The Seven Books of Remembrance

BooksofRemembrance copy

We took Guillaume Le Floch, the French exchange student to visit the Canadian Parliament building at Ottawa in August 2014. During the tour we entered the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower. The Memorial Chamber is a small, quiet room that houses seven Books of Remembrance which record the names of the men and women who have given their lives in military service to Canada. The Memorial Chamber is a beautifully crafted room with a vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows and intricate carvings depicting Canada’s record of war.
These books contain the names of more than 118,000 Canadians who fought in wars and died either during or after them. These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the country in uniform. The Government of Canada has always been in the forefront in honouring the men and women in uniform. The seven Books of Remembrance ensures that their names are etched in the history of the country and are always well preserved and cared for.
These Books of Remembrance represent the highest expressions of modern workmanship and artistry. The craftsmanship, heraldic illumination, calligraphy, water coloring, bookbinding and leather tooling give the books a special look and quality unequalled the world over.
The first book is the largest of the Books, containing 66,655 names, of those who died in is the First World War. The second book contains 44,893 names of those who did the extreme sacrifice in the Second World War. The third is the Korean War Book of Remembrance which commemorates the 516 men and women who died during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.
The fourth book is the South African War/Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance, containing names of nearly 300 Canadian volunteers, who gave their lives in these early campaigns in the late 1800s This book was commissioned on May 31, 1962, the anniversary of the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging, which ended the war in South Africa.
The fifth is the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance which commemorates the men and women of the Merchant Marine who died while serving Canada at sea during both World War I and II. The sixth is the New Foundland Book of Remembrance which honours more than 2300 men and women who sacrificed their lives in both World War I and World War II, before Newfoundland became a Canadian province in 1949.
The seventh is the In Service of Canada Book of Remembrance This book records the names of those who died since October 1947 in military service to Canada (except in the Korean War), either in Canada or abroad.
On July 1, 1917 , then Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden dedicated a site in the Centre Block of the Houses of Parliament as a memorial to the debt of our forefathers and to the valour of those Canadians who fought in the First World War. Two years later the Prince of Wales laid the corner stone of “The Tower of Victory and Peace” as it was originally known. The intention was for all the names of the Canadian soldiers to be engraved on the walls of the chamber, but it was soon realized that there would not be enough space on the walls to contain more than 66,000 names.
Thus resulted the Book of Remembrance and the design of the Tower was altered to create a chamber to accommodate the Books. The Prince of Wales on August 3, 1927 unveiled the altar; a gift from the British Government, upon which the Book of The First World War rests this day.
James Purves was the artist chosen for the creation of the first book. James Purves died in 1940, at which time only the preliminary work had been done and only one page was fully illuminated and illustrated. Alan Beddoe, an assistant of Purves, took over and completed the book in 1942. By the time the first book was completed, Canada was already in the middle of the Second World War. Today this book lies open on the Altar in the centre of the Memorial Chamber, covered by a glass case and with kneeling statuettes of praying angels at its corners.
In 1948, Beddoe was selected to create the Book of Remembrance for the Second World War. He changed the script style and included approximately 75 names per page as compared to 125 names per page in the First World War Book. He also incorporated many pages commemorating particular actions, battles, and places that were significant to Canadians during the war. The Second World War Book of Remembrance was placed in the Memorial Chamber on Remembrance Day of 1957 (November 11).
The names of those lost are inscribed in the Korean War Book of Remembrance, which includes a page decorated with the United Nations symbol surrounded by the Arms of the 17 countries which participated in the United Nations Forces. The Book was dedicated in the Memorial Chamber on November 11, 1962.
The Nile Expedition in 1884 marked the first time Canada took part in a war overseas. Four hundred volunteers skilled in river navigation served in the expedition; sixteen gave their lives. The South African War broke out on October 11, 1899. This war marked the first occasion in which large contingents of Canadian troops served abroad. More than 7,000 Canadians volunteered to fight in the South African War. Almost 300 names are listed in the South African War / Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance. The Book was dedicated and placed in the Memorial Chamber on May 31, 1962, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging, which ended the war in South Africa.
Every morning, at eleven o’clock, the pages of the Books of Remembrance are turned by a member of the House of Commons Protective Service Staff. A calendar was devised so that each page of each book is turned once a year. Some pages are left exposed for several days at a time on or near a date of the anniversary of the actions they commemorate. During the ceremony a guard in marches in front of the First World War Book, bows and salutes and then marches over to the book on the right and turn the page. This process is repeated for all of the Books of Remembrance and is done in a counter-clockwise direction around the Chamber.
The seven Books of Remembrance are testaments to the valour, sacrifice and selflessness of those Canadians who have died in military service. Any country that honours its soldiers will always go a long way ahead as Canada has proved.

