Hussainiwala – A Village on Indo-Pak Border

During our visit to India to attend the Golden Jubilee celebrations of raising of our regiment – 75 Medium Regiment (Basantar River) – we watched the Retreat Ceremony at Hussainiwala Border Post.

Railway line connecting Peshawar to Mumbai was built in 1885, passing through Hussianiwala.  During the Pre-Partition days, Punjab Mail connected the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Ferozepur, Lahore and Peshawar. In those days, most British troops and businessmen would arrive at Mumbai and make their way to their destinations in the North-West Frontier Province by train. The train track from Ferozepur to Hussainiwala was an engineering fete, with Qaiser-e-Hind bridge, which stood over several round pillars (all of them intact even today, as depicted in the image above).

When Pakistan was carved out of British India, the border was drawn along the Sutlej River in Punjab and it passed through Hussainiwala Village.  Now, Sutlej River has changed its course over the years, running further East in Indian territory.  This made Hussainiwala an enclave into Pakistan, with the Sutlej River behind it.

Hussainiwala is named after a Muslim Peer (Saint), Hussaini Baba, whose shrine is located at the entrance to the Border Post.  This small hamlet came into prominence on the evening of 23 March 1931 when British soldiers tried to cremate the bodies of three young Indian freedom fighters – Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Raj Guru – who were hanged at the Lahore Central Jail.  The hanging, scheduled for 24 March was rescheduled a day earlier as the British feared a revolt in Lahore as the situation had become very tense.  They  secretly transported their bodies to Hussainiwala and while cremating them on the banks of the Sutlej, the locals got wind of it.  They assembled near the cremation site.  Fearing repercussions, British soldiers fled the scene, leaving behind the dead bodies which was cremated by the villagers.  This site today is a memorial – aptly called ‘Prerana Sthal‘ (Motivation Site).

Later Bhagat Singh’s mother, Vidyawati, and freedom fighter BK Dutt were cremated at this site as per their wishes. The cremation site is called ‘Shaheedi Sthal’ (Martyyrs’ Place).   This is where Indians from all over the country make an annual pilgrimage to honour the martyrs on March 23 as they observe ‘Shaheedi Diwas’ (Martyrs’ Day).

(Defences on the Indian side on Bund (wall) with a bunker as inset)

This enclave has witnessed three bloody battles between India and Pakistan,  with the very first one fought on 18 March 1956.  At that time, heavy floods had damaged Bela Bund and Sulaimanki Headworks at Hussainiwala and as the Indian engineers were repairing the damage, Pakistan Army launched an unprovoked attack at 9 PM.  4 JAK RIF was guarding the bund, and they fought  gallantly causing heavy causalities on the enemy.  This resulted in a hasty withdrawal by the attackers.

During partition of British India in 1947,  Hussainiwala, an enclave of 12 villages went to Pakistan. The railway line no more had trains running through Hussainiwala.  The railway station at Hussainiwala as it exists today is depicted in the image above.  Now Punjab Mail connects Mumbai to Ferozepur via Delhi.  Pakistan destroyed  Qaisere- Hind Bridge leaving behind the round pillars across the river. The Shaheedi Sthal was in a dilapidated state without any maintenance. In 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister, brokered an exchange deal and Hussainiwala came to India while Sulaimanki Headworks –  from where three major canals which supply irrigation water to a large area in Pakistan  Punjab originate –  went to Pakistan. India immediately restored Shaheedi Sthal to its due dignity and reverence.

During Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, 2 Maratha Light Infantry (Kali Panchwin) was deployed to defend Hussainiwala. The battalion fought valiantly to thwart a  frontal attack resulting in two enemy tanks destroyed and two captured, with several enemy killed. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Nolan was killed in enemy artillery shelling. The unit ensured that the Samadhi of Bhagat Singh was not desecrated by Pakistan Army. The battalion was visited by then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Defence Minister YB Chavan, Congress Party President  K Kamraj, the Chief of Army Staff and other senior officers. Kali Panchwin was awarded the battle honour ‘Hussainiwala’ for its role in the 1965 War. The citizens of Firozpur, in honour of the Battalion’s contribution in defending the Bridge and Firozpur town, presented a silver replica of the Hussaniwala Bridge.

