Matha Pitha Guru Deva (Mother Father Teacher God)

mataPitaGuruDeva

माता पिता गुरु देवा * மாதா பிதா குரு தெய்வம் * മാതാ പിതാ ഗുരു ദൈവം

‘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.

First comes the mother (Mata), 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 (Pita), as he has contributed 23 chromosomes. Nearly half your traits are inherited from the father. The mother and father then takes us to the teacher (Guru), and it is the guru(s), through their teachings, develop our minds and channelize our thinking. All the three have a very important role in identifying our Gods (Deva) and bringing us closer to the God.

As per Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati received a ripe mango. Their children Ganesha and Karthikeya, both wanted it. To break the impasse, Lord Shiva asked them to go around the world and the one who returns first would win the mango. Karthikeya immediately set off to encircle the world on his mount, the peacock. Ganesha realising that his mount, the rat is no match for the peacock, went around his parents once and claimed the prize saying that the parents are the whole world to him and by going around them once, he had in effect gone around the world. The happy parents gifted the fruit to Ganesha. When Karthikeya returned after going round the world, he saw Ganesha with the fruit in his hand. His non-understanding of this simple truth upset him so much that he is believed to have gone away to live alone and meditate in the hills of Palani in Southern India.

Based on my earlier articles about our teachers at Sainik School and the National Defence Academy (NDA), Brigadier (Retired) Azad Sameer expressed his views. He said that many of our teachers are unsung heroes who have mentored a generation of students and taught them values and ideals which are everlasting. He is reminded of many of teachers in school specially those associated with English, maths, physics, boxing, football and so on. Besides the subject proper, many of them taught lessons that one carries for life.

Brigadier Sameer is of the opinion that essentially this reverence for teachers is born out of a typical Indian value. A special bond between the teacher and pupil. 5000 years of Indian history will bear testimony to this special bond and special value system. Elsewhere in the world, he wonders whether one get to see this emotional connect between the teacher and the taught.

In my opinion, in case such an umbilical cord between the teacher and the students did not exist in the entire world, we would never have had the novel and then the movie like ‘To Sir With Love’.  The reverence for teachers exist in all the societies across the world.

Jesus Christ in the bible is referred to as Lord, Savior, Master, and Redeemer. In the four Gospels, out of 90 times Jesus was addressed directly, 60 times he was called Teacher. As per St John (13:13), Jesus is supposed to have said that “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am”.

The reverence for their teachers what students demonstrate here in Canada is very much the same as what the students do in India. Most of the Indian guru-shishya (teacher-student) relationship of today is mostly hypocritical and that was what many of my classmates on leaving our school realised. We always addressed our teachers as Mister Raman or Miss Murphy; we never added the typical ‘sir’ as what most Indian teachers expect the students to. When our class mates reached their universities, they addressed their teachers in the same way and they faced castigation not only from the teachers, but also from their class mates. Many took offence to addressing the professor as ‘Mister’. The teachers here in Canada, expect the students to address them as ‘Mister/Miss’ and some even insists on being addressed with only their first names. The teachers in Canada are much more straightforward in their relationship with the students. Here the teachers earn the students’ respect rather than forcing themselves on the students.

I feel that the teachers here give more freedom to the students for developing their ideas and thoughts.  The teachers are much more approachable and appear to be multi-talented and many have both formal and informal qualifications and experiences in varied fields other than the subjects they teach. The students discuss anything and everything with their teachers. We were lucky during our school days that we had similar teachers as here.

The importance of high school teachers for the students are much more here as they need at least two teachers’ recommendations for the university admission.  For any job as a teenager or even later, two high school teachers’ recommendation is mandatory; even if it is for an assistant’s job at a coffee or burger shop.  Our son Nikhil needed it while applying for the job of swimming instructor and life guard at the city’s swimming pool and also when he applied for a volunteer position at the city hospital.

About 70% of a high school student’s assessment is done by the teacher throughout the semester. The assessment is based on various assignments, presentations, written submissions, tests, quizzes, etc. The attitude and aptitude of the student and his organisational ability is also reported upon. The final semester examinations generally carries only 30% of the marks.   This demands real effort from the students to maintain a healthy relationship with their teachers.

