delhi’s oldest monuments and the best preserved baolis in the country. Located 1.5 kms from Jantar Mantar and 2 kms from India Gate, this red bricked monument is was medieval India’s answer to water shortage.

The spot where Agrasen Ki Baoli stands was once the outskirts of the city. As Delhi grew around it, high rises sprung up, leaving the ancient monument completely out of place right in the city centre.

agrasen ki baoli delhi

Over 100 steps lead downwards, flanked by carved arches on either side. Initially, you’re greeted by the sound of gurgling pigeons and then with the ruckus of bats. But if you walk ahead, with every few steps you take, you leave the din of the city behind and enter into a vacuum of silence. The baoli that once smartly tapped into difficult-to-reach water tables underground, now remains almost waterless.

The steps are now dotted with a handful of tourists as the site surprisingly isn’t popular enough for tour guides to have on their itinerary. Nevertheless, the monument has a lot of rumours attached to it. Old wives tales suggest that tossing a coin in the water will pacify a djinn to grant you a wish. Others say that the water, black with darkness somehow attracted visitors to jump in and commit suicide.

ugrasen ki baoli CP delhi

Delhi boasts of a lot of tombs and palaces. But Agrasen Ki Baoli is one-of-a-kind. Visit between 9 am to 5 pm, absolutely free of cost. You won’t need to spend more than 20 minutes here, but it sure is a nice place to see!

By the way, the street that leads up to it is full of funky graffiti! You know how much I love those!!

that goan girl in delhi

Catch you later!!

xoxo

Hiiii guys!

I’m stoked to finally share with you the places I’ve discovered in the capital! During my first visit a few months ago, I barely had 4 hours to explore some no-frills eateries. But then I visited twice more – once for the Tata Tigor launch and again, for the World Fair Trade Conference.

From a tiny, hole-in-the-wall café to a Bihari restaurant, here are some of my finds in Delhi!

ESPRESS-O-VILLE, Satya Niketan

The road on which Espress-o-ville is located is terrible, to say the least. Barricades, potholes and such horrible traffic that the idea of running into oncoming traffic is more appealing. If you have the (im)patience to brave the traffic in true Delhi-style, with generous honking and expletives, you’ll find this darling little café called Espress-o-ville!

A welcoming green façade with a sign that says “We’re not expensive. Try us” is enough bait. Inside, you might feel like you’re sitting in an old English couple’s living room – with pastel green walls, white vintage furniture, floral cushions, photo frames and wooden finishes. The food ranges from Italian to sandwiches, burgers and wraps and your choice of flavoured eggs with a great range of cold beverages, teas, mocktails and hot chocolate.

Espress-o-ville serves excellent breakfast, so it’s the perfect place to cure a hangover. While I went there to satisfy a pancake craving, the heart-warmingly friendly staff suggested the Tiramisu flavoured cappuccino to go with it. Tiramisu is an indulgent Italian dessert but thankfully, the cappuccino wasn’t a pure sugar rush. In fact, it was heavenly! Deliciously aromatic, richly flavoured and that buttery mouthfeel that’s proof of full bodied coffee! Would go back for it, especially since it costed less than Rs. 120!

Cosy on down, select a book  from the shelf (win!!) and spend the afternoon reading while you enjoy one of their many spectacular offerings!

BIG YELLOW DOOR, Satya Niketan

Looking for lip-smacking food on a budget? Here’s the door you should be knocking on. Located right next to Espress-o-ville, the yellow door is enough to grab your attention. If not, the long line outside surely will!

This dimly lit restaurant, called by its acronym, BYD, is anything but shady, however careless the interiors may look. It’s a popular college hangout and is always packed, thanks to their paisa-vasool offerings. They stock up on juicy burgers, pastas, milkshakes and winning fries amongst other things. Also, I’ve had the best Butter Chicken Pizza of my life here!

If you’re looking for something indulgent, their desserts are sinful. The Oreo Shake and Rocky Road are super popular but they also have intriguing offerings like the Red Velvet Coffee and Bomb Burger that are just as amazing. Proof of how popular BYD is among patrons is apparent when you look at an entire wall covered in messages written on hundreds of post-its. All in all, the service is friendly and you will leave stuffed, but without that hold in your pocket.

The portion sizes are generous, so it’s best you visit with a friend or two.

POT BELLY, Chanakyapuri

Pot Belly Café in Chanakyapuri is a wonderful respite from the bustle of Delhi. This one-of-a-kind restaurant offers the most authentic Bihari Cuisine. Yes, Bihari. Delhi is multi-cultural, after all!

