Driven by Passion: Aratrika Ghose

Driven by Passion: Aratrika Ghose

Her life doesn’t rhyme in monotony like everyone else’s, she is a believer of free verse and so is the course of her poetry. This story brings to you the personification of fire, storm, and calm; all in one: Miss Aratrika Ghose. From being a writer, a debater, a leader and now a coordinator of the Institute’s Counselling Cell, Aratrika Ghose has fulfilled different roles during her stay in the institute. Keeping all her extra-curricular activities aside, she will be leaving the institute with a staggeringly high CGPA and a super dream job in one of the top-notch Fortune 500 companies. Right from the time she came to this institute, she has been the talk of the town in some way or the other. An avid reader, animal-lover, quintessential Bong, and self-proclaimed feminist, Aratrika opened up in a candid talk with Monday Morning on a windy Saturday evening, with a passionate look on her face.


Remembering her childhood, she recollects that her experiences were very different from that of others. Her parents got separated when she was 5, she used to live with her father and they faced a lot of financial struggles. She recalls, very fondly, that during all this, one of the most important factors that kept her going was her school. She studied from Prep 1 to class 12 in Calcutta Girls’ Schools, a Methodist Christian institution that instilled in her a love for English and shaped her personality. She says that she has closed that chapter of her life for good and has held on to only a handful of friends in the form of Shalini Haldar, Brinda Sarkar, and Priyanka Das, and they have become permanent residents of her heart. 

Being one of the established debaters on campus today, she revealed that public speaking hadn't been her forte during her school days, and on the contrary, she suffered from stage fear and a case of severe stammering. From a very early age, writing and especially creative writing had been her interest and in her 10th grade, she got selected to work for her school magazine, Kaleidoscope, which till then admitted students from 11th and 12th grade only. She recalls,

I was always into a lot of extra-curricular activities, but the nature of those activities have changed. I participated in school fests in Photography, Drama, Music, and Creative Writing. But ironically, I never debated or wrote much poetry, and tried my best to avoid extempores too!  The only thing in common would be my belief that I could lead, since I was the Junior School Vice-President and consequently, a School Prefect for two continuous years in High School!

Right from her childhood days, she was inclined to study Arts and puts her choice for taking up science after her 10th grade, down to her father. She says,

Post tenth grade, I was made to take up Science because my father believed that whatever you want to do, you can do after securing an engineering degree. Because I was in a way forced into science, I became a rebel without a cause and didn't take any engineering coaching classes and appeared for only JEE, WBJEE, and BITSAT. In retrospect my father was right, as always! (laughs) 

Once she was done with her engineering entrance exams, one of her friends suggested that she sit for the Admission Test for Department of English, Jadavpur University Entrance. She decided to sit for the test and recalls another funny incident from back then,

During the exam, when we were being asked if he had any doubts, I foolishly raised my hand to ask the invigilator if the paper had any negative marking scheme! I remember a classroom full of people looking at me like I must be from a parallel universe, and it remains one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I’m sure they were all thoroughly shocked when I happened to make it to a list of about 25-30 general from the 5000 who had applied.  

So despite popular belief that she had dropped a year, she had merely attended 2 weeks of classes before her JEE results came out and she says that she has no regrets on quitting her B.A. in English because it interfered with her love for the subject, because it was no longer a choice but an imposition. 

A rolling stone that never gathered moss, she wanted to get as far away from home as possible. So once the JEE results came out, her priority was to move away from Kolkata to experience an independent life. Moreover, owing to her experiences of a Pilot Nano-Lab at Science City, at the beginning of her 11th Standard, as a part of the JBNSTS Science Camp, she had already made up her mind about studying Material Science. Thus, it was a win-win situation to take up Metallurgical Engineering at NIT-R, even though she later changed to the Department of Chemical Engineering by internal sliding. 


Aratrika maintains that her first year here was quite different from her life in the subsequent years. However, she always adapted quickly, and loved the freedom of hostel life, because of which she has always refrained from going home on extended weekends, and gotten accustomed to living out of suitcases. A shy introvert, she says that she would have probably spent the entire year in her room had she not had her “Wolfpack” in the form of Sanchari Dan, Taritra Saha, and Saswat Abhinav David. Quoting her,

Before I came here, I knew three seniors Anurag Saha Roy, Anukta Dutta and Soham Ghosh who helped me settling in. However, I failed to make a lot of friends, here. On their insistence, I dragged my Wolfpack for almost every other orientation! I particularly remember the Clarion orientation where I felt an instant connection, and since I was wearing a batman tshirt, I was identified and recognized as Bat-Girl from among 200 odd people (giggles). 

