Skydiving Adventure

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In the summer of 2009 we decided to visit Chicago for a week for sight-seeing and to meet my old Sainik School classmate Marur Mouli.  Mouli had his desk next to me in the class at the especially reserved place for the abstract thinkers – the last row. We were real outstanding students in Maths that we spend most of the Math period standing outside the class where we continued discussing our teenage ‘philosophies’ of life. We both qualified the entrance exam for the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Mouli was found medically unfit after the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview. He had opted for the Air Force and the medicos said that he had an open sacrum – the last-vertebra in the spine. I thought they would have declared him unfit for an open mouth and not an open sacrum. Never seen Mouli quiet and would even speak while sleeping.

Mouli was a great artist in the true sense. Good at every form of art – drawing, painting, caricature, singing, playing all the instruments available in the school’s band section, acting (his playing the Pied Piper of Hamelin is still etched in my memory), debating etc. When I left school to join the NDA, I realised that Mouli was a bit dejected and in order to raise his morale I said to him “Better things are awaiting you. Better cheer up”. I never realised what I told him until he once called me while in India to say that he saw “the better thing” after a long struggle and that he was working as a graphic designer for Apple Macintosh. In 1989 he had taken up a job as a lecturer in graphic design with the Art Institute of Chicago.

During the boat cruise in the Chicago River, we came across an advertisement for skydiving and all of us decided to try our hand at it the next day. Skydiving is inherently a dangerous activity, given the unknown variables of man, nature, and machine. We reached the Chicagoland Skydiving Center located in an air-strip which was a clearing in the cornfields of Hinckley, Illinois. We reached the Center by noon and we saw a 200 Series DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft parked next to a shed which housed the office. The receptionist, a young lady, said that the minimum age for skydiving was 18 and hence Nikhil being 12 years cannot undertake the skydiving. Nikhil said that he will come back on turning 18 and wanted me also not to jump that day. So Marina and Nidhi decided to take the jump and the receptionist got all the paperwork done.

There was one man mowing the grass in the strip cleared in the cornfield and another man picking up the garbage and cleaning the washrooms and the sheds. At 12:30 PM. About 15 men came in their pickups and most appeared to be construction workers from what they were wearing. They were the instructors and after a 30 minute orientation and kitting up, they boarded the aircraft with two instructors each – one the tandem and the other the cameraman.

The man moving the grass by then had refuelled the aircraft and was seen inspecting the aircraft as he was the flight engineer. The man picking up the garbage took to the pilot seat and the young receptionist was the co-pilot. The aircraft took off and climbed to 18,000 feet and dropped the jumpers and landed back. The flight engineer, the pilot and the co-pilot – all went back to do what they were doing before the takeoff.

The freefall was for a minute and a half on a tandem with one instructor while the other was video-graphing the fall. They were taken through many manoeuvres by the instructor during the free fall. Since the jumper was in front of the skydive instructor with own altimeter and ripcord, they had the sensation of skydiving on their own. After the ripcord was pulled, the instructor offered guidance as they flew the parachute together and landed.

The greatest advantage of skydiving in the State of Illinois is that it is not mandatory to wear a helmet (even on motorcycles), but the safety goggles is a must to protect the eyes. Thus the videos come out much better without the helmet on.

After seeing as to how the Skydiving Center operated, I had to see-off a family friend from the Toronto Airport by the New Delhi flight of Air India. As we reached there, a bus pulled up carrying the cabin crew and they moved to one corner. After five minutes the co-pilot and the flight engineer arrived by a car and took position in another corner. After another five minutes the captain arrived in another car and stood in the middle. In case of all the other international carriers, all the crew and the captain all come by the same bus and move into the aircraft as a team. Now I realised why Air India is running in perpetual loss.