Cross Country Race

CrossCountry

The first cross-country  race (Marathon in North America), I ran was as a Grade 5 student at Sainik (Military) School Amaravathinagar. It was a 5 km run along the base of the Western Ghats on the North side of the school. With every passing year, the distance increased. with it the difficulty. On joining the National Defence Academy (NDA), the cross country race became a ritual in every semester (half-year) and thus I ran six races in three years of about 14 km. During the first 10 years of service in the Army, I ran seven races. On reaching Canada, I ran two such races, in support of charitable causes.

Running a marathon is one of the largest physical challenges you can set, often it is more of a mental challenge – the mental strength to complete the race despite the panting, tiredness and pains. It results in an accomplishment every time, irrespective of your age. It does not matter even if you are the last, you are part of an elite club of people that have completed the race successfully.

At the NDA, the cross country race was more of a team event. The Squadron which won the trophy every semester claimed more bragging rights than the cadet who came first or second. It was a matter of pride for the cadets that their Squadron did well and hence every cadet put their heart, soul and body into doing well at the race.

The practice for the race at NDA would begin nearly a month prior with all cadets running a full race almost every evening and morning on Sundays and holidays. The final race would generally be on a Sunday morning, starting at the famous Glider Dome and ending there. One has witnessed cadets completing the race despite physical injuries – a cadet finished the race after he fractured his leg halfway. There has been many cadets running the race with fever. All to ensure that they do not bring in negative points for their Squadron and let the team down.

In 1987, our Regiment was located in Gurgaon near Delhi and we formed part of the Brigade stationed at Meerut – about 50 km from Delhi. Cross country race was a closely contested competition among the regiments and our unit had the rare distinction of winning it for the previous five years. 1987 was the final year at Gurgaon as the unit had received its move order to the Kashmir Valley.

Our Commanding Officer, Colonel Mahaveer Singh called Late Captain Pratap Singh, Maha Vir Chakra and self to his office in March 1987 and briefed us that we had to win the cross country competition for him. We both were Captains then and by virtue of being the senior, I became the team captain. Among young subalterns, one was away on a training course and the other admitted in the Military Hospital.

The team to be fielded for the competition was to consist of one officer and 15 soldiers. We started practicing for the race – two officers and 20 soldiers. Every morning at 5 we would be picked up from our residence and the team used to be dropped off about 20 km from the regimental location. Now everyone had no option but to run back to the regiment. The faster one did it, lesser the agony.

After a month’s practice, we decided to move to Meerut a week before the race to carry out a few practices there. The race was scheduled for 11 April, Saturday to commence at 6 AM. The day we had planned to leave, Pratap’s mother took seriously ill and he had to hospitalise her and take care of her. I told Pratap to reach Meerut by Thursday evening the latest.

As Pratap had not practiced for the last week, I had made up my mind to run the race. Pratap landed up in Meerut on his motorbike on Thursday evening. On Friday I showed him the route and told him to be stand-by.

In the evening we reached the Officers’ Mess for dinner and all the young officers participating in the race were there. Seeing the senior Captains set to run the race, Lieutenant Atul Mishra wanted to know as to who amongst us was running the race. Pratap said that the person who woke up first would wake up the other and the latter would run the race. Everyone believed it as the same was narrated by Atul after a decade.

After the race, I received the trophy from the Brigade Commander and after a few minutes there was Pratap with his motorbike asking me to get on to the pillion. We rode off and as I was too tired, I hugged on to him and slept off. I woke up only on reaching our regimental location after over an hour of drive.

We handed over the trophy to Colonel Mahaveer, who appreciated us for the efforts and wanted to know where the rest of the team was. Pratap said “now do not come out with your clichéd question as to who is commanding the unit, I have ordered them to relax at Meerut for the next two days and also to visit the Nauchandi Mela”, Colonel Mahaveer passed his unique smile as a sign of approval for Pratap’s actions.