Right from her first year, she had issues pertaining to certain unquestioned practices going on here. She was marked out as a troublemaker and she recalls how she got that reputation,

It was during our department freshers programme, when we had this practice that girls had to wear a churidar with dupatta and guys had to come in formals. So I asked the second-year girl who asked me to beg, borrow or steal a duptta because I didn’t have one, "If the guys aren’t wearing dhotis or even kurtas, why cant I wear formal pants like them?” 

This second-year girl was shocked that a junior was talking back to her and so she approached my senior, Anukta Dutta, who prudently told me, ”You can take my dupatta if need be, but come, – get into the system first, and then change it”.  So, first-year basically was about breaking this imaginary hierarchy system.  During her first year, she was a part of four clubs – Euphony, Microsoft, Clarion and later Monday Morning. She cheekily mentions that she joined Euphony because she found a couple of then-final years 'very adorable'. She performed for euphony just once and shares a vivid memory,

We were performing on stage, and in the middle of my song, Joy Kiran Toppo’s guitar string tore. As a first year, I was so embarassed that I probably turned a bright shade of crimson, on stage. But I must add that everybody including the audience that day was very supportive, and ever since then even if I’ve wanted to, I haven’t been able to continue with Euphony because of other commitments. 

At the end of her first semester, her grade card read a CGPA of 9.47, which was surprising to many people in her batch. Everyone thought this girl is everywhere doing everything, when does she even find the time to study? In fact, nobody even believed her when she told them her grades!


Clarion, for me, has remained a family. I met my best friends, some awe-inspiring seniors, a couple of my favorite juniors and some other people who will hopefully remain in my life forever (laughs).

Aratrika Ghose, the champion adjudicator and the sweetheart of Clarion, initially joined the club as a writer for Et-Cetera. However, at the Intra-Clarion Tournament held every semester every member was compulsorily made to debate. This was when she teamed up with Sujitha Jayaraj and Amrutha Varshini for as a debating team that went from being “Chappal Chor” to “Trinkets” to finally, “Kryptonite”. Just like she was breaking hierarchal boundaries elsewhere, this all-girls team went on to win the tournament, beating other senior teams along their way!

She maintains, that Clarion helped her to open up; it gave her the confidence to speak. The stammering and the stage-fear ‘magically’ disappeared. She found a new love in debating and realized that it was a powerful tool. She considers the 7 minutes duration of her speech, as the time that nobody could take away from her. So in her first-year itself, she decided to go to a debate tournament at CNLU, Patna. She paired up with a couple of seniors, Arvind Shroff and Anukta Dutta. With a hint of sarcasm in her voice here's what she had to say about the tournament,

We went with a bunch of amazing seniors, who did not believe in the idea of buying tickets. For the first time ever, I took the general compartment, sitting next to a sack of carrots (Laughs). In the tournament, we performed miserably. It was a fall from grace after the Intras. But I learned a lot, there were speakers who were absolutely phenomenal in their speeches.  The tournament was a good learning curve for me but it was also very disheartening.

The next tournament on her list was the NUJS Parliamentary Debate, where she went in a team with two then final-year students, Shakti Prasad Badajena and Roshan Sahu. She says she came to know about Shakti Prasad Badajena from his MM interview and was thrilled that he asked her to be his teammate. They were coached by Swaroop Panda, whom she calls her inspiration and mentor. Without him, she says she would have never found the right speaker position or improve her strengths while working on her flaws. 

NUJS, though, brought disappointment for her as it was, in her words, a disaster (on many fronts). She realized that although they were good in certain debates, overall they were not up to the mark. It was then that she thought of switching over to adjudicating, and ever since then, her debating career has looked much better on pen and paper. She started winning accolades as an adjudicator and won the 4th Best Adjudicator at IIT KGP PD 2016, Best Adjudicator at NUSRL Ranchi 2017, and 4th Best Adjudicator at CNLU, Patna, 2017.