During the 1971 War, it was 15 PUNJAB defending Hussainiwala enclave and the Memorial.  On 03 December, Pakistan Army launched a heavy attack.  The valiant Punjabis withstood the attack gallantly despite suffering heavy casualties until withdrawing on 04 December night.

Did the three freedom fighters, who laid down their lives for Indian independence in their wildest dreams ever visualise that post independence, there would be a partition on religious lines and it would all end up in three bloody wars at the very same site their ‘Samadhi’ stood?

Vertical Bank Notes in Canada

Vertical currency is a type of currency in which the orientation has been changed from the conventional horizontal orientation to a vertical orientation. why a vertical currency?

People generally handle and deal with currency notes vertically rather than horizontally. People ‘tell’ (count) the notes, holding the bundle vertically.  They tend to hold an open  wallet or purse vertically while searching for notes.   Most people hand over notes to one-another vertically rather than horizontally, especially when making purchases.  All machines like Automated Teller Machines (ATM), vending machines, etc accept notes vertically.  Thus it appears that vertical note makes more sense.  Bermuda, Brazil, Cape Verde, Israel, Switzerland, and Venezuela have adopted vertically oriented currency and now Canada has also joined them by issuing a vertically oriented $10 note.  Early Chinese banknotes were also vertical, due to the direction of Chinese writing.

Many countries have different colors for their notes as it is one of the best ways to distinguish one note from another.  USA issues only green backs which traces its history to 1861, when US government issued paper money as a means of financing the American Civil War.  The backside of these notes were printed with green ink as an anti-counterfeiting measure.  Green colour was chosen to avoid photographic duplicates, since the cameras of the time could only take black and white pictures.  Thus these notes came to be known as ‘Greenbacks.’  In order to cut down on manufacturing costs, US government shrunk the size of all paper money and instituted standardised designs for each denomination, which made it easier for people to tell real bills from fakes. The small-sized bills continued to be printed with green ink because green ink was plentiful and durable and green colour was associated with stability.

Various images on the notes relate to the value of each note.  These images depict the history of the nation, its culture,  its important personalities, historical events, national achievements, monuments etc, to be educational, for its citizens and also for the others handling the currency.

On 08 March 2018, on the International Women’s Day, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S Poloz unveiled the new $10 bank note featuring Viola Desmond.  It was the first time that an iconic Canadian woman is portrayed on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note.  She became the first black person and the first non-royal woman ever to appear on regularly circulating Canadian notes.  Please click here to read about my earlier post ‘Canadian Woman on Banknote.’

The note also features the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Also depicted on the note are an eagle feather—representing the ongoing journey toward recognising rights and freedoms for Indigenous Peoples in Canada—and an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This new $10 note is the first vertically oriented bank note issued in Canada. This will allow for a more prominent image of Viola Desmond and differentiates this new $10 note from the current polymer notes.

Viola Desmond was selected for the new $10 bank note by Minister Morneau following an open call to Canadians to nominate an iconic Canadian woman for the next redesigned bank note. A successful Black Nova Scotian businesswoman, Desmond is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks after she refused to leave her seat in the ‘whites only’ section at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in 1946.

Desmond, then aged 32, was dragged out of the theatre by police and jailed. The civil rights activist was convicted of defrauding the province of a one-penny tax — the difference in tax between a downstairs and upstairs ticket.

Segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia in 1954, in part because of the publicity generated by Desmond’s case.  Desmond died in 1965. The province of Nova Scotia apologised to her posthumously, 45 years later.


God @ Home

A Home appears to be  the most endangered species on earth, especially a  home that is governed by the spirit of God; where people relate to one another with the awareness of the presence of God; where everyone feels that God is part of every activity.

What is the difference between a ‘home’ and a ‘house?’  A house is a physical structure, mostly today made of concrete, wood and masonry, whereas a home is a place where a person ‘belongs.’  A home can be a house or an apartment, a thatched hut,  a tent, a boat, or a cave.

For soldiers, ‘Coming Home’ means being with their dear ones; to be with their friends and families; to express their love; to relax and have fun.  Soldiers cannot avail leave or vacation whenever they feel like. Their commanding officer has to grant them ‘leave’.  Their returning from active duty is called ‘Home Coming’ and not ‘House Coming.’  They come to their ‘Home Towns’ and not to the towns where their house is located.