When Kerala Saw Red

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Kerala state in India was carved out of the Madras State in 1956 as a result of reorganisation of states based on linguistic lines.  Until then, it was called Madras State – a name that was derived from Madras Presidency of British India.  The then state of Madras was reorganised into four: Madras, Mysore, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala based on the linguistic majority of Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam respectively. Incidentally ‘Malayalam’ is the only language in the world which forms a Palindrome- when spelt in English would read the same both right to left and in Arabic style left to right.  A person whose mother tongue is Malayalam is called a Malayalee.  In recent times the nextgen has stylised this to ‘Mallu’.    

Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969 and their Kannada speaking brethren renamed Mysore to ‘Karnataka’ in 1973.  Andhra Pradesh was further subdivided to form Telangan State in 2014.  The city of Madras changed its name to Chennai in 1996.  The only vestige of the erstwhile Madras Presidency in the Indian Army  is the Madras Regiment – a group of Infantry Battalions and Madras Engineering Group (MEG) manned by soldiers from the erstwhile Madras Presidency states and in the civil front, the Madras Cricket Club (MCC).  Even though the Madras Presidency became history and the Madras city changed its name to Chennai, the North Indians, until recently continued to refer to the people by the demonym ‘Madrasi’, perhaps in a wee bit derogatory sense and therefore deemed an ethnic slur.

There is also a French connection to this ethnic, linguistic and colonial chaos.  The French in the Seventeenth Century established trading posts in South India at Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanaon on the East Coast in the Tamil speaking area and Mahe on the West Coast in the Malayalam speaking region.  Post Indian independence in 1947, the French continued to hold these areas until 1954.  A general election involving 178 people in Pondicherry Municipal and Commune Panchayat was held in 1954 and 170 people voted in favour of independence from France and eight people voted against.  Thus on 01 November 1954, Pondicherry became part of the Indian Union.  In order to maintain their French identity, these areas came directly under the rule of the federal government and was known as the Union Territory of Pondicherry.  They also underwent a name change and became Puduchery in 2006. 

After formation of Kerala State, the first elections to the state legislature was held in 1957 and the world was in for a surprise.  The Communist Party of India won the elections by a slim majority, forming the first democratically elected communist government in the world. It also became the first “non-Congress” ruled state in India. The Communist victory raised hackles in USA, especially at the height of the Cold War.  There were concerns within India too, particularly in the federal capital  of New Delhi, but Prime Minister Nehru, true to the spirit of federalism was willing to work with the then Communist Chief Minister, EMS Namboothirippad.

 A notable feature of the first EMS Government was the calibre of distinguished personalities who occupied Cabinet positions.  They initiated thoughtful changes in state government policies, mainly oriented on enabling the poor and the downtrodden.  Their actions were, in my view, mainly responsible for the current state of affairs in Kerala, with 100% literacy, good healthcare, zero population growth, eradication of poverty, very low child mortality and so on, all typical indicators of a developed country in the world.  The state’s development has been so well studied that the ‘Kerala Model’ is frequently referred to by economists, anthropologists, and policy-makers alike.  The United Nations’ annual Human Development Index (HDI) reports, rank Kerala along with developed countries of the world.

Through the Land Reforms Act the EMS government sought to confer ownership rights on tenant cultivators, grant permanent ownership of land for the agricultural labourers, by putting a ceiling on the individual land holdings so as to distribute the surplus land among the landless.  The landowning communities in Kerala, from all sections of society had an issue with this bill.

The introduction of the Education Bill added fuel to fire.  The Education Bill claimed to regulate appointments and working conditions of the teachers in the government-aided schools.  It also mandated to takeover any government-aided educational institution, if they fail to meet the conditions set by the newly promulgated bill.

Within hours of the passing of the Bill, ‘Vimochana Samaram’ (liberation struggle) was called to bring down the Communist government, mainly lead by the Churches, the upper caste Hindus and Muslim clergy, all whom had a stake in the ‘education pie’. The efforts  of these vested interests along with the manoeuvres of the political front led by the Indian National Congress Party, resulted in the dismissal of the  state Government by the Central Government,  using the notorious Article 356 of the Indian Constitution in 1959. Be that as it may, the leftist lean continues till date and the left ideology had taken deep roots.