She recalls another incident which is close to her heart relating to another Intra-Clarion, this time in her second year.

This was during a time that Clarion had a dearth of adjudicators, so, to inspire people to adjudicate, three adjudicators, Anubhab Ghosh, Bidhan Chandra Mohanty and I decided to participate as a team. We called ourselves, Two-and-a-Half Bongs, as Bidhan was not a Bengali but had spent enough time with true-blue Bongs to be considered a half-blood! We ended up winning that tournament too and this team is one of my favorites.

In between, Aratrika tried her hand at MUNs, participating in Rourkela MUN 2015 and KIIT MUN 2015 and won a Special Mention and Best Delegate, in the two respectively.


Aratrika Ghose has been synonymous with Monday Morning for three-quarters of her journey at NITR. The Monday Morning Saga is not only important to her but also an important chapter in the history of Monday Morning. After having served as one of the most sincere reporters in her 2nd year, she went on to become a coveted Chief Co-ordinator of Monday Morning and spearhead it when its future was endangered. She recalled with a moving poignancy how the three years of her association with Monday Morning has made all the difference.

MM: How did MM happen to you?  Tell us about your experience as a reporter for MM?

AG: At the end of my first year, Monday Morning came into the picture after their Open House Discussion and my fixation about making a difference to the institute. I was informed later that my paper was by far the best among all the papers that had been evaluated but, in the task round, where I had to interview Rahul Pasayat my performance tanked as I was more adept at creative writing instead of journalistic reporting. 

My relationship with my three CCs was well balanced to say the least, while I was great friends with Anurag, Gaurav Naha was the go-to person for our entire batch because of his composure and temperament, and we were collectively terrified of Siddharth Ghosh Roy! I admit that the umbrella incident, that had been narrated in his interview was in fact about me, where I had over-stepped and been harshly reprimanded for doing so. Additionally, all the mentors including a super-mentor in the form of Prem Depan Nayak were extremely supportive and helpful. 

MM: Tell us about the articles that you worked for during your tenure as a reporter which you hold very close to your heart.

AG: Talking about the articles that left an imprint were the following:

An article which I wrote with Amrutha for the Discus section was on the recently imposed Pornography Ban, in the form of a for-and-against. It allowed me to present my opinions in an organized manner on a sensitive issue, and we both learned the art of tact. Apart from that, it was obviously fun, and because of all the appreciation we got, I felt happy to be a part of MM. 

After the 1st semester of my reporting, I started feeling like I was not getting an opportunity to be the harbinger of the change I had so aspired to be. What radically altered this perception was an Interview that I did on Mitesh’s request. It was the interview of Ashutosh Dutta, an alumnus who had come down to the institute for the Golden Jubilee reunion of his batch.

Dr. Dutta is one of the Directors at AT&T, a board member for IEEE, and a Visiting Professor at Columbia University. The interview was a humbling experience because even though he spoke a great deal, he couldn’t stop asking me about everything that was happening on campus. When I told him about Monday Morning, he was absolutely thrilled and praised the initiative, in helping him keep in touch with his alma mater, ever since. 

One of the articles that I personally loved working on was the Interview of the Band ‘The Local Train’. I was taken to Central Park, after their performance by a very generous Nishant Thacker, a part of the NU’16 Organizing Committee. They were all tired and despite having a proper questionnaire printed for them, the entire interview was more like a candid conversation where they pulled my leg and took turns at making jibes about my Bong-ness. In retrospect, when I was chauffeured back to the institute, I realized that if anyone else had done the article they may not have been able to keep up with their spontaneity and do justice to them! 

Additionally, I have absolutely loved working on Post-Fest articles be it the one for Innovision 2015, or the International Students’ Meet, 2016. I loved identifying, critically analyzing, and cross-questioning the organizing committee on several grounds to prepare a comprehensive report that would help future batches to know what to do and what not to do. I remember, that my boldness brought a lot of negative limelight in my direction. The Innovision organizers blacklisted certain sentences from the article and demanded the name of the writer of those sentences. However, my CCs protected me throughout the incident and nobody could ever tell me anything!

MM: You were appointed as the Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning in your third year. How was your experience working as a CC for MM?