The teacher-student relationship is celebrated here during the valedictory address by the student valedictorian of Grade 12 and also at Grade 8 during the graduation ceremony. Please watch Nikhil’s Grade 8 valedictory address https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTld_ssSvg4.  You may also watch many a valedictory addresses posted on the YouTube.

Teachers play an important role in nation building by developing young students into responsible citizens. Teachers through their perseverance, love and sacrifices has shown us the right path in which great men have built the nations. Any strong and powerful nation is endowed with committed and dedicated teachers, without whom these nations would never have achieved glory.

Smile Knows No Barriers

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“Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family” said Mother Teresa. Happiness comes from one’s heart and if you are happy on the inside, it will show on the outside, especially through a smile. You must put a smile on your face as it will not only encourage others to do the same, but you will feel good and probably have a better attitude for doing it.

Walking our dog Maximus in the morning and in the evening, I come across many passersby, some walking and some in stopped cars at the traffic intersections.   I make it a point to exchange a smile with most of them. Some do reciprocate and some do not.

One day in the evening during my walk, I met a lady carrying two heavy bags in her hands and walking. Many who passed by her, passed a sympathetic glance, which is for sure not going to mitigate the suffering of the lady. As I reached the lady, who appeared to be a new immigrant from South East Asia in her mid thirties, she had put down the two bags and was taking a breather. I suggested to her that I will carry one bag and she can carry the other. Very reluctantly she agreed after saying to me that it would be difficult for me to handle the dog and carry the bag.

We moved ahead with me carrying one bag and she the other. Maximus it appears had sensed the situation as he followed me meekly without his usual explorations of the fire-hydrants and the traffic signal posts. (Please refer my blog http:/rejinces.net/2014/07/15/fire-hydrants-and-the-dogs/). The lady asked me as to why I was helping her, to which I said that I thought that she deserved my assistance and my assistance will surely mitigate her agony to some extent. Then I spoke to her about Simon who carried Jesus’ cross. Simon had never heard of Jesus before and when he saw a man being abused and made to carry a cross.  He went to help Him when all the Jesus’ disciples had deserted Him with Peter, supposedly the most trusted disciple, even denying that he ever knew or heard of Jesus.

After few steps, the lady asked me as to why I smiled at all the passersby and I said that it was a practise I developed mainly to mitigate my own difficulty of walking about 5 km and managing the dog and also to spread a little happiness around. The lady said that she did not smile at people as she did not know proper English. To this I said that a smile knew neither any language nor any boundaries and is the best way to spread happiness around you. You may even add a ‘Hi’ or a ‘Good Morning/ Evening’ if you wish to.

The lady said that many a times she did try to smile, but was hardly reciprocated. To this I said that in my case too it was the same. I considered anyone who did not smile back to be less luckier and less happier than what I was and that was why that person did not smile back. One should be thankful to the God that one is capable of smiling, despite all the problems one has on hand. The person who did not smile back might have had a bad day at work; may have fought with someone at home or office; may be suffering immense pain or may be sick; or may have lost someone close.

After walking a kilometer, we reached the apartment building of the lady and she thanked me immensely for helping her out. She also said that she will make it a point to smile at everyone she came across. As I was about to leave, the lady said that I must become a preacher, to which I said that I do not intent to sell my God.

I have always been fascinated by the ‘Smiley ‘ with its various avatars, especially the modern Emoticons. For sure a simple tool to spread happiness in the digital world.  The Smiley arrived in the early 1970s and it was the perfect yellow circle with a childlike depiction of a happy face of two vertical, oval eyes and a large, upturned semi-circular mouth. The yellow background colour was the colour of spring and the sun.

