Brigadier GM Sankar – A Friend in Deed

I have had the fortune of associating with Sankar from our NDA days from 1979 onward.  Being course-mates  at the NDA and IMA and commissioned to the Regiment of Artillery in 1982, our Army careers ran nearly parallel.  But unlike parallel lines, we met often, especially undergoing army training courses at the Mecca of Gunners  – School of Artillery, Devlali, Maharashtra.

We also enjoyed our Army Headquarters, Delhi, tenure  at the turn of the millennia  – Sankar with the Military Operations (MO) Directorate and I with the Military Intelligence (MI) Directorate.

We did the Young Officers’ course at the beginning of our officer life, Introductory Surveillance and Target Acquisition Course, Long Gunnery Staff Course (LGSC)  and Automated Data Processing [ADP] (Computer) Course at Devlali.  It was a great association through all these courses as we shared one table – obviously the one at the last row – reserved by God especially for the intellectuals who were least interested in the grades we got, but only interested in real learning.

Our main pass time during the courses  was smoking (in those days smoking was permitted during lectures), but we listened attentively to the lectures.  We both were very much liked by some of our instructors – only those who smoked – as our last bench seats facilitated them to pinch a cigarette off us.  We did oblige our smoker course officers too, even though some took advantage of our magnanimity.

When we came to Devlali for LGSC in August 1989, Sankar was a bachelor and I was married.  My wife Marina was doing her final year of Pharmacy graduation at Gulburga.  She used to come to Devlali during weekends when she could manage off for a day or two.  It was a monthly ritual and I did not attend classes whenever Marina joined me.  It was my dutiful friend Sankar who ‘managed’ my absence in those days.

After Marina graduated in April 1990, she conceived our daughter Nidhi.  Her monthly appointment with the gynaecologist was on Saturdays and whenever I could not spare myself due to training commitments, it was Sankar who took Marina on his scooter to the Military Hospital.  He was always a bit scared to carry pregnant Marina on the pillion of his scooter and that must have been the only time he would have observed speed-limits in Devlali.

Towards the end of LGSC, there was a group innovation project to be executed.  The core idea for the innovation was mooted by Sankar and I (remember -Innovations always germinate from the last-benches).  Sankar worked very hard for the fructification of the project and at the end of it we never got any mention in the credits.   Obviously, the instructor officers never took us ‘seriously.’

As LGSC was coming to a close, Sankar got engaged to Rohini.  Brave and thoughtful of Rohini, she accompanied by her little younger brother Rajesh to  visit Sankar at Devlali on a weekend, to familiarise with the military environment and culture.  For sure, Saturday’s dinner was scheduled at our home.

Rohini , Rajesh and Sankar reached our home by dot 7 PM.  After customary introductions, I asked Rohini to take a tour of our home and make a note of all the appliances and other accessories, which she dutifully did.  Now I said to her that when she gets married to Sankar, she got to get these from her home as it is the minimum standard to be maintained by an army officer.  Rajesh exclaimed that it would not be possible for his poor Appa to procure all these before the wedding.

Marina ‘briefed’  Rohini about the ‘training’ she had to undergo on becoming an army officer’s wife.  To make the ‘story’ palatable. Marina showed some photographs of her when we were at  the Indo-Pak border in Kashmir prior to LGSC.  By midnight after dinner we broke off.

On Sunday morning they were invited to another friend’s home for breakfast.  Our friend on seeing the gloomy faces of Rohini and Rajesh asked Rohini as to where they went last evening.  On hearing her reply he knew what would have happened.  He came running to our home and took Marina and I to his home.  Now we told Rohini that it was a ‘prank’ being played on her.  All this while, Sankar, my true friend remained silent (he must have enjoyed the fun at Rohini’s expense).

A week before the end of LGSC, we had to travel to Pune to write the computer aptitude test.  We had no clue as to  what it was all about and so travelled merrily to Pune – all to enjoy three days of absence from the course.  Many other officers were also there and all of them barring two of us were all serious about the test.

The test was for three hours and it was all about logic, analysis and intelligence tests.  Who can beat the last-bench intellectuals in such a  test – we were the only two who qualified in the test.  This resulted in us rejoining at Devlali for the ADP Course  in January 1990.

That was when the wedding of Rohini and Sankar was  – before the commencement of ADP Course.  I took two weeks leave prior to the course to attend their wedding at Vashi, Mumbai.  After that it was a journey together as a family, especially at Delhi.

Marina migrated to Canada in February 2002 and I was posted out forthwith to command  125 SATA Regiment as the Indian Army was mobilised to the Western Sector in the aftermath of militant attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001.  Our son Nikhil was despatched to my parents in Kerala and Nidhi had to write her final examination of Grade 5 in April.  For sure, without winking an eyelid, we left her in the loving care of Rohini and Sankar.  We are all very indebted to the family for this great gesture.