AG:  You know, its kind of funny, but the thought of becoming a CC popped into my head only towards the latter half of my reporting career, and after my interview I was almost convinced that owing to attributes like being a micro-manager, a control freak, and a poor team player I wasn’t good enough for the post! However, much to my surprise and elation, I did end up being a Chief Co-ordinator of Monday Morning for the session of 2016-17. I am glad that I had this opportunity which shaped my personality in many ways and helped me rekindle my passion for writing. 

My experience as a Chief Co-ordinator was different from what most other CCs may have experienced, since there was a shift of regime in the year we took over Monday Morning, and the status of MM as an organization was suddenly lost into oblivion. There are 3 things that being a CC taught me:

  1. Resilience: Throughout the year, Abhishek, Mitesh and I faced a number of adversities. We were being constantly targeted at the HMC, and I particularly remember when Abhishek had mentored a Witsdom called “The Moral Man and I had penned an anonymous Citizen Journalist article called “Girls Still Shall Not Walk”. Mitesh had not been involved with either of the works, but he received flak from all possible sides for it. The fact that Prof. Sarangi was no more a part of the institute also made it difficult for MM to justify its position at all instances. It was a constant struggle, and we had to pick ourselves up every time we fell! 
  2. Adaptation: Another important thing we understood as CCs is that Monday Morning has to adapt and assume different roles at different junctures. We need to juggle the role of being a student body as well as a media body, depending on the situation. At times, we needed to let go of certain small issues just so we could hold on to our voice when it came to other important ones. 
  3. Sacrifice: The three of us as CCs have had to make sacrifices in various ways over the course of our tenure. It is common to be targeted by people because of one’s association with Monday Morning, and I remember being particularly regretful of not being able to support the Late Entry campaign that my friends were trying to initiate in CVR, at that point of time, since MM needed to remain neutral. 

It is also well known that Mitesh and I were at loggerheads for a major chunk of our time, and at times we couldn’t even talk to each other for 2-3 days at a stretch. What kept us together, however, was the fact that we both knew that we were acting out of our best interests for Monday Morning. Also, I think it can be confirmed with surety that it was because of Abhishek that we did not end up killing each other, and you saw an issue every week!  

MM: Is it really tough for a female student of NITR to manage the responsibilities of a CC? Or is it a myth?

AG: Clarifying the notion that being a female CC is tough, I would say that even I had such doubts before I took up the position, but this proved to be completely untrue. It is not intimidating in any way if you have the right kind of people to support you. In my case, I had Abhishek and Mitesh, who were like anchors to me. They harnessed the best of me while protecting me from situations that could trouble me. In fact, I learned to function as a team because of them and was able to overcome several personal weaknesses. There would be minuscule problems while being a female CC but none of them would be insurmountable.

MM: The idea to conduct a soapbox for SAC elections was yours. How far do you think has that been achieved and are you satisfied by it?

AG: In my 2nd year as a reporter, I had attended a Manifesto Session, which was what the soapbox was called then. I found that no one would take it seriously. I also am an ardent believer that the zone culture should not exist because coming to an institute of national importance, apart from the technical degree we must also groom ourselves in a cosmopolitan atmosphere comprising of some of the best minds from across the country. Thus the only way to grow is to get out of our comfort zones, which is something that I believe the zone culture prevents. One of the major reasons zone culture thrives here is the SAC Elections. No matter how inert your zone has been over the course of the year, someone would bang at your door during the elections pleading for votes citing a zone. I understood that people become secretaries because they belonged to a certain zone and thus owed something to the zone only, while in reality, they owed their allegiance to the entire institute. The manifesto or the soapbox was my pet project to make the SAC elections fairer, which I believed would eventually weaken the idea of zones. My father was from IIT Kharagpur and I had a few friends from there as well, so I had seen the kind of campaigns that they had and that is when the idea of Soapbox struck me. We tried our best to do what we could, and even though this year it was unsuccessful in terms of the response that it got, I hope that in the years to come, people can gain something from it.  

MM: Now when you look back at your tenure as a CC of Monday Morning, do you have any regrets? 

AG: I have two regrets as a CC. The first one was about my failure to attend the first Appraisal Meeting because of my personal commitments, which was the first and last time that I failed to prioritize Monday Morning. The second regret I have as a CC is that at certain points of time, in our bid to remain an organization so desperately, we may have taken things too far. Perhaps, if given a chance we may have taken a softer edge while dealing with issues.