A home is where the dad and mom are committed to each other in true love, where they nurture their children to know and follow the Lord.  This concept of a real home is being threatened by the TV serials of the day, with each channel beaming serials about ‘artificial’ homes with members wearing too much make up and always over-dressed; beaming them with vengeance to the society and to each other.  The folks in today’s home watch them without fail, why even the ritual of a family prayer is rescheduled based on the timings of these serials.

A family and a home is not a private limited company of the parents, but is a public company where the parents and children, all have equal stakes. Along with the stakes comes duties and responsibilities. It is mandatory for the parents to ensure that they do their bit and also that the children do theirs.  Making the children do chores at home, making them participate in all family activities, ensuring that their academic pursuits are successful, encouraging them to pursue their hobbies and interest and also their sporting interests and above all communicating with them to achieve the aforesaid is what the parents got to do.

‘Matha Pitha Guru Deva’ translates into most Indian languages as ‘Mother Father Teacher God’. It owes its origin to the Vedic times and is said to be the greatest truth. It is the order of reverence as laid down by the Hindu philosophy.  Today’s generation may call it ‘Matha Pitha Google Deva’

First comes the mother (Matha), obviously as she is the one who carried us in her womb for ten months; developed as into a human being from a mere cell; who gave her essence to create us and brought us into this world.  Then is the father (Pitha), as he has contributed 23 chromosomes. Nearly half your traits are inherited from the father. The mother and the father took us to the teacher (Guru), and it is the guru(s), through their teachings, develop our minds and channelise our thinking. All the three have a very important role in identifying our Gods (Deva) and bringing us closer to the God.

How does this “God-centeredness” play itself out in the practical details of everyday life? To a certain extent it expresses itself differently from situation to situation. Every family, like every individual, is a poem  written by God, and every poem is unique. But there are some common features we can expect to find in a genuinely God-centered home.

A good home is orderly where peace always prevails.  It is simple and is never in chaos.  Violence and confusion of the outside world got to stay out.  The members of the household must decide on what to come in.  The parents got to ensure that the decision to allow ‘what to come in’ must be a joint one, allowing the children to express their point of view and accepting them wherever feasible, even if it at the cost of discomfort to the parents.  Every effort must be to ensure that all family activities are aimed at building the ‘Family Spirit’ where each member values and respects others, irrespective of their age and status.  Joy is characteristic of a true home. It is much more than happiness and joy is deep-rooted in us.  Every day life of every family member would be different. There would be many obstacles and hardships for each member to circumvent.  Here, each family member got to support each other and show the way to get through them.

A home should be safe place where the children can ‘mess up.’  It is surely not a place for ‘perfection.’  The elders must guide the children to come out of the ‘mess’ they create, so that they are better prepared to face the world outside full of hatred, judgment, sarcasm and violence.   A home should be a retreat where the members can find comfort, rest and healing.  A place where children can retreat after an event or a failure, where they will not be rebuked or made fun of, especially after a failure or after a bad incident.  A scary, stick wielding parent, emanating anger and ever ready to pounce on a kid, is surely not a place any kid would like to return even on a normal or a successful day.

A good home is a place of service.  It got to be full of  kindness, respect, humility, and love. This is where parents discover that serving each other and helping each other is primary.  Parents and children helping each other in daily chores like house cleaning, cooking, laundry – it is all sacred and is the way for a good family.  This attitude of helpfulness is carried forward to the outside world and it all begins at home.  The children learn from parents and build a positive attitude of selflessness.

A God-centered home is a place where the spiritual disciplines are practiced. It provides an environment where every member of the family learns how to live by studying the scriptures, praying, meditating. etc.  A good home is based on God’s purposes for every member of the household. There is a need for every family member to define his Dreams, Aims and Goals.  The children must be guided to choose their own educational and career paths and parents should never lead them holding their nose.  The tendency of only ‘Engineer or Doctor’ must be avoided.  The children got to explore and develop their academic career based on their aptitude, passion and interests.  Parents must ensure that they do not try and live their life through their children.

Always remember “God is the head of the home, an unseen guest at every meal, and a silent listener to every conversation.

Military Lounge @ Buffalo Airport

On 04 February 2018, I traveled to Buffalo Airport, USA to pick up Reshma Sameer, daughter of Veteran Brigadier Azad Sameer. To read more about Brigadier Sameer,Please Click Here.