You can choose to sit outside and gaze at the fresh, green lawn or indoors by the French windows which are just as charming. The interiors are extremely spacious, shabby-chic and homely. Wooden chairs, distressed tables and empty frames on the walls add to the simple aesthetics.

The food is as hearty as a home cooked meal. I tried the Pakora Basket, an assortment of batter fried vegetables that came in this interesting terracotta dish. Paired with masala tea in an equally quirky kettle, it was the ultimate combo!

Potbelly is famous for Litti Mutton, a dish comprising of wheat balls stuffed with roasted gram flour and other ingredients served with two vegetable side dishes. I didn’t love the litti, to be honest, although it was as authentic as it gets! That mutton, though! It was so delicious and spicy that it had us sweating through every bite.

Chinese, Italian and other global cuisines have become a little monotonous, haven’t they? If you’re open to embracing something Indian (that’s not Mughlai), I’m sure you’ll appreciate this gem!

MASALA TRAIL, Janpath

While driving past Janpath one night, we stopped for a bottle of Keventer’s Kit Kat Shake from a small take-out window at Janpath. It was then that we got a glimpse into the Masala Trail’s quirky interiors behind the window and returned the next day to try it out.

Masala Trail, like Elco in Mumbai, is the place to go for hygienic street food. The menu is vast with street food like Kachori with Aloo Subzi from Bihar, Dabeli from Gujarat, Thukpa from the North-East, Agra ke parathe, Tamaatar ki chaat from Varanasi and even Kerela styled Appam and Stew, to name a few.

This drink is called Bihari Namkeen or Meethi Sattu. Another first for me! I don’t know about you guys, but greens floating in my drink is so WEIRD!!

Colour makes me happy and this fun space has tons of it – bright metal chairs and sofas, intricate auto rickshaw paintings on the walls and even multi coloured crockery. For a place as multi-cultural as this one, there are sure to be authenticity issues. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting visit!

CAFE TONINO, Connaught Place

Definitely worth a visit for authentic Italian food! On first glance, the restaurant looks rustic with wooden finishes, blue and white zigzag patterns on the floor and yellow walls . One has to walk through arches through the various ‘rooms’ to choose a table.

I sampled the Gnochhi de Napoli con Pomodoro e Mozzarella de Bufala (all the dishes have names like these :P) which comprised of home made gnocchi with broccoli and mozzarella in a roasted tomato and herb sauce. Like all authentic Italian fare, this one had simple flavours that shone through in every bite. The gnocchi was plump, pufffy and paired so well with the sauce.

cafe tonino CP

Pizza Senza Pomodoro was another dish that I couldn’t get enough of! I’ve fallen in love with no-tomato pizzas since I tried one at Franceso’s Pizza in Mumbai. This one had feta cheese, mozzarella, beautifully sweet caramalized onions, olives, roasted garlic and fresh basil. The base was just right – soft and dought in the centre with crusty edges. Would definitely order it again!

cafe tonino delhi

Delhi is undoubtedly known for its tandoori food. Maybe next time, I’ll feature some of those!

Let me know if you’ve eaten at any of these places or have discovered a restaurant you think I should feature.

Stay in touch!

Politicians can get away with just about anything, can’t they? Some of them even succeed in lauding their existence for eternity.

Take Safdarjung, for example.

His real name was Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan – the governor of Awadh. Khan’s role was to assist the Mughal emperor of that time in administration. Pleased with his services, the king gave him the title of ‘Safdarjung.’

When the next emperor took over the kingdom, he made Safdarjung the Prime Minister. Years later, after Safdarjung’s death, his son built him a red, sandstone tomb, closely modelled after the tomb of Humayun.

However, if Humayun’s Tomb represents the might of the Mughals, Safdarjung’s Tomb, in contrast, reflects its decline.

Sandeep was driving me around in perfect Delhi weather when he randomly asked, “want to see the Safdarjung Tomb?” I’d never heard of it before. Actually, if I was standing across the street from it, I’d have never known it was there, hiding behind looming walls.

We pay the nominal entry fee, step into the majestic tomb complex, and the silhouette of the tombs bulbous dome can be seen not far away. It appears to be in perfect symmetry, flanked by a row of palm trees on either side, leading up to the monument. There’s an abundance of greenery and flowering shrubs set within a large, manicured lawn. Rising high from its plinth is the beautiful tomb – a feast for the eyes, despite the popular opinion that it is visually and architecturally flawed.

Apparently, the plinth is too small to balance the prominent vertical axis of the mausoleum. In addition, the buff and red coloured sandstone on the dome looks like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle. Since the existence of the State was in bad shape during the time of the tomb’s construction, there was no financial backing and marble was plundered from other pre-existing tombs. Hence, the mismatch.