Upon being asked cheekily about why she had never learnt something as simple as cycling, while she had achieved so much, Aratrika Ghose gladly recounted all the falls and misses that had cemented her fear of cycling, but what stood out was the disclosure of a remark made by her in the sophomore year, which was something as follows:

In the subsequent 7 years, I will make enough money to afford a car and a chauffeur. So I will never have to learn riding a cycle!

Aratrika Ghose being a noun and verb both have stemmed from her fearless and passionate attitude. She has become the synonym of being bold and someone who speaks her mind out. For a person of her kind, there have always been opinions, rumors and remarks floating around. Upon being asked how she has remained unfettered about all the uncharitable remarks made about her and maintain the strong independent woman façade, she had the following to say:

Behind every strong woman or person that you see is a terrific support system. The reason they flourish despite being subjected to judgment and criticism is a support system. The only way I managed to flourish despite being subjected to judgement and criticism from all quarters is because of the support from my Mother, my Father, and a few close friends. On campus, I could not have survived if I did not have the unquestioned help of friends like Sujitha, Amrutha, Anubhab, and Nishant, my understanding branch-mates, my encouraging club-mates, or generous seniors like Anukta, Anurag, and Bidhan, or the wonderful juniors that I have come across. I have had the privilege of holding my head up high, despite several stumbles along the way because I have been surrounded by people who have defended me and egged me to be the person that I am. It is solely because of their immense faith and belief that I am the free-bird that you see today.

The free verse poet has already made a mark in the realm of Indian poetry by becoming one of the Top 20 Poets to win the Wingword Poetry Prize. Initially, poetry came to her as a medium to express her emotions, or vent the frustrations of the then teenager. But as she grew and with the inclusion of NITR, she became more positive and so did her poems. She believes that her exposure to the Bangalore Spoken Word circles has been particularly instrumental towards making her poetry a mouthpiece for others, rather than just a self-motivated rant. She was able to grow as a poet owing to her participation in several Open Mics, conducted by Atta Galatta, WordZoned, and YourQuote, in Bangalore. The following is a link to one of her performances: Slam Poetry_Aratrika Ghose. She talks about how the poetry circle at NITR is still a niche, and how she along with Subhankar Sharma, Subarna Mohanty, Andrew Jose Ignatius Milton and a few other close friends started Penanigans Poetry!

For someone with the zeal and passion for poetry and creative writing that she has, it has been an assumption for many that she may choose to make a career out of it. She, however, begs to differ and made it clear in the interview that she would not be interested in making a full-time career out of it. She feels that it would take away the liberty from her to be expressive and write at her own pace and way. In a full-time career, she would be forced to write a certain thing in a certain way. The compulsion would, in turn, take away the sweetness that writing brings into her life.


MM:  You bagged two internships at CeNSE IISc for two consecutive years. Both of them were research internships. Tell us about your internship experience and what propelled you to opt for those?

AG: At the end of my first year, I did a summer internship at Jadavpur University. I was always interested in Nanoscience and that was the reason why I took up this internship. At Jadavpur University, I worked in the Department of Instrumentation Engineering on developing graphene coated bi-metallics (for electrode coatings) to detect biomolecules present in very low concentrations based on their oxidation and reduction potentials. 

After that, I did my internship in Indian Oil Corporation Limited. For me, I personally did not see myself fitting into that environment as I found their attitude laid-back, and their primary motive was to maintain status quo rather than focus on improvements. As an ambitious person, I always like to strive for something better and research gave me that opportunity. So even though I made up my mind to do research internships after that, I believe an industrial internship was necessary to trigger that realization! 

I was always interested to pursue research on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and that is how I came across the internship in the Centre for Nanoscience and Engineering (CeNSE) which was set up in 2012 and modeled with facilities similar to universities outside India. IISc, Bangalore is not merely an engineering college but rather a world-class research center. I was working on the Study of Nano-Biomaterials under the guidance of Dr. Prosenjit Sen. There is a physical process of killing bacteria which is by growing nanostructures and there is a chemical process which involves coating it with copper nanoparticles. We were trying to combine these two methods to find out how effective this technique was. I worked on simulations using COMSOL to compare the time taken for the combined and individual methods. Even though I may have learned a lot from my internship experience, I was not completely satisfied because it felt like I had not done enough because a major chunk of my time was spent in performing literature surveys. 