Nauchandi Mela is held every year at Meerut in April-May. It is a rare symbol of communal harmony with Hindu and Muslim shrines – Nauchandi temple and the Dargah (shrine) of Muslim saint, Bala Mian. Visitors pay obeisance at both the shrines irrespective of the religion they belong to.  The mela, which originally brought sellers and buyers of utensils and domestic animals together, now includes various kinds of goods, entertainment and food.

Colonel Mahaveer had a knack of delegation and had immense trust in all of us. He always encouraged the young officers to be decisive and whenever we goofed it up, he always held our hands and took the responsibility for our actions.

Tubectomy VS Vasectomy

vasectomy

The death toll rose to over 12, three days after the sterilisation camp organised by the Chattisgarh state government in India, It was a case of mere medical negligence and violations of guidelines and procedures outlined for such operations. Of the 83 women who underwent laparoscopic tubectomies, over 50 were hospitalised with about 25 in a critical condition.

Amir Khan in his in his show explored the subject of ‘Male Chauvinism’ in India and on the phenomenon of ‘uncontrolled masochism’ that has plagued Indian society for a long time. This medical tragedy is also an outcome of a similar case of ‘masochism’,

Birth control is the need of the hour in India and there are many non-invasive methods available, but for sure they are costly, The poor cannot afford it and the governments cannot fund it. Hence the invasive procedures are needed.

During a vasectomy, doctors numbs a man’s scrotum with local anesthesia and make one small incision. A part of the male anatomy responsible for transporting sperm from the testes is then severed, and the ends are stitched. .

During a tubectomy, a woman’s fallopian tubes are either blocked or cut entirely. This prevents her eggs from reaching the uterus, where they have the potential to be fertilized. This procedure uses spinal anesthesia and requires two incisions to be made below the navel, and cut through many layers, which allows doctors to have direct access to a woman’s fallopian tubes.

Vasectomies are not considered to be major abdominal surgeries and also much less invasive than tubectomies. Recovery times for vasectomies are shorter and the risk of complications is greatly reduced. Women who have undergone tubectomies are at a higher risk of bladder problems in the future, while there is no known increase of risk in men who have undergone vasectomies.

Overall, in terms of both cost and safety, vasectomies are a much smarter choice than tubectomies. Unfortunately, there are far fewer men getting vasectomies than women getting tubectomies worldwide. This comes from the unfair assumption that women should play more of a role in the birth control process than men.

On assuming command of our regiment, a regiment I had never served before and equipped with the modern surveillance equipment I had never seen. To familiarise with the soldiers, we captured all the data of our soldiers and developed an automated system for various administrative and training purposes. On analysing the data I found that most soldiers were not in receipt of the special increment for promoting small family norms even though they had two grownup children.

Further analysis revealed that the troops were very reluctant to undergo vasectomy and they had many an unfounded fears stemming from the usual misinformation passed on by the three ‘JIs’ of the regiment – the Pundit JI (Religious Teacher). Master JI and the Babu Ji (Clerk).

On further interactions with the affected soldiers I realised that many feared that their physical performance would be drastically reduced and would not be in a position to perform well in various Physical Efficiency Tests a soldier has to qualify. Some feared that their sexual performances would be drastically affected and the most significant fear was about the reactions of those back home when they learn that the man has undergone ‘castration’ and not the wife.

We were not posted with a Regimental Medical Officer (Doctor) and we had Naik (Corporal) Madhu, the Nursing Assistant, Thus he became the Commanding Officer’s advisor on health, hygiene and sanitation. Madhu had two children and was not in receipt of the special increment for promoting small-family norms. I called Madhu for a discussion and he confided that he wanted to get the vasectomy done, but has been procrastinating it. It was concluded that Madhu will get his vasectomy done the next week.

Sainik Sammelan (Commanding Officer’s Monthly address to all troops of the regiment), I presumed was the best platform to educate our soldiers. I believed in a short 10 minute interaction as I always felt that it was mostly boring and many a time disgusting to listen to a hour long sermon. Many of the soldiers in my younger days too shared the same thought. (Many Commanding Officers will never agree with me). In the 10 minutes I addressed the soldiers, the last five minutes was spent on educating them on various aspects of hygiene, sanitation, children education, parenting, medical concerns, etc. Post retirement many of the soldiers confided that they looked forward to the latter half of my address as it was both educative and thought provoking.