The CIA’s role in Kerala did not surface until Daniel Patrick Moynihan who was ambassador to India in the early 1970s admitted this in his 1978 book ‘A Dangerous Place’.  In an interview of Moynihan with Ellsworth Bunker, the then US Ambassador to India (1956 to 1961), admitted to the US involvement.  He contended that the CIA had provided financial assistance to the Congress Party because the embassy had hard evidence that the Soviets were funding local communists.  He opined that “as they have done everywhere in the world, but as we have done elsewhere in the world, we have come to the assistance of our friends when we knew and had evidence about what the Communists were doing financially and otherwise (sic).”

That was the left side of Kerala state and until I was selected to join the National Defence Academy in 1978, I was in no way affected by a left leaning Kerala. When a successful candidate from a state other than Kerala, had to fill in only a few forms for police clearance, I had to fill in a dozen more.  All because I hailed from a Leftist Kerala State.  Now I needed a special verification from the various intelligence bureaus of the state police and the central police.  I was well advised by my father never to disclose any connection of our family to the Communist Party – my uncle M Thomas was a Communist member of the Legislature from Kottayam (1971-1977).  The police clearance procedure resulted in many policemen, from different departments, making frequent visits to our home and my father had no option but to grease their palms, else his son may be denied entry into NDA.  Luckily, now days, this practice seems to have ended. 

 

How Did You Manage It?

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Our father, a primary school headmaster, always believed that it would be better to have the children born in March (Pisceans) as it would ensure that the child when joining school does not have to waste a few months. Nowadays it is mandatory that the child must be six years (in our school days it was five) old on the first day of school – 01 June. There had been many instances when the parents wanted the child to begin school early, especially those who missed the age barrier by a few days or a month or two. In the good old days, the parents and the headmaster could mutually agree to enter in records a suitable date of birth to ensure entry into school. This resulted many of our generation (including my wife Marina) ending up with two dates of birth – one the actual day they were born and the other the ‘official’ one. All four of us brothers were actually born Pisceans and we never had this problem of two dates to remember.

On taking over command of the unit, I went full steam automating the administrative functions in the unit and the first priority was to automate the records of the men under command.  This was to ensure that all their necessary documentation were up to date, they receive all their pay and allowances and are fully qualified for promotion to the next rank. The very first step was data capture from the existing manual records. After most data were transferred to the digital media, I called up each individual soldier for an interview to fill in the gaps. As we were deployed in the operational area at that time, this interviews went on till late at night. More than collecting the data, it helped me to a great extent to know the men better as I was totally new to the regiment.

First use of the data captured was to make the weekly Regimental Order look more colourful. Not only that it was printed using a colour printer, the contents were also changed to be colourful. The routine stuff of Duty Officers, punishments etc were all printed in black and the goodies in colour. The goodies included wishes on festivals, compliments for achievements of the men and a special wish from the Commanding Officer (CO) on the soldier’s birthdays. With the data captured, I could easily print out the list of men celebrating their birthdays in the week ahead.

On analysing the data of the unit, I realised that about 20% of the men were born on the first day of the year (01/01) and about 30% born on the first day of the month, especially March, April and May. I concluded that like our father, their school headmasters also would have done the trick.

Case of Marina and her sibling is even better – they all have one ‘official’ birthday – 25 May. The secret was that their grandfather was the headmaster of the primary school and he had taken some liking to that date, like most headmasters of that time.  That is why many in our generation would have their official birthdays in and around 25 May – a few days before 01 June. Now in case I got to get them all for our daughter’s wedding in Canada and when I apply for their Visas, the Canadian Immigration will have a lot of questions and also a lot to analyse.

During my bachelor days, on a vacation home, along with our father, we went to attend a baptism in the family. In those days we had a Bajaj scooter at home and we took off. Being the month of June, the monsoon was in full fury and we had to stop enroute and take shelter in a tea-shop. I ordered two cups of tea and our father said “that is why I always say you should plan your children to be born in March”. I immediately asked him “How did you manage?” and he gave out his characteristic sly smile.