As I walked inside, I too couldn’t help but notice the lack of refinement. The skewed proportions, elongated façade, mismatched stonework and unfinished marble inlay work are all a disappointing end to grand Mughal architecture. But then, architecture does reflect the times, and this one shows depleting coffers and degenerate lifestyles.

To me, the tomb, with its silence and bare handful of visitors is a delight! I can enjoy the aura of undisturbed serenity. The air is tranquil and fragrant, which is surprising, especially since the monument is hemmed by the busy, traffic-choked Lodhi road.

The tomb itself is splendid and has an imposing aura of grace, despite its faults. Double storeyed with 8 chambers, it has a central octagonal chamber housing the mortal remains of Safdarjung in a crypt below the ornamental coffin. The walls taper towards the roof, in which elaborate floral patterns have been carved

When looked at as a whole, and without bias, Safdarjung Tomb is really quite beautiful! The cool fragrant breeze and greenery, the gateway and dome – all look like something in perfect harmony from a distance. Perhaps what makes a difference is the eye with which the monument is looked at.

Like this post? Comment below and let me know!

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I’d never been to Delhi. But for the longest time, it’s been on the top of my list!

My Twitter time-line would constantly break out in a Delhi-Mumbai battle – which city is better, which of the two have the more delicious food, more pleasing weather, more style? To top it off, even Oprah has been to Delhi and said it has a “method to its madness.”

When I recently reviewed Jet Screen, I knew that I would fly Jet Airways somewhere, but the destination was unknown until 24 hours before the flight. I secretly hoped for Delhi – and you know what they say about the universe conspiring!

Obviously, I didn’t pray hard enough because I had a mere five hours to spend in Delhi. Considering the time needed to de-plane and having to leave to be at the airport an hour before departure back to Mumbai, that gave me FOUR hours.

I asked the folks on Twitter for suggestions on things to do that are close to the airport. Some suggested visiting Qutub Minar which is relatively close by. Others were skeptical I’d get anything done, with Delhi’s traffic scene being so bad, and told me to window shop at Delhi airport. The latter seemed like a waste of time. Besides, I love a good challenge.

9:15 AM

With no check-in baggage to wait for, I rushed out of the airport where a friend was waiting with his motorcycle (note – having no baggage and a motorcycle helped save precious time). We headed off for a quick breakfast of Kheema Paratha and coffee at one of the dhabas in Qutub Institutional Area. While this road is usually full of bikers and motorcycles, it was deadly quiet on a Saturday morning and most of the dhabas were only beginning to open their shutters.

10:30 AM

New Delhi infrastructure is definitely better than Mumbai! We rode for around 20 minutes on clean, wide roads that seemed fit for the capital of India before halting at India Gate.  The smog dampened the experience a little bit, but the monument is stunning nonetheless, beautifully combining historic grace and modernity.

People blowing soap bubbles, men selling cotton candy and photographers offering to take instant photographs reminded me a lot of Juhu beach. But the feeling of seeing India Gate in front of you, rather than on TV for Independence Day, is different – it brings out a little patriotism

11:30 AM

From New Delhi to Old – the change is enormous! Crowded streets, insane traffic, narrow lanes and street vendors paint a contrasting picture and was very intimidating! At noon, the shopping spots were just beginning to open up, but I couldn’t spend time here as it was a 40 minute ride back to the airport.

Here are some shots from the city. Sadly, the red fort was covered in smog and was barely visibile from the road.

 

While it was too early to grab any lunch, I tried Delhi’s famed jalebi with rabdi and it was out-of-this world! In comparison to that in Mumbai, this one was far more lavish, gooey and utterly thick. People who like thin, crispy jalebis would not like it at all!

Next I stopped at Natraj, a tiny, no-frills counter that’s famous for Dahi Bhalla. Customers have to give their order, collect the food and stand on the footpath and eat it. Living local, people!

The dish comprised of whipped dahi poured over urad dal dumplings, and then streaked with sweet, tamarind chutney. The generous amount of pepper mixed into the lassi-like dahi made all the difference! For me, this was like an entire meal because it was so heavy!

12 PM

It was time to leave the madness behind as we jumped on to our bikes and headed along a more scenic route to Indira Gandhi Airport. Made it just in time, with the last call to board the plane in progress. Phew!

The trip was over in the blink of an eye, and when I was back in Mumbai by 4 pm, it didn’t even seem real. I need another taste of Delhi really soon – maybe a party at Hauz Khas, a visit to the Lotus temple and shopping at Khan Market, this time?

Have you ever taken a really short trip somewhere? Tell me about it!

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Byee!