Buffalo Airport is 160 km from our home, about two hours of drive by car.  She was scheduled to land at 2 PM.  It was snowing in the morning and was foggy.  Hence, I left home by 10 AM, catering adequate time for a slow drive,  breaks, and crossing at the Canada-US border.  We generally cater for about 30 minutes for border crossing formalities.

As I pulled up at the US Customs & Border Protection counter, there was hardly anyone waiting there to cross.  I drove up to the counter and the officer manning the post came out.  As I was handing over my passport he asked “Sir, aren’t you watching the Super Bowl?”  “I am off to Buffalo Airport to pick up our family friend”  I answered.  Returning my passport he said “Drive safely, have a nice day, Sir.”  This quick clearance must have been due to the ‘Veteran’ Licence Plate of my car.

The Super Bowl is the final game of the National Football League (NFL), played on the first Sunday in February.  It is one of the most watched TV event in United States with more than 100 million people from the United States alone watching it.  Every year the TV commercials, known as Super Bowl ads attract a lot of interest and also money.  This year it featured Hollywood stars Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish, Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman.

I reached the Airport at noon and was looking for a place to spend two hours at my disposal.  I picked a book I had in the car and my reading glasses after parking the car in the parking lot.  As I entered the arrival area, I read a sign ‘Freedom Lounge – A Courtesy Centre for Military Service Members and Veterans.’

This lounge was setup in 2016 by WNY Freedom Lounge Inc in recognition of  sacrifices by the US Military Service personnel.  It ensures a welcoming environment for traveling Military personnel & Veterans at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The lounge is open to members of the military, veterans and their families free of charge.

WNY Freedom Lounge Inc is a private, non-profit organization, headed by Veteran Lieutenant Colonel Dan Walther of Kenmore, who raised funds and made arrangements for the lounge. The lounge provides morale and recreational services to members of the US Military and their families. The lounge offers comfortable seating, reading material, TV, phone, snacks, and internet access. It is staffed by veteran volunteers, veteran organizations and military supporters.

I was welcomed in by Veteran Chief Petty Officer Ronald of the US Navy.  After exchanging usual pleasantries, he ushered me in and showed me three rooms – a reception area, a kitchenette and a small living room with sofas and chairs.  He opened the fridge, well stocked with beverages and asked “What would you like to have Sir?”  “Black Coffee” I replied.  He brewed a cup for me in the coffee maker and we sat down and talked.

He said that this lounge has been created for transitioning Military personnel, who  often have significant wait times between connecting flights.  Most Military personnel often travel alone and they need a place to rest.  The lounge is staffed and maintained fully by volunteers.  It is generally open from 9 AM to 10 PM and during other times, the Information Desk staff would open it.

We spoke about all matters two Veterans would speak – about our service in the Forces, places served, family, children, aspirations, dreams, et al.  At the end I realised that we Veterans – from US and India – why from world all over – speak the very same language.  The Military is in our blood and it cannot be shed easily.

Wind Can Blow Either Way

(With Santosh the evening I  hung my boots in July 2004)

Great experiences make military life marvelous – even for the family members of soldiers. It lasts a long time, much after we hang our boots and even after we migrate to another continent.

Marina migrated to Canada in March 2002 and I took over command of the Regiment in June 2002. For someone who served his entire regimental life in a Medium Regiment operating Bofors guns to suddenly land in a Surveillance Regiment equipped with radars, drones and survey gadgets – it was an altogether different experience. I had to learn everything from scratch and had to familiarise with the officers and soldiers.

The regiment was an excellent outfit.  I set off with training on various surveillance equipment, starting with radars.  I had to convert from a Medium Gunner to a Surveillance Gunner. The officers and soldiers helped me a lot to imbibe both the art and the science of surveillance, many a times explaining the procedures and drills repeatedly.  I read all the operator and training manuals of all  equipment and in two weeks time, I was proficient enough to handle them.

In the meantime, I spent extra hours with the soldiers to familiarise with them, their backgrounds, their families, their training needs, administration and documentation.  On realising that there were gaps in soldiers’ documentation, I set out to automate the same with the assistance from a few soldiers.  We captured basic data on computers and developed an easy to handle software.  This resulted in all  officers having all data of soldiers on their computers and also we could effectively plan their training, promotion, pay & allowances, leave, etc.

My Radio Operator Santosh Kodag (a Maratha) took charge of the household, but was surprised that my family had not come along.  Commanding Officer living alone in a fabulous peace station like Devlali – Santosh realised something was wrong.