Years rolled by and in 1997, we were blessed with our son Nikhil on 16 March. At that time we were located at Pune as I was attending the Technical Staff Officers Course. As customary of the Orthodox Syrian Christians, the baptism had to be done after two months and our son had to take on our father’s name and our father had to be the God Father. During the baptism ceremony, it is the God Father who carries the child to the church and also say the pledges for the child. The entire family congregated at Pune for the occasion. After the ceremony got over, our father asked me “How did you manage?” and I too passed a sly smile. (Our daughter Nidhi was born on 20 March 1991 and I was born on 13 March 1962).

The secret is that both our children were due on 13 March, my birthday, but the gynecologist decided to delay their arrivals.

Pocket Billiards

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The above is an image of our classmates from Sainik School Amaravathinagar, in front of the Cadets’ Mess at the National Defence Academy (NDA) during our reunion in December 2015.  The reunion was hosted by Vice Admiral Ashok Kumar, AVSM, VSM, then Commandant, NDA.  Everyone is standing with their hands off their pockets, a rarity in such images of today.  Most images one receives on the social media have men standing with their hands deep down their pant pockets.

My mind went back to our school days-from 1971 to 1979, to the times when a cadet with his hands in pockets, was taunted supposedly for playing Pocket Billiards.  At times they were queried as to which ball is winning – the Right or the Left one.  Owing to this rigorous discipline instilled during the formative years, even after 37 years since our graduation,   the mere thought of putting one’s hands in the pockets will never occur to our classmates; even in their wildest of dreams.

A detailed report on the reunion appears on my blog (Please Click here to read).   If you study all the photographs taken both at formal and informal events, you will hardly observe anyone playing ‘Pocket Billiards’.  It could all be courtesy the taunts our classmates would have received.  We did not even spare our teachers – especially the new entrants- from similar taunts.

Pocket Billiards is mostly a men’s problem.  This is not a sexist view point but a factual one.  Women rarely put their hands in their pockets, except perhaps on a cold, chilly day.  They generally do not enjoy the liberty of putting their hands in pockets mostly because their attire, even while wearing pants. Women’s pants generally come without pockets and even when they do, the pockets are too shallow to accommodate a whole hand.  The women’s pants or jeans are often too tight, thereby making it uncomfortable to shove their hands in.  Thus it remains mostly a masculine issue.

Why do men put their hands in pockets? Body language experts and psychologists have different takes on the issue. Is it that they are obsessed with their family treasures? Some experts opine that that there is a subconscious male urge to perpetually hold on to ones genitals.   But holding on to one’s genitals in public is surely an indecent social display and the only way to be close to their genitals is by way of putting their hands in their pockets.  It could be that they are scared that their family treasures would fall off or someone would steal them!

‘Pocket Billiards’ by a speaker on a podium is sure to distract and also put off the audience.  Such speakers do not know what to do with their hands and try to find places to hide them and this leads to Pocket Billiards. This body language theory is sometimes contradicted by some world famous orators who can hold the audience spell bound, while habitually, one of their hands remaining in the pocket.  It becomes somewhat obscene when Pocket Billiards is accompanied with a posture of legs wide apart and hips thrust forward. Even so, some psychologists opine that this combination is a confident gesture of the dominant male who wants to tell others around who the boss is. Whatever the theory, it is not a pleasant sight to behold!

One of the most evolved part of human anatomy is our hand – with the wrist, palm and the five fingers.  The relationship between our hands and our brain has been well established by scientists.  In fact, our hands have become another communication tool.

We salute when we meet a superior officer in the military and we shake hands when we meet someone.  All these greetings are done with the open palm and has been associated with truth, honesty, allegiance and submission.  Many oaths are still taken with the palm over the heart, or over a holy book.  In the olden days, it was to show that you are unarmed and therefore not a threat and from there evolved various salutes and handshakes.