I was unable to secure an internship anywhere else at the end of my third year and had to write back to Dr. Sen who was generous enough to accept my proposal. It was a personal failure for me as I regretfully watched people secure foreign internships which I had so desperately pined for. But owing to my hectic schedule, I had not paid enough attention to the application procedures and made silly mistakes like uploading the grade card directly from the website instead of a signed transcript from the Asst. Registrar, which justifies my inability of having done as well as I could have. 

So my third internship was on Fabrication of Superhydrophobic Fabric coated with Nanostructures. I realized that because of my initial groundwork during my previous internship I was able to achieve a lot more. Now I could perform experiments and analyze data, individually. I was working directly with a project assistant and Ph.D. scholar, Abinash Tripathy, who mentored me in many ways, and without whose guidance I would not have been able to get too far. This internship taught me that I particularly enjoyed hands-on, experimental research which is to a large extent by hit-and-trial. Sometimes you might get results, while sometimes you might not. The key to being a meticulous researcher is to be able to make all experiments repeatable, note the most minute details, and report findings, honestly. 

MM: You’ve bagged a super dream job in one of the top-ranked Fortune 500 companies, Exxon Mobil. Walk us through the procedure of your selection in ExxonMobil.

AG: To begin with, I had only sat for on-campus placement processes of two companies: Sun Pharma and ExxonMobil. My interview with Sun Pharma had gone well and thus I went into Exxon’s written round completely unprepared, simply because I was confident of bagging a job at Sun Pharma. Then the presentation of Exxon happened and that changed the course of my career. The first 10 minutes of the presentation simply explained how energy works worldwide and where Exxon has fit into the scenario in the last 100+ years. They managed to present their company without having to forcibly sell it, as someone mentioned later that they’ve been in the Top 10 of the Fortune 500 list for as long as the list has existed. The subsequent group discussion was even more interesting owing to the fact that the topic was something as relatable as “What do you think could be done to improve the standard of living of states like Jharkhand and Odisha?”. One of the life-changing moments for me was the personal interview round of Exxon Mobil, where they made us clearly understand that by joining a company, we are pursuing a career and not bagging a job.

They further went on to explain how to find the sweet spot of one’s career which is the intersection of one’s skills, business needs, and personal aspirations.

They guided me from each question to another like I was stepping on stones to reach my destination. They even showed me the graph of an output of a person vs time elapsed in one’s career, which looked something like this:

According to this, your output in the first 5 years of your career depends on n persons by being 1/nth of your input X. In the subsequent 5 years, the output is X, which is your Input. In the next 5 years, your output is n*X which is when you control the work of n other people. Beyond these 15 years, the output is X ^ n. This one graph has been made me think about how I want to see myself in the future and continues to motivate me. 

MM: What are your future plans?

AG: I initially had plans of pursuing a master’s degree after working for a few years so I could fund my own higher education in the form of a Direct Ph.D. However, after getting selected for ExxonMobil, those plans have been indefinitely stalled since I haven’t even applied for my GRE yet. Their current Chairman is a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, while their previous Chairman was a mere Civil Undergraduate. So perhaps for them, the emphasis is not on acquiring formal degrees. As far as knowledge is concerned, they have various classroom as well as non-classroom based programs to help their employees hone and nurture various skills. Moreover, they even have a policy of funding higher education for individuals if the business demands so and I hope to be able to capitalize on that opportunity. But, in all honesty, this is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, so I want to keep my options open and be ready to give up my job and become a professor, or poet if I feel like I do not fit in. If you ask me where I see myself, I can only tell you that I see myself doing something I enjoy, driving a change, and living a life adapting to changes. I’d just like to bring to your notice, one of my favorite quotes by John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans!” 

MM: What would be your final message for the NITR junta?

AG: This message is not just for the NIT-R junta, but for anybody. In life, when faced with a situation (whatever that may be), you should always have the serenity to accept things that you cannot change while having the courage to change those that you can but most importantly have the wisdom to know the difference between the two. If you can just do these three things, life will never be able to beat you down!



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