Hand-Washing : A ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Vaccine


Induction of the 155mm Bofors Guns in the Indian Army in 1987 was seen as a quantum jump in using the computing power in the field of gunnery.  We were till then used to the cumbersome manual procedures involving logarithmic tables, range tables, various graphical instruments and the calculator to calculate various gunnery parameters.

With the Bofors guns came the computers which could in matter of seconds compute various parameters and transmit the data electronically to the guns.  A machine which eliminated the work of about five different soldiers calculating different data and the young subaltern shouting the orders to the guns, and the gunners applying these parameters on the guns.  These computers made life easy at the gun position, drastically reduced response time and surely increased accuracy.

On return to the unit after the Long Gunnery Course, I took on the responsibility to train our soldiers on the computers.  The soldiers were mostly from rural background in India and had the basic matriculation (Grade 10) as their educational qualification.  As per the old military adage that ‘it is easier to put in a new idea into a military mind, but next to impossible to take out an old one;‘ I selected all the young soldiers to train first rather than the experienced Havildars and Naiks (Sergeants and Corporals).

The class started with full earnest and we all were eager to learn more about the computers and its by then unheard of capabilities and see it being put into real effect.  Sepoy Nem Pal was also in the class, a very intelligent and fast learning soldier with nimble fingers, who always wanted to excel in what he did; an ideal candidate for learning about the computer system.

After a few days, we went into the procedure for engaging targets.  I demonstrated the procedure to all and each soldier was asked to practice it there after.  At that moment I was summoned by our Commanding Officer and had to leave the class.  On my return to the class after fifteen minutes, I found Sepoy Nem Pal quiet worked up and came to me and said that “it is all good when you do it on the computer, but when we do it, nothing happens.  What is the reason for it?”  I had no logical answer to such a query, but immediately shot back “it is so because you guys do not wash your hands in the morning with soap and water and when you touch the computer with dirty hands, the computer God gets displeased with you and hence you end up unsuccessful.” 

Sepoy Nem Pal went out of the class for a few minutes and came back and started trying his hand again on the computers.  After fifteen minutes he came back to me and said “I did wash my hands properly with soap and water, still I do not get the desired results from the computer”.

That was the Indian military side of hand-washing; let us now discuss some serious aspect of hand-washing.  When your hands come in contact with germs, you can unknowingly become infected simply by touching your eyes, nose or mouth.  Once you are infected, it is usually a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness. Good hand-washing is the first line of defence against the spread of many illnesses, from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, influenza, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea.

Hand-washing is like a ‘do-it-yourself‘ vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular hand-washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

How should you wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

What should you do if you don’t have soap and clean, running water?

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.  Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

How do you use hand sanitizers?

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Keep in good health in future by constant hand-washing and also by educating others around you about the importance of hand-washing, else, the Computer God will always remain displeased with you.


4 thoughts on “Hand-Washing : A ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Vaccine


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sir, Nk Puran Chand has been promoted to Havildar Puran Chand and now has retired from Indian Army. A lot changed including the AC it changed to a Desert Cooler.

    Liked by 1 person

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