Devlali is one of the most relaxed military stations near Nasik city – about 150 km from Mumbai.  It has a colonial charm and is clean with fresh air and lots of greenery and open spaces.  The climate is fabulous all through the year.  The schools in the area are well known for their educational standard.  The Cantonment offers all recreational facilities like horse riding, swimming, squash, tennis, golf, club, etc – all that goes with a good military station.  The School of Artillery is located here where all Gunner officers are trained.  Hence, it is always abuzz with Young Officers and also newly married young couples.

A week after landing in Devlali and when Santosh felt that I was well settled, one evening, handing over a glass of whisky to me said “I know your wife is away in Canada and your children are in Kerala. Why don’t you get the children here?”

“Our daughter is in Grade 4 and our son in LKG. I will not get adequate time to take care of them. My mother is taking care of them well in Kerala” I replied.

To this Santhosh said “Why don’t you get your mother and your kids here. I will take care of everything. I know your mother is pretty old. You do not have to worry.”

I thought for a while and then called up my mother about my plans to shift her and children to Devlali. She said “I was also thinking about it. My duty is to take care of the children and it would always be better that you are around.”

I booked the tickets for my mother and children to travel to Devlali and Santosh went to Kottayam, Kerala to accompany them.

Santosh now took over everything – handing over the medication pills to my mother and also taking her for her regular medical  appointments with the Military Hospital – getting our son Nikhil ready for school (Nidhi was independent by then)- serving breakfast for all, packing up lunch boxes, etc.

After two years, I relinquished command and also hung up my boots and migrated to Canada.

Now Santosh is married with two kids, serving in the regiment as a Havildar (Sergeant). Every year when we visit India, we send a parcel of gifts for him, his wife and children.

This February we are traveling to India to attend the Golden Jubilee celebrations of my parent unit – the Medium Regiment. The Surveillance Regiment has already deputed Havildar Santosh to receive us and accompany us to the Medium Regiment.

Obviously, Marina has been busy shopping for gifts for Santosh and his family. Marina has met Santosh only twice – when we traveled to India – and she has been ever thankful to him for taking care of the children in her absence.

I recently asked Nikhil as to whether he remembered anything of Devlali days and he said “The only person I remember is Santosh Bhaiyya – the poor guy, I gave him a difficult time – especially when he tried to feed me and get me ready for school.”

Wind can blow either way in the Indian Army. A soldier can soothe the pains of his Commanding Officer too.



Super Blue Blood Moon

On 31 January 2018, it is going to be a Super Blue Blood Moon – crossover of three individual lunar occurrences happening at the same exact time..  It is a lunar spectacle, a stellar show in the sky that night.  Last super blue blood Moon happened way back on March 31, 1866.

Social media will be abuzz with all possible details and explanations and also many e-rumours, some grotesque and some funny.  Many conspiracy theorists will claim this spectacular lunar display as a sign that end of the world is coming near.

To study this phenomenon, one needs to look at the moon’s orbit.  It is elliptical shaped, inclined at about 5 degrees.  It is offset from the centre with the closest point from the earth called ‘Perigee’ and the farthest ‘Apogee’.  The moon revolves around the earth along this orbit in 27.55 days.  As the moon revolves, it also rotates along its axis in very same 27.55 days.  Thus we see the same face of the moon every time.

New moon waxes to a full moon and then wanes back to new moon.  This takes 29.53 days and is called a lunar month.  It is due to revolution of the moon around the earth and the earth’s revolution around the sun.

A super-moon is when a full moon occurs when the moon is at its Perigee.  The New Year Day of 2018 was ushered in by a super-moon.  A super-moon appears around 7% bigger than an average full moon  and 12% to 14% bigger than a micro-moon – when a full moon occurs around Apogee.  Super-moon appears the biggest of all full moons as it is the closest it can get to earth.

Next super-moon will appear after 15 revolutions by the moon around the earth (15×27.55) – about 413 days  as it would coincide with a full moon after 14 lunar months (14×29.53) – about 413 days (one year and 48 days).  Thus we can calculate past and future super-moons.

The term  super-moon is believed to have been coined  by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 in Dell Horoscope magazine .  It gained credence when the media titled the full moon of March 19, 2011 as super-moon.