The Sainik Sammelan after Madhu had his vasectomy, I had him giving out his testimony. He explained the entire procedure and the little pain he had. He also said that it did not affect his physical efficiency in that he had secured ‘Excellent’ in the Physical Efficiency Test conducted the previous day and the procedure has in no way affected his family life or his relationship with his wife. Madhu added that he was granted 14 days of Sick Leave after the vasectomy, but he came back to work the third day as he had got bored lying on the bed in his home.

Now I explained to all the soldiers the agony their wives will have to undergo for a prolonged period after a tubectomy. I further said that no one back home will ever know that you have undergone vasectomy unless you tell them so.

Within six months we had all the soldiers who qualified for the special increment undergo the vasectomy operation and many said that they would not have done so if the Commanding Officer had not educated them about it.

Arithmetic of Licence Plates

licenceplate

Our son Nikhil in his Grade 3 found division a bit difficult. Along with the division difficulty came the prime numbers and factors. We decided to solve the problem by making arithmetic interesting by me giving out various tips that I had learned while at school, especially from Mr Venkitesha Murthy, our Grade 7 mathematics teacher. Mr Murthy taught us mathematics through various stories, anecdotes and riddles. He also inspired us with the achievements of great Indian Mathematicians like Ramanujam, Bhaskara and Aryabhatta. It took me some time and effort to grasp the concept of factors and prime numbers even while in Grade 7 and hence Nikhil’s difficulty with the same was not at all surprising to me.

Everyday Nikhil and I spend almost half an hour in the car – dropping him off at school, picking up after school, commute to the swimming pool or tennis court or for music class in the evening. Nikhil called it a ‘father-son’ time and used it to discuss all those which he thought would attract a comment or a spoof from his mother or sister. This practice continues to date and the subject kept changing as Nikhil grew up to his current Grade 12.

To solve the riddle of division and factors, I came up with a game. In our province, Ontario, most licence plates on vehicles has four alphabets followed by three digits. Three digit numbers can be easily handled by a Grade 3 student. Any vehicle we came across on our drive, we used to analyse the number.

To begin with was to see whether the number was even or odd and hence conclude its divisiblity by ‘2’. Then it was to add all the digits and if the resultant sum was either ‘3’ or ‘6’ or ‘9’, it was to be concluded that the number is divisible by three.

In case the number was an even one and the last two digits (ten and unit place) was divisible by ‘4’, then ‘4’ is a factor. If the unit place is either ‘5’ or ‘0’, the number is divisible by ‘5’. In case ‘2’ and ‘3’ are factors, then ‘6’ will also be a factor. If the sum of the digits resulted in ‘9’, the number is divisible by ‘9’. If the unit place has ‘0’, then ’10’ is a factor.

With this game on, every day we would analyse about 10 licence plates and with that the problem of division, factors and prime numbers were resolved to a great extent.

The first car my wife bought for me on arrival in Canada was a new Honda Accord and when I went to take the delivery, the agency had already procured the licence plate for me. The number was ‘BBZW 139’. In North America, licence plates move with the owner, not with the vehicle. If you sell or change vehicles, you keep the licence plates and put them on your new vehicle. Hence this number plate remained with even though I changed three cars.

The number also reflects a bit on my personality as 139 is an odd number and also a prime number. It has only 1 and itself as a factor and is not fully divisible by any other number. I believe that I cannot be affected by any factors or divided by any other than 1 – the God Almighty – and myself.

The digits ‘139’ fascinated me as it added to 13, my day of birth – 13 March. My school Roll Number was ‘931’, which again added up to 13 and my Defence Account Number was 161005, which again added up to 13 and the list goes on. This is mere coincidence and has nothing to do with the ‘unlucky’ 13 and it has never bought the lady luck to my side and I cannot claim to be unlucky also. I do not believe in numerology or astrology and hence this trail of 13 never ever cast its bad luck on me.

’13’ is also known as ‘Baker’s Dozen’ – instead of ’12’, bakers always packed 13 for a dozen in Britain. In the mid-thirteenth century, Britain enacted the statute of Assize of Bread and Ale, which set the relationship between the price of wheat and what the subsequent price of a loaf of bread from a certain quantity of wheat should be. If the baker accidentally cheated a customer by giving them less, they were subject to extremely severe fines and punishment. In order to avoid such accidents, bakers started to count 13 for a dozen.