The most common body language theory is that hiding our hands is an instinctive reaction to nervousness while keeping our hands out in the open indicates confidence and also that we have nothing to hide.  Pocket Billiards tends to encourage slouching and that is why the militaries around the world have strictly forbidden it, even while off-parade.

Many men feel that they project a cool and confident look with their hands in their pockets without realising that the converse is the truth. More often than not, they project a nervous look, without knowing what to do with their hands.  Some psychologists suggest that the habit also demonstrates unwillingness, mistrust and reluctance and is often associated with liars. Be careful, everyone with hands in their pockets need not necessarily be a liar. It may just be a biological need to ward off the cold. Some experts also feel that pocket billiards is merely indicative of a person’s desire to listen rather than speak. Some even differentiate between one hand and both hands in the pocket. Theories abound but the general consensus is that the habit is one of negative body language and needs to be got over.

How to get over the Pocket Billiards syndrome? Like most good habits and bad ones too, they all begin at home.  The children take on to it seeing their parents or other adults doing it.  By putting your hands in the pockets, you are surely setting a bad example for your children.  In case you observe a child putting his hands in pockets, it is best to explain and make him understand that with his hands in the open, he would look smarter and more confident than otherwise.  The teachers at schools also have a similar role to ensure that their students do not end up playing Pocket Billiards. Friends and peers are the best to help you out of this dreadful habit.  Our classmates, both in the military and civil life, are a sure testimony to this.  Another option is to stitch down your front pockets or pin it close.  You can always use the back pockets to store your wallet or cell phone.

One needs to pay attention to one’s hands and ensure that they are clean, hygienic and presentable.  Make sure to rub a cream or lotion and also a sanitizer on your hands prior to meeting anyone or while going to a gathering.  Ensure that you consciously use gestures that will get your message across to those that will help you build alliances and influence people.  With your hands in your pockets, you would mostly end up as an ugly duckling.

Soldiers’ Gods

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There are many soldier Gods in different border areas where the Indian Army operates. Most of the shrines dedicated to these Gods are situated in inhospitable terrain and mostly placed out of bounds to the civilians. There are no hymns or keertans sang on behalf of these Gods, they do not have ashrams, they do not ride in luxurious sedans, they do not hug devotees, they do not run charitable institutions, and they do not give darshans, and so on. They are soldiers who sacrificed their lives in service of their motherland and now regarded as patron saints guarding the areas where they achieved Martyrdom.

On my first assignment to the Kashmir Valley as a young Captain in 1987, my belief in the God Almighty was rekindled mainly because of the inhospitable terrain, sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow-falls, avalanches, thin air with deficiency of Oxygen, high-altitudes above 10,000 feet, and the drive through the mountain roads where one could slip off the road, down the gorges, and no trace would be left of the vehicle or the passengers. I was attached to a Punjab Battalion as the Artillery Observer. The battalion had troops mainly from Punjab, Himachal and Jammu, consisting of Hindus and Sikhs. As per the norms of the Army, the battalion had a Mandir with a Hindu Pundit and a Gurudwara with a Sikh Granthi. On Sundays or on important religious days we attended both Mandir Parade and the Gurudwara Parade. These being Parades, it was mandatory for all officers and men to attend.

On the way to the battalion headquarters, there was a Muslim Peer Baba and every man, irrespective of their rank or position, used to stop and pay their respects to the Peer Baba before proceeding to the battalion. The belief among the troops, passed down over the decades of army deployment, was that the Peer Baba took care of the soldiers and in case anyone failed to stop and pay respect, he will meet with some tragedy. Being a Christian by birth, I said the Lord’s prayer in the mornings and evenings, a ritual embedded in me by our father. This was the place I understood the meaning of secularism and realised that all Gods were the same. I was never sure as to who saw me through my first Kashmir tenure, the Gods in the Temple, the Gurudwara, the Peer Baba or Jesus. During my later years of field service in Sikkim and in Siachen Glacier, I came across two Soldier Gods.