The origin of the design of Smiley is contested, it seems that it first appeared in 1963 in American children’s TV programme ‘The Funny Company’, which featured a crude smiley face as a kids’ club logo with a message ‘Keep Smiling’. Harvey Ross Ball, a graphic artist from Massachusetts was the first person to come up with the smiley faces . A company had employed him to come up with something that would boost the morale of its employees. The smiley face was popularized by two brothers, Bernard and Murray Spain, who were in the business of making would-be fad items. Over the period of time, small variations were made on the same idea, but it maintained its original yellow colour. Ball was paid $45 for his 10 minutes work. However, neither he nor the company copyrighted the design. A Seattle designer called David Stern later claimed authorship.

In September 1970, two brothers Bernard and Murray Spain, came up with the classic Smiley design to sell novelties. Adding the words ‘Have a Nice Day’, the Spains shipped at least 50 million Smiley badges in 1972. Later it appeared on key chains, coffee mugs, caps, badges, stickers, etc.

From the Smilies, the modern-day emoticons we use in emails, texts and instant messaging emerged. These emoticons can be traced to Scott Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who is widely considered to be the father of the emoticons. Fahlman started it with a message “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers.   :- )  Read it sideways.”

Emoticons took off as instant messaging became a popular form of quick online communication. AOL’s Instant Messenger in the 1990s provided 12 emoticons. This helped users convey a wide range of emotions with a simple click of the mouse. Emoticons became much more popular with the popularity of online communications and mobile devices. They soon multiplied into a cast of thousands and the users found that they could covey much more without using any words.

So Keep Smiling and spread happiness around.

The English Teacher

wren and martin book copy

Mr George Joseph (Mr GJ – that is how everyone addressed him) taught us English in Grade 10 and 11 at Sainik School Amaravathinagar. He joined the school in the vacancy of Mr Seshadiri who left the school (with his daughter Sita from our class) in 1973. I started interacting with him at a personal level in Grade 11 when we went on a trek from Munnar to Idukki in Kerala in September 1977. That was the first time he opened up with me about his teaching experiences.

Mr GJ’s first class in our school was for the batch of David Davidar (three years senior to us), who authored The House of Blue Mangoes (2002), The Solitude of Emperors (2007) and Ithaca (2011). On the very first day, Mr KG Warrier (https://rejinces.net/2014/09/16/the-linguists/), head of the English department had forewarned him that the linguistic capability of the students was at a very high level and he had to be fully prepared to face them, let alone teach them. Mr GJ on many occasions claimed that he actually learnt English by teaching students at our school. During our school days, Mr GJ was a bachelor and hence had all the time in the world to himself. One could mostly see him spending his spare time at the library, reading up all the books which he could not during his university days.

Mr GJ was a good basketball player and coached the school basketball team. He was a good swimmer and hence joined Mr Krishnan Kutty (the crafts Master) (https://rejinces.net/2014/08/08/arts-and-crafts/) to form the nucleus of the canoeing club. He later took over the reins of the canoeing club, once he mastered the art of canoeing and could navigate through the Amaravathi Dam’s waters. He again claims that he perfected the art of canoeing by learning the same from the senior students.

During the boxing competitions at school, Mr GJ was a judge always. He once narrated that he had never seen a boxing bout in his life until he joined our school. One day when Mr CM Nair (Physical Training Instructor) (https://rejinces.net/2014/07/23/233/) while preparing the gymnasium for the boxing competition realised that he was short of a judge as Mr Venkateswaran, the biology teacher had left the school. Whether Mr CM Nair found some similarity between Mr GJ and Mr Venkateswaran in their physical appearance, or not, he summoned Mr GJ and requested him to be the boxing judge the following week. Obviously Mr GJ showed his reluctance having had no experience in the field, why even he had never witnessed a boxing bout and now he has been tasked to be a judge. Mr CM Nair conducted a detailed clinic for Mr GJ and handed him over the rule book of boxing. After the clinic, Mr GJ became very confident and every year till we left the school, he was always a boxing judge and never was his judgement ever questioned.

Once he threw the towel in to the ring to stop a bout, as he realised that the contest was really uneven and the loser of the bout might suffer an injury. This raised a few hackles then, but now looking back one realises how apt his decision was and also that his action befitted that of a seasoned boxing judge.