Children turn teenagers when they turn 13 and we are all aware of what it means.   Apollo 13 is the only unsuccessful moon mission. An oxygen tank exploded and the survival of the astronauts on board was hanging in balance for several days, but they all came home safely. Many Christians believe that 13 is unlucky as there were 13 people in the ‘Last Supper’.

‘Paraskevidekatriaphobia’ is the term used to describe the fear of ‘Friday the thirteenth’ and ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ the fear of number 13 . Researchers estimate that at least 10 percent of the US population has a fear of the number 13, especially for Friday the thirteenth. Mathematicians point out that 13 is not so unlucky, but it earned all its bad name as it is an odd number and a prime number. It is 13’s bad luck that it follows the ‘perfect number’ 12. Many believe that 12 is ‘perfect’ as it counts to a dozen, there are 12 months in an year, a day consists of two 12-hour cycles etc. The extend of ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ in the US is so high that more than 80 percent of high-rise buildings do not have a thirteenth floor, and the vast majority of hotels, hospitals and airports avoid using the number for rooms and gates as well.

The number 13 may be lucky or unlucky, but one cannot blame the number for it and will always follow number 12 and precede number 14.

PS.  Now I do not have the above licence plate.  The Government of Ontario, in recognition of my service with the Indian Army has given me a new plate.  My gratitude to them for honouring a Veteran from another county, where even the soldiers are least cared for.

Vet Plate

Wounded Warriors Park

WoundedWarrier

Canada’s first monument and park dedicated to wounded veterans and other uniformed personnel injured in the line of duty opened on 01 November 2014 at Whitby, a town about 50 kilometers from Toronto. The park has been aptly christened as ‘The Park of Reflection,’ which aims to be a living tribute to survivors and the families who care for them. The park was designed by Daimian Boyne, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who served in Bosnia. Boyne believes that everyone remembers those who have fallen in the line of duty but have always forgotten those who became ill and injured.

Boyne, who suffered severe post-traumatic stress, said it can be especially difficult for those with less obvious injuries and it is often their families who are left to cope. He is also of the opinion that post-traumatic stress creates disharmony in a family unit and this monument depicts a family and a community dealing with such veterans.

After leaving the military in 2006, Mr. Boyne struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts and other effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He went on to study horticulture at Algonquin College in 2009 with the help of a veterans’ transition program and found nature to be a key part of the healing process. Currently national events co-ordinator with Wounded Warriors Canada, Boyne said he has run many events across the country and watched nature return smiles to the faces of men and women, showing them there’s life after service.

On release from the military after being injured in the line of service there was a thought in Boyne’s mind as to how people are going to remember the sacrifices of him and his family. He thought of a the firefighter who runs into a house to save lives and ends up getting hurt. He or her, and their families, made the sacrifice for the community and as a token of paying them back and remembering them forever, he came up with the idea of this park.

Canadians pay wonderful tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty but we have always forgotten those who became ill and injured on the line of duty. Many are left with lifelong scars – physical, emotional, psychological, etc. Some live a difficult and dreadful life post retirement. This park aims to be a living tribute to survivors and their families who care for them. This is a new way of showing the ill and injured that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

The park, an initiative of Wounded Warriors Canada, features an amphitheater overlooking a circular plaza with a labyrinth walking path and healing garden. A central sculpture depicts a first responder carrying a wounded comrade back to society, with shapes surrounding it that represent community members. Tribute stones have been created to be inlaid in the pathway with the names of the ill and injured. Members of the public have been advised to purchase tribute stones for $500 each, with the name of a loved one who has been injured in service, to be placed at the park. The centerpiece was envisioned by Daimian Boyne with an aim to provide a tranquil place that serves both as a tribute and as a place of calm and healing.

The Wounded Warriors Canada hopes that the park will inspire other such parks in communities across Canada and also across the world. While this park will serve as a reminder of the wounded living among us, it would also become a place of laughter and joy, of community events and theater, and so become a celebration of life. If we can make the wounded veteran realise that their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten, one can honestly believe that it is going to bring up their heart and soul and it is going to give them the courage to get back into the community again.

Dozens of uniformed personnel — military, police and firefighters — as well as veterans, spectators and dignitaries were on hand for the formal opening that featured the pomp and ceremony of a marching band, bagpipes and ‘The Last Post’.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was in Whitby on Saturday, where he said that such spaces are appreciated by those in uniform. He added that it gave them strength and just reminds them that their sacrifice and their effort on behalf of their fellow citizens is recognized and appreciated.