The idiom ‘once in a blue-moon‘ refers to a rare occurrence, but in fact it appears once every 2.7 years, because the lunar month – from new moon to new moon-  is 29.53 days compared to 30 or 31 days of our calendar month.  Hence February (with 28 or 29 days) can never witness a blue-moon.

12 lunar months  (12×29.53) makes it 354.36 days, against the 365.25 days in a calendar year,  The difference of (365.25-354.36) 10.89 days adds up over 2.7 years (2 years 8 months) to about 29.5  days, which is a lunar month.  Last blue-moon occurred on July 31, 2015.

2018 has another specialty. January has a blue-moon on 31st.  As February this year has only 28 days, there will be no full moon in February.  This results in March having two full moons on the 2nd and 31st being a blue-moon again. Double blue-moons occur about 3 to 5 times in a century. The next occurrence will be 2037, while the last was in 1999.

Super-blue-moon on January 31 will coincide with a total lunar eclipse, which is colloquially referred to as  a  blood-moon or a red-moon.  The Moon will turn a shade of red as observed from many parts of the world as the earth moves between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow on the moon’s surface.  The moon takes 3 hours and 23 minutes to cross the earth’s shadow.

Even though the moon is in the umbral region of eclipse, some of the red spectrum of visible light  emanating from the sun (longest wavelength) tends to skim over the earth and reach the moon. This red spectrum is reflected by the moon when it is passing through the umbral region.  Thus the moon appears red with a copper-tone during an eclipse.

Lunar eclipse, partial or total, can only occur on a full moon day as that is the only time, the earth may come in line between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow on the moon.  Eclipse does not happen every full moon as the earth’s orbit around the sun is not in the same plane as the moon’s orbit around the earth.

(Image Courtesy NASA)

Eastern North America can see beginning stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the west before sunrise of January 31.  Portions of the Middle East and far-eastern Europe can view the ending stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the east after sunset.  Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the eclipse will already be underway as the moon rises.  In India it would start at 6:21 PM on January 31 2018 and will be visible till 7:37 PM.  South America, most of Europe and Africa will not witness this trilogy.


Canada’s African Lion Safari


It has become a ritual for me to take our guests to the African Lion Safari, located in Cambridge, Ontario.  I have even lost count on the number of times I have been there.  I can for sure claim that I am now an accomplished tour guide for anyone visiting the Safari.  When Air Vice Marshal TD Joseph (Joe) and Sophie Joseph came calling in May 2016, how could I omit the African Lion Safari from the itinerary.

African Lion Safari, a family owned private entrepreneurship, is a picturesque and fun-filled Wildlife Park that offers not only a Safari trip of 9 km, but also conducts educative shows on birds and elephants.    This conservation theme-park showcases many different and rare animals from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The drive through the game reserve will get you as close as you can ever get with fascinating wild life.

At the Safari, animals are exhibited in an entirely different way – visitors are caged in their cars or tour bus, and the animals are free to roam the 5 to 50 acre reserve, in their natural habitat.  The Safari Trail comprises seven game reserves that showcase a diverse collection of species such as lions, cheetahs, baboons, rhinos, ostriches, giraffes, and many other exotic and native species.

In case you take your own car, you are in better control of the time that you spend observing and photographing the animals, and it affords a great deal of flexibility. There is a  guided tour on the Safari bus, which takes just over an hour.  The tour guides offer unique and information about the animals you encounter.  Visitors who spend a full day at the African Lion Safari, often exercise both options. I prefer the drive in our car and surely there are a few risks involved.

It is worthwhile to note some interesting facts about the founder of this wonderful place. Late Colonel GD Dailley founded the Safari with a vision to create an environment for self-sustaining populations of declining wildlife species.  It opened with 40 lions  in three reserves in 1969.  Today the park houses in excess of 1,000 animals comprised of more than 100 species.


Colonel Gordon Debenham Dailley  (July 24, 1911 – May 3, 1989), was born in Winnipeg, Canada and was educated at St John’s College and at the University of Manitoba.   He was a member of the team which won the gold medal in ice hockey for Great Britain at the 1936 Winter Olympics. The team consisted mostly of British-born Canadian citizens, as well as Dailley, whose only justification for playing for Britain lay in his long years of living in England.  He led the team to European Championships in 1937 and 1938,  after which he left hockey to join the Canadian Army.