OP Baba, Siachen Glacier, c/o 56 APO
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Siachen Glacier, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, the highest battlefield of the world, is well known for its inhospitable and treacherous terrain, freezing cold at -40 degrees, crevasses and avalanches and lastly enemy action. Statistics reveal that more lives have been lost to the weather than to the enemy action since 1984, when the Indian army first occupied the Siachen glacier. Hypoxia, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (“high-altitude sickness” or HAPE), bone-chilling winds, sun burns, chill blains, frost bites, the thin air and sub-zero temperatures inducing acute depression, are the some of the weather factors affecting our soldiers. Most of the soldiers serving in such areas become very religious and the trust in their Gods really multiplies.

There are many a myths and legends about the Siachen Glacier, like any other battlefields Legend has it that OP (Om Prakash) Baba, deeply revered by troops posted in these glacial heights, was an army soldier who fought valiantly to preserve Indian frontiers from Pakistani intruders in the most adverse situations. The belief in the soldier saint is so strong that a formal report is given to OP Baba before the induction of a soldier party on the glacier and after the successful accomplishment of any mission. Any officer moving into the area reports his arrival to the Baba by visiting the shrine and paying his respects.

The faith in the legend of OP Baba is so strong that all troops give up consumption of alcohol and tobacco during their stay on the glacier as the Baba is believed to have been a strict disciplinarian and expects the same from fellow soldiers who come here to guard the frontier. Every battalion or company before taking position begins with a prayer at Baba’s shrine. The company commander gives a detailed briefing to Baba before tying a brass bell in the complex, taking a vow to keep away from cigarettes and intoxicants and fight the enemy till the last breath. The personnel keep the promise till the last day of their tenure in the glacier and is strongly believed that any deviation is met with instant punishment from the legend himself.

It is believed that a night before any imminent danger, the Baba comes in the dreams of soldiers and warns them of such eventuality. The Baba has always been with the troops and protects every soldier and warns them of any impending danger in the Glacier.

Baba Harbhajan Singh, Sikkim, c/o 99 APO

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Baba Harbhajan Singh has defeated death. Believe it or not but it is true, one of its kind of story in the world- a man from an Indian army in  Nathula border in Sikkim, is still doing his duty even after his death some three decades back. 60km from Gangtok towards the Nathula Pass lies the valley of Kupup.  Here is the shrine of Baba Harbhajan popularly known as Baba Mandir. Baba Harbhajan has been guarding the international boundary of the two Asian giants, China and India over the last three decades. But believe me he does it alone. The Baba warns the dangerous activities on the border through the dreams of fellow army men. Legend has it that even the Chinese army men confirm sighting a man riding a horse all alone, patrolling the border.

Born in Brondal village of Kapurthala, Punjab, Harbhajan Singh joined the 23rd Punjab Battalion on February 1966 as a Sepoy. On October 4, 1968 Sepoy Harbhajan Singh was escorting a mule caravan from his battalion headquarters, he fell into a fast flowing stream and was drowned. Search for Sepoy Harbhajan was made with no results it was on the fifth day of the missing, his Commanding Officer had a dream of Harbhajan Singh informing him of his tragic incident and his personnel weapon being under the heap of snow. Harbhajan Singh desired to have a samadhi (memorial) made after him. The Commanding Officer ignored the dream as an imagination but later when the personnel weapon of Sepoy Harbhajan Singh was found at the spot where Harbhajan Singh had informed, the Commanding Officer was taken aback and to mark respect and towards his wish a samadhi was constructed there.

Here too, the belief in the soldier saint is so strong that any officer or troops moving into the area reports his arrival to the Baba by visiting the shrine and paying his respects. On my arrival at Sikkim,  Colonel PK Ramachandran, our Commanding Officer, realising my rational stands on such issues had advised me to visit the Baba Mandir. He said that my visit to the Baba Mandir may mean nothing to me, but will go a long way in upholding the faith of the men under command. I did as ordered without realising the implications of his words until I read a research paper by a US Army Doctor on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered by operationally deployed US Army troops. I realised that cases of PTSD were the least in the Indian Army despite all the operational commitments and I can attribute it only to the faith in God by our troops and the role played by the myths and legends and patron saints of different areas. This may also be the reason for increased evangelistic activities reported among the US Military personnel deployed in operational zones.