During our trek from Munnar to Idukki in 1977, the first day’s halt was at a village called Vellathooval. We started the trek early in the morning from Munnar and reached Vellathooval by late afternoon to be received by the Headmaster, staff and students of the Government High School there. The school organised a special assembly of the entire school to welcome us and Cadet Benoy Zachariah (now a cardiac surgeon at Boston, USA) was tasked by Mr GJ to deliver the English speech and I was tasked to deliver a speech in Malayalam, to motivate the students to join Sainik Schools and then the armed forces. That was the first motivational speech I delivered and as per Mr GJ we did a decent job of it. The preferential treatment we received at this school was because Mr GJ had arranged the same with our class mate George Paul’s father who was the Educational Officer, under whose jurisdiction this school came.

After three days of trekking we reached Idukki and then went around sightseeing for the next three days. One evening I was talking with Mr GJ and the subject was regarding the difficulties faced by the teachers while managing the students during various treks and hikes at the school. Mr GJ narrated his very first hiking experience at our school the year he had joined. Mr GJ was tasked to lead the hike to Yercaudu in Tamil Nadu, a quiet little hill station on the Shevaroy hills of the Eastern Ghats. During the train trip to the base of Yercaudu, Cadet Appu fell off the train. Mr GJ got the entire entourage to disembark from the train at the next station and he walked about five kilometers along the track back and found Cadet Appu lying unconsciously near the rail track. Mr GJ administered first aid to Cadet Appu and carried him on his shoulders and walked back to the railway station where the rest of the entourage was waiting. They then boarded the next train and continued with the hike.

Like most classes at our school, Mr GJ’s English classes were mostly group discussions with the teacher in the lead and acting as a moderator. Among some of the memorable discussions we had, one was about opening Sainik Schools for girl cadets too. Mr GJ brought out that the boys would be better disciplined, better dressed, better behaved if girl cadets were studying along with us and the overall performance of the cadets would surely improve manifold. This discussion took place in the days when no one in India thought of opening military service for women.

Once Mr GJ opened up a discussion by his justifications for men resorting to domestic violence. As expected, all cadets in the class opposed it tooth and nail. At the end of the class Mr GJ concluded by saying that had he not put up a few arguments in support of the motion, no worthwhile discussion would have emanated. He brought home the point that to get noticed in the group discussion, at times one would have to support a cause which one is sure will have no takers. He always encouraged us to approach an issue differently; mainly to stand out and also to try out a different method or a path.

After we moved on from the school, Mr GJ moved out as the Principal of Navodaya Schools in Kerala and is now retired and has settled down at Palai, Kerala.  He can be contacted on Cell # 944 636 8276 and email gjay51045@gmail.com.

wren and martin GJ

After Action Report on Ottawa Terrorist Shooting

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Corporal Nathan Frank Cirillo, a Canadian soldier, was shot and killed on 22 October 2014, as he stood guard at the National War Memorial. The shooter was later killed inside the Parliament buildings after firing at least 20 shots. The shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities and he was refused travel documents to prevent him from travelling abroad. Zehaf-Bibeau has a record in Quebec in the early 2000s for petty crimes such as possession of drugs, credit-card forgery and robbery. He was also charged with robbery in 2011 in Vancouver. Please click here for a detailed report on the incident is on my blog https://rejinces.net/2014/10/27/o-canada-we-stand-on-guard-for-thee/

Handling of the media in such scenarios and what to cover live, rather most importantly, what not to cover live, needs to be worked out between the public relations officers of the security forces and the media crews. A total blackout of news will only lead to speculation and rumour mongering. Please refer my blog http:/rejinces.net/2015/03/24/terrorism-live/.

After Incident Report by the police authorities on the shooting has raised a few issues about handling such situations in the future. The report must be analysed by all the police forces across the globe, especially in view of the prevailing security environment. The points raised are of at most importance when deploying security personnel on counter-terrorism duties in populated areas. The need for the security forces, police, emergency services, fire force, media crew and bystanders to operate without causing hindrance to each other is of great importance.