Corporal David Macdonald, a member of the Royal Regiment of Canada who was injured during a combat tour in Afghanistan and later suffered a stress disorder, said the new facility was important to him. He added that when a soldier comes home battered and broken, it is a long journey to recover.  The society often fails to recognize the toll taken on those with invisible scars or injuries. When asked about the war in Afghanistan, everyone appears to know the tally of the soldiers that were killed, but no one knows the mere numbers of soldiers maimed or wounded, some for life.

One of my Gurus during my Indian Army days, General Raj Mehta, was wounded while serving as a Brigadier in Kashmir, fighting the terrorists.   He wrote to say that a memorial for the wounded is something pretty unusual from the Indian context because we neglect our brave dead savagely, so cannot be expected to really bother about our wounded who are still alive…We have many many cases where the wounded are denied disability pension which both military as well as civil bureaucracy holds up on trivial grounds and contests in the courts for years.   When he got wounded, he was savagely criticised because it was felt that a Brigadier should not have got wounded as it gave the terrorists a moral ascendency.  Superficially, however, a veneer of concern was maintained by the hierarchy by sending “Get Well…We are proud  of you” messages, but in reality, most of this was disingenuous talk that was so easy to see through…

11/11 @ 11:11

remembrance day

Every year on November 11, at 11 minutes past 11 AM, Canadians pause in a silent minute to remember the men and women who served, and continue to serve the country during times of war, conflict and peace. This moment coincides with the Armistice Day which marks the date and time when armies stopped fighting World War I on November 11at 11 minutes past 11 AM in 1918. In the United States this day is called Veteran’s Day and is also observed on November 11.

The Remembrance Day is observed to honour veterans who fought for Canada in the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as those who have served since then. More than 2.3 million Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 118,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.

On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought hard to achieve. All the buses ply with the sign ‘Lest We Forget’; all the shopping malls and coffee shops put up posters in appreciation of the services rendered by our soldiers; cadets and veterans sell the ‘Red Poppy’ – made by disabled Veterans – to be pinned on the dresses.

Poppies are worn as the symbol of remembrance, a reminder of the blood-red flower that still grows on the former battlefields of France and Belgium. During the terrible bloodshed of the second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, wrote of these flowers which lived on among the graves of dead soldiers:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

The national ceremony is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa presided by The Governor General of Canada with the Prime Minister, other government officials, representatives of Veterans’ organizations, diplomatic representatives, other dignitaries, Veterans as well as the general public in attendance.

School is where the children usually first learn about who and what Remembrance Day is for. Schools go into why we need to give respect and they will usually have an assembly and a veteran or a serving soldier addresses the students. After the assembly, the first hour in class is spent on discussing the sacrifices made by the soldiers and the students are urged to come up with the details of family members, relatives or friends who served or are still serving with the armies around the world.

Our son Nikhil, studying in Grade 9 In 2010, was attending such a discussion. The class consisted of ‘Gifted Children’ and had about 70% of students of Oriental origin, 25% Caucasians and he was the lone Indian. Every other student were narrating the details of their parents, uncles, grandparents, granduncles, etc who served in the First and the Second World Wars and other military operations. Nikhil did not want to be left behind and he stood up to give his account.

Nikhil narrated the few instances of his life as a kindergarten student which he spent in Devlali and the interactions he had with the soldiers and also about various events he had witnessed like the artillery fire power demonstration.

Military history being taught in Canadian schools is based on the Canadian participation in the World Wars. He did a lot of research on the military history aspects and had bought a dozen books on the subject.  In those days, Nikhil earned $50 pocket money a month for helping me out with the household chores like vacuuming, cleaning, washing of dishes, laundry, gardening, garbage disposal, etc. He used to use up all the money to buy books and always ended up with a bill much higher than the limit and I always gleefully paid it as it was for books. Now days he does not want any pocket money as he earns about $100 a week working as a swimming instructor and life guard at the city’s swimming pool.

Anyhow, it proved my current theory that a better reflection of a high-school student comes from the books he keeps than the friends he keeps.