St George and the British Army
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St George is patron of soldiers, cavalry and chivalry and he is the patron saint of England, Georgia, Lithuania, Portugal, Germany and Greece.  He has no biblical significance.  He held the rank of a tribune in the Roman army and was beheaded by Diocletian for protesting against the Emperor’s persecution of Christians. St George was adopted as the patron saint of soldiers after he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098.

He is usually represented on horseback in the act of spearing the monster which is vomiting fire.  It is based on a myth that in Sylene, a city of Libya, a lake was infested by a huge dragon, whose poisonous breath would kill anyone.  The citizens could never draw water from the lake and in order to keep the dragon away, every day a virgin was sacrificed to it.  One day the turn came for Sabra, the king’s daughter, to become its victim.  She was tied to the stake, and left to be devoured, when St. George appeared mounted on his charger and is believed to have killed the dragon.  Many similar stories were transmitted to the West by Crusaders who had heard them from Byzantine troops.

The banner of St George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers possibly in the reign of Richard I, and later became the flag of England and the White Ensign of the Royal Navy.

In 1940, when the civilian population of Britain was subjected to mass bombing by the Luftwaffe, King George VI instituted the George Cross for ‘acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger’.  The award, which is second only to the Victoria Cross, is usually given to civilians.  The award consists of a silver cross.  On one side of the cross is St George slaying the dragon, with the inscription, ‘For Gallantry’; on the other appear the name of the holder and the date of the award.

After setting foot in India, British Army built its first fort in Madras (now Chennai) in 1644 and christened it Fort St George after their patron saint.

 

 

Divine Trade on Social Media

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Most netizens by now must be fed up with all the images of Gods, Godmen and their preaching which bombard their in-boxes.  Generally, no one wants to show disrespect to their own Gods and also to someone else’s.  The dilemma that most netizens face is that their computer systems or smartphones generally store these images by default in one folder, irrespective of the type of divine personality.  Hence these Godly images are cursed to coexist with the heavy volume of porn and nude images that one receives on the very same social media. 

The senders of these Godly images surely did not want to show any disrespect to their Gods.  Some may even be gullible enough to believe that their Gods would be happy with their actions to spread the message and image of their Gods, thereby making their Gods more saleable.  The only likely beneficiary of such actions would be the Godmen whose objective is to trade this divine merchandise.  Thankfully the internet does not reach the Gods, else He would have had a difficult time, sorting these messages out!

Further, these images take up a lot of bytes and is costly to download and store.  The prime principle of communication is brevity which ensures speedy transmission of the message.  The Generation Next have aptly taken to texting, to reduce cost and increase speed.  Here there is no place for any image unless unavoidable.  Most netizens sending such images on social media are generally new entrants and are still bitten by the social media bug.  As time passes, many are sure to overcome this thrill, thus saving everyone money and time.

Some netizens send images of their God with an accompanying story that when they forwarded the same to 10 people, some miracle happened and this person now wants you to send it to 10 more people so that you receive such favours, else some calamity may strike you.  This carrot and stick strategy again results in unwarranted traffic on the internet and sometimes it may end up as an information security risk.

Another trend observed is to publish a story about favours received by the devotees as a case of some divine intervention.  I once confronted an editor of a paper publishing such paid classified advertisements and enquired as to whether he did send a copy of the newspaper to the concerned God as well.  How else can you expect God to learn about the ‘earnest’ efforts of a staunch follower of His?

I requested the editor to educate the publishers about the futility of such efforts and instead if the wasted money can be paid to some charity, it would be of considerable help to the needy.  Such advertisements are neither needed by God nor is it of any use to anyone except the publishing house who rake in money at the cost of the foolish believer.

Let us for a minute consider that God too was a Facebook user.  Would He have approved His image or the divine article you just posted? Would He ‘like’ what you just posted?    Every God would surely like a post about Him to be True, Helpful to humanity, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind to every living creations in this world, coupled with humane love.