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Police Response

In response to the shooting, about 310 officers of the Ottawa police responded with many deploying themselves when they heard about the incident. The difficulty of controlling and commanding dozens of self-deploying officers contributed to confusion about how many suspects were involved. It was the largest reactive deployment of officers to an unplanned emergency in the Ottawa Police force’s history. The sheer unprecedented scale of the police response also contributed to the confusion.

The major challenge for the police commanders managing the force’s response was first to account for all the officers who deployed or self-deployed. It was also critical to ascertain as to where each and every officer was. The report has highlighted this challenge and the need for the police forces to device measures for ensuring better command and control of the entire force on the scene.

Police Wearing Balaclavas Caused Concern

Some of the police officers who responded to the shooting wore balaclavas to conceal their identities as they normally work in undercover units. Others were in various states of uniform and some in civilian clothes and this confused the public who, for most of the day, as they did not know how many active shooters or other suspects were involved. Many police officers not in uniform, made it difficult for the public to tell who was a police officer and who may have been an additional shooter. Police officers wearing a balaclava and with a weapon, may be perceived by the public as someone going to inflict harm, especially in a state of crisis. The report brings out the need for the officers who self-deploy to make sure they can be clearly identified as police by their dress.

Eight Hours to Confirm Only One Shooter is Involved

It took only an hour for police to determine that gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was the man responsible for shooting and killing Corporal Cirillo and was killed inside Centre Block on Parliament Hill. Whereas it took Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Ottawa Police about eight hours to confirm that Zehaf-Bibeau was acting alone. The reason was the conflicting eyewitness reports of multiple shooters and suspects, all of which had to be checked out by investigators. Inputs from some witnesses about a second gunman who ran into bushes at the National War Memorial, caused further confusion. It was later confirmed to be the driver of a minister’s vehicle, who ran to hide after the armed Zehaf-Bibeau took command of the vehicle.

Some witnesses also reported seeing multiple people in Zehaf-Bibeau’s vehicle, and others reported seeing what they thought were two suspects with long guns running near the National War Memorial. The second person turned out to be the other sentry who was standing guard with Corporal Cirillo. There was also a 911 emergency call reporting a third shooting scene at a downtown mall, which police reported to the public and later retracted.

All of this contributed to confusion, and it takes a significant amount of time to eliminate that there are no more threats and to announce to the community that things have returned to a state of normalcy.

Communication Between Various Forces

There were communication problems between Ottawa police, RCMP and Parliament Hill security personnel at the scene as they were using different radio frequencies. The RCMP and Ottawa police tactical officers used hand signals to communicate while they were sweeping and clearing buildings on Parliament Hill.

This aspect of ‘communication gap’ between various armed forces, police forces and emergency services at such crisis situations is applicable world over and many countries are yet to device drills and procedures to close this gap.

To remedy the problem, Ottawa police have ordered new radios that will allow communication with other first responder radios during emergency operations. They have also ordered new night-vision goggles, after the force’s tactical officers found that the current goggles did not work well as they were clearing buildings on the Hill, and that there weren’t enough of them.

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Terrorist Attack on Indian Parliament

The Indian Parliament at New Delhi witnessed a similar terrorist attack on 13 December 2001. Five terrorists infiltrated the Parliament House in a car with Home Ministry and Parliament labels. The terrorists carried AK47 rifles, grenade launchers, pistols and grenades. The attack led to the deaths of five terrorists, six Delhi Police personnel, two Parliament Security Service personnel and a gardener, in total 14. Afzal Guru was convicted of conspiracy in the plot and sentenced to death by a special court in 2002 and was hanged in Feb 2013.

The events that unfolded in Ottawa in October 2014 was similar to the one that occurred in New Delhi in December 2001. The differences were the self-deploying police personnel and balaclava wearing undercover police officers. The ‘communication gap’ reported in Ottawa would have been faced by the Delhi Police, Parliament Security Service and the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos who ultimately sanitised the area. The information gap would have remained the same, especially regarding the number of terrorist involved and as to whether any terrorist is still holed up.

Despite the event being reported in the international media including live coverage of the operations, the police forces across the globe appear to have not taken any serious note of the event. Rather, they would have never expected it to happen in their own backyards.

Fools learn from their mistakes; wise ones from others’; idiots never.