Stand Up While You Work

Stand_Work

In North America most of the cashiers at the banks or in the stores, hospital staff, pharmacy staff, airport staff – anyone and everyone you come across are standing and working. There is no chair or stools available to sit. It is perceived as a common courtesy to stand when the customer is also standing. Standing is believed to convey availability and courtesy while sitting in the presence of customers may be rude. Apparently one gets the feeling that the staff are more efficient while standing, but there are no scientific proof for it. Many managers and supervisors feel that their staff are more efficient while standing and performing as they do not waste time to get up to greet the customers.

In the schools/universities/colleges, the teachers always stand and deliver their lectures and in case one goes through the YouTube showing classes being conducted, there is no chair on the stage or near the blackboard.

In Europe and Asian countries the cashiers do sit and carry out their jobs. The major difference is that in North America, the cashier is expected to lift heavy stuff, ring the cash register and also bag the purchase. They have no help or assistance unlike their counterparts in Europe or Asia. The associate who checks the passengers at the airline counter at the airport has to check-in the customer, tag the baggage and place them on the conveyer belt – all by themselves without assistance. At many airports now there are self check-in kiosks where the passengers do all these and drop in their baggage at the counter.

It is natural for human beings to stand in place and work. It is easier and faster to think from standing position. The tendency to procrastinate is reduced drastically while standing as there is hardly any note taking. When one stands up, one tends to believe that the task in front is much smaller. It is believed that Abraham Lincon, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo da Vinci enjoyed working standing up. Today most offices in the Silicon valley haves gone in for stand-up desks. Stand-up desks are the latest trend in office furniture. Some believe it improves productivity while some claim that if you stand for three hours a day, it is the equivalent of running 10 marathons over the course of a year.

People who stand up and work appear to be healthier, smarter, happier and more efficient than those who sit and work. Compare a bus conductor to the bus driver; compare the cabin-crew of any airline to the flight crew; the list goes on. There are many real health challenges brought on by long days in a seated position – which is not what humans were designed to do. We squatted, to eat; we ran, to hunt for food; we stretched to reach for berries and nuts. Today most humans are tied on to their chairs, while at office or at homes, with hardly any movement.

In order to make life more comfortable in offices, there are ergonomically designed furniture, screens with adapters to position it at eye level, specially designed mouse to overcome repetitive strain injuries (RSI), etc. These result in sitting down for long periods of time at the work desk, mostly using only the brain and giving hardly any thought to the limbs. This leads to monotony, boredom, reduced social interaction among the staff, increase in body mass and blood pressure, high stress levels, etc.

To break away from such a dreaded lethargy, identify opportunities throughout your day to walk. Even a long stroll through the office gardens will help you shed a few calories and clear your mind. Try to take a phone call standing up; you can sit down if you need to take notes or write. Going from standing to sitting and then standing again will help keep you active and burn additional calories. Deliberately take a short break every hour to walk around the office and back to your desk. Clean and organise the office before leaving each day – never leave it to others to clean it for you. More than relaxing your muscles and brains at the end of the day, this will be welcomed by a clutter free office the next morning.

Standing is a natural human posture and by itself poses no particular health hazard. However, working in a standing position on a regular basis can cause sore feet, swelling of the legs, varicose veins, general muscular fatigue, low back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and other health problems. The use of well-designed anti-fatigue matting can play a huge part in injury prevention, the reduction of standing worker fatigue, and increased productivity.

Taking care of the feet is the most important aspect for all those standing for prolonged periods at work (equally applies for those who sit for prolonged periods). Always remember that your feet can only be as comfortable as the footwear permits. Some tips for selecting the apt footwear are:-

  • Wear shoes that do not change the shape of your foot.
  • Ensure that the shoes have a firm grip for the heel. If the back of the shoe is too wide or too soft, the shoe will slip, causing instability and soreness.
  • Find shoes that allow freedom to move your toes. Pain and fatigue result if shoes are too narrow or too shallow.
  • Ensure that shoes have arch supports. Lack of arch support causes flattening of the foot.
  • Wear shoes with lace-up fastenings. Tighten the lace firmly to prevent the foot from slipping inside the footwear.
  • Use padding under the tongue if you suffer from tenderness over the bones at the top of the foot.
  • Use a shock-absorbing cushioned insole when working on metal or cement floors.
  • Never wear flat shoes and always ensure that the heels always less than 5 cm (2 inches).
  • Always buy new shoes in the evening; that is when your feet are in the most swollen state.

Whether standing up and performing the tasks is better than sitting down and doing it or not, customers feel that a person who is standing is more approachable and effective.