Colonel Dailley served in England throughout World War II. After the war, he remained with the Canadian Forces and held a number of posts in Ottawa and served on the United Nations Armistice Commission in Korea. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1955 and was assigned to Belgrade, Yugoslavia as the Canadian Military Attaché.  In August 1960 he was appointed the base commander at Gagetown in New Brunswick.  He retired from the army in 1964.

After about an hour’s drive from our home, we generally reach the Safari gates at 9:55 AM, five minutes before the gates open.  In order to avoid the rush, it would be better to visit the park on a weekday, that too well before the schools close for summer vacations.  This gives all the time o watch and photograph the animals as there is no pressure from the vehicles following.

The first reserve is Nairobi Sanctuary which houses elegant birds like the crowned crane and white stork  with llamas and robust Watusi cattle from Africa with its large distinctive horns that can reach up to 8 feet.

Next is the Simba Lion Country, home to a large pride of lions, perched on large rocks or in the shade of trees.

If you are lucky, you can capture the lions in such poses too.

There is a separate enclosure for the White Lions.  They are same as their African Lion cousins with a rare color mutation.  They are found in the Timbavati area of South Africa.


Adjacent to the lion sanctuary  is  the Duma Cheetah Preserve.  African Lion Safari has been very successful with breeding cheetahs, who are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, with over 40 cubs to date.


The most entertaining reserve is Wankie Bushland Trail where you will encounter baboons.  This is where the risk of taking your car lies.  These baboons have developed special skills to pull at wipers or peel rubber stripping or to simply perch atop the car’s roof and take a ride around their habitat.


The next enclosure is the Rocky Ridge Veldt representing the Savannahs of Africa.  It is home to a mix of species from the curious ostrich to the highly endangered Rothschild giraffes, as well as  zebras, eland and rhinos.


The ostriches and giraffes come very close to the cars and this shot of the giraffe saying hello through the moon-roof  of our car.

The last reserve takes you to North America which houses animals like elk and the bison.


There are also a number of entertaining, educative  and informative shows starting with the Elephant Swim.  The keepers bring the Asian elephants, all cutely holding the tail of one in front by their trunk. They range from the oldest at 35 to the youngest at two years


Next show, the ‘Birds of Paradise’ where various birds showcase their incredible intelligence like a crow cleaning up tin cans to put in a blue recycle bin to a macaw deciphering colours, as well as the red-legged Seriemas,  a long legged bird from South America, showing off their natural abilities.  The Serena displayed its skill at killing a snake by picking it up and throwing it repeatedly hard on to the ground.  They also showcased a wide assortment of birds like macaws, emu, an Indian bat,  peacock and ended the show with a talking and singing parrot.


The next is another great show, the ‘Birds of Prey’.  The flying and hunting skills predator birds are on display here.  The birds include marabou stork, a bald and golden eagle, a couple of owls and peregrine falcon ,the fastest moving creature in the animal kingdom.


Elephant Round-Up show is a display of elephant’s impressive strength, agility and intelligence.  One even paints a t-shirt in the show, holding the paint brush in its trunk.  It was heartening to see that not even once was an elephant shouted at or goaded with a pointed metal rod as seen in some parts of Asia. African Lion Safari is home to the largest Asian elephant herd in any zoological facility in North America and has one of the most successful breeding programme.  The Safari announced the birth of Jake in 2009, a healthy male calf , through artificial insemination, the first ever in Canada.


African Queen boat cruise piloted by one of the parks guides, circles a lake to see exotic birds, primates, ring-tailed lemurs, ground horn-bills, spider monkeys, black and white ruffed lemur and endangered Angolan Colombus monkeys that reside on the islands.


The shows were conducted mostly by university students, many pursuing their degrees in zoology related fields.  What an opportunity and environment for these students to earn, learn and apply their knowledge and also improve their confidence levels, communication skills and self-esteem?

How do these animals, mostly from the tropics, survive through the harsh Canadian winter?  The Safari has large barn-like centrally heated housing where the animals can go in and out.  As per the Safari staff, the Cheetahs love playing in the snow and enjoy the winters.

Since its inception in 1969, the Park has been successful in breeding 30 species, considered endangered, and 20 species, considered threatened. The original idea of maintaining self-sustaining populations of species in decline is still the Park’s priority, all while providing its visitors with a safe, entertaining, and educational environment.