While posting anything divine about your God, always stop to think that there are many who do not believe or follow your brand of divinity.  There are atheists too who claim user-created religious content is offensive to them and many feel that it promotes forceful indoctrination into their belief systems.

Pope Francis on the 50th World Day of Social Communications, while welcoming Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, to the Vatican said “It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.  Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as ‘closeness’.”

Social media for sure is not a creation of God and as Pope Francis said, it is a gift of God. We all have seen it evolve before our eyes.  Hence it would be the most inappropriate place for the Gods.  God is counting neither the number of ‘likes’ your post has generated nor the number of times His name is tweeted.  It is surely not a gateway to heaven, nirvana or moksha, but will merely help some Godmen and their cronies rake in the ‘moolah’.

Rather than beginning the day by posting our God’s image on the social media, we should rather begin each day with God. It is astonishing that those who indulge in this form of worship are unconscious of the pettiness of the whole concept.   God is all knowing and all powerful and the least He needs is your reaffirmation of faith in Him through the social media. 

Bosses

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Working in any hierarchical and structured organisation, one always had a boss, someone to whom one is answerable and someone who always gauged your performance and guided you to achieve the best.  I too had my bosses and one always had subordinates, for whom one was the boss.  After retirement, I realised that I was not my own boss as one had to be answerable for the actions to someone or the other.

I would classify the bosses under whom I worked as :-

  • Category 1.   “I know most of it and I know that I know most of it”.   The best boss to work under, who will only give you a few directions and believes in delegation.  The boss knows the team well and capability of each one in the team and assigns tasks accordingly.
  • Category 2.   “I know bit of it and I know that I know only a bit of it”.   Depends heavily on the subordinates and accepts inputs from them.  The subordinates while providing inputs need to be well aware that it may be implemented at times in full.
  • Category 3.   “Knows nothing, but presumes that he knows everything”.   Most difficult to work with as a subordinate and does not seem to have any faith in the subordinates.  You will always keep getting orders and not directions as to how to execute a task and for sure, it will keep changing from hour to hour and at times from minute to minute.

One can never select one’s boss, especially in the army and one got to accept them ‘As Is’.  I had been lucky during my service that I got a good lot of the Category 1 bosses as mentioned above.  The distribution of the bosses were:-

  • Category 1.   52%
  • Category 2.     8%
  • Category 3.   40%

How they will perform in a given scenario is an interesting study.  Let us take the case of a senior executive (a General or a CEO) flying in from the head office or the higher headquarters and need to be briefed for about 10 minutes by the boss under consideration.

  • Category 1.  Will call the subordinates concerned, give out clear directions as to the slides to be made (at times makes it himself) and ask for any inputs from others.  The slides only if must, may undergo a few changes.  He may conduct one rehearsal and accept most inputs from the subordinates.
  • Category 2.   Will call the immediate subordinates and explain to them the task in hand and accept inputs from them.  The subordinates will have to provide the slides and the script and at times explain all that is written too.  The boss puts in extra effort to understand the contents.  There will be a few rehearsals and hardly any changes except for those where the boss finds difficulty in explaining.
  • Category 3.   You and the entire sundry in the organisation, whether connected with the briefing or not, will be summoned for a conference, which will last for at least an hour.  Some orders would be given out regarding the number of slides to be made, who will provide the data, etc.  The most important aspect covered would be the tea and snacks to be served to the executive and at times even the flower arrangements to be placed in the office.  The number of slides to be made would be around 40 and everyone knows that there would not be sufficient time, even to flash all the slides.  The slides will undergo umpteen changes and will never be finalised till the eleventh hour.  There may be many a rehearsals, but the number of changes the slides would undergo would make them meaningless.  Always save your initial draft, at the end of the day, with modifications and corrections, you will find the end product almost similar to your initial draft.

The final result you all can guess, but ultimately it is the subordinates who suffer, especially in doing unproductive work.