When I released my book ‘Suit, Boot & Tie’ in March  2017, I had invited Rohini and Sankar to grace the occasion.  As Sankar had some important military commitment, he could not attend.  Rohini travelled all the way from Mumbai to Bangalore to grace the occasion.  We reminisced a lot about our life together throughout the two days.  Thank you Rohini for this great gesture.

God has been magnanimous with Rohini and Sankar as they have been blessed with Roshan and Nisha – two extremely intelligent, smart and humane kids – who will surely carry on ahead – much ahead of what Rohini and Sankar have achieved.

Today, Sankar is hanging up his boots – after 36 years of dedicated service to the Indian Army.  I wish him all the best in his second innings.  I also need to acknowledge just how much I have been shaped by Sankar. I have a myriad of experiences, too many to mention, that have impacted me in a memorable and meaningful way.   What I have written is  barely scratches on the surface of all that I have learned from Sankar over the years.

We, the Koduvath family, are extremely grateful for the role that Sankar and his family have played throughout our happy years and these years that we will always cherish fondly.

Athens – A Historical City

On June 10, we set out to visit the Acropolis Museum. Voted one of the best museums in the world, with a total area of 25,000 square meter, the museum showcases Greek history through its three floors.  The museum was inaugurated in the summer of 2009.

The Museum is built above a large urban settlement on the Makriyianni site dating from Archaic to Early Christian Athens.   This discovery is being integrated into the Museum and is yet to open to public.  As we walked on the glass floor, we could see excavation and restoration process of the Makriyianni site.

On the ground floor, the ‘Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis’ houses exhibits from the sanctuaries that were established on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as objects that Athenians used in everyday life from all historic periods. ‘Archaic Gallery’, on the first floor, hosts the magnificent sculptures that graced the first temples on the Acropolis.  Photography is not permitted in these two floors.

Third floor, ‘Parthenon Gallery’, where sculptures of the Parthenon period are exhibited in continuous sequence along the perimeter.

The most impressive among the exhibits is the Caryatids.  A Caryatid is s a sculpted female statue, used as a column or a pillar, supporting the structure on her head. This Greek term literally means ‘maidens of Karyai.’   These original statues once supported the roof of the North porch of Erectheion.  Five statues of Caryatids are in the museum.  Statue on right-rear was smashed by a Turkish canon-ball in 1687, when the Parthenon was shelled during a battle between the Turks and the Venetians.  The sixth is installed at the British Museum in London, which acquired it nearly two centuries ago after Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.  He had it sawed off the Erechtheion’s porch, along with shiploads of adornments from the Parthenon to decorate his mansion in Scotland before selling the pieces to pay debts.  Cast reproductions of six Caryatids now support the porch of Erectheion.

After spending about three hours at the museum, we walked to the iconic Acropolis.  An `acropolis’ is any citadel or complex built on a high hill. The name derives from the Greek language meaning ‘High City’ or ‘City on the Edge’ or ‘City in the Air.  Most famous being the Acropolis of Athens, built in the Fifth century BC.

Acropolis is the most characteristic monument of the ancient Greek civilisation. It symbolises democracy and the beginning of Western civilisation and stands as an icon of European culture.  More than half of the sculptures and artifacts from the Acropolis are in the British Museum in London and their return to Greece is a cultural and a political issue between the two nations, yet to be resolved.  The Brits claim that Lord Elgin saved the marbles from destruction, and acquired them fairly.

As we walked up the hill, we come across the Propylaea, meaning a monumental gate or entrance to a specific space, usually to a temple or religious complex.

As we climbed up the Propylaea, on the Southern flank stands the Temple of Athena Nike.  It was a place of worship for deities associated with wars, ‘Nike’ Gods or Goddesses.  The Nike statute had no wings, as it was customary for Nike statues of the time, the temple acquired the name Apteros Nike (wing-less victory). It is said that the statue was deprived of wings so it could never leave the city of Athens.

Propylaea stands as an impressive building that surrounds the natural entrance to the plateau.

After walking for about five minutes on the plateau, we were at the Parthenon.  The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to Goddess Athena, considered the patron Goddess of Athens. Construction began in 447 BC and was completed in 438 BC, although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece.  The temple was built to shelter the monumental statue of Athena that was made of gold and ivory.

In 1975, the Greek government began a concerted effort to restore the Parthenon and other Acropolis structures and these efforts are still ongoing.

Walking around the Parthenon, we came to the Erechtheion.  This temple was built to house the religious artifacts that the old temple housed. Construction of the Erechtheion began in 420BC.  It is an intricate temple designed to accommodate the uneven ground on which it stands.  The need was to build a temple without disturbing sacred shrines like the altars to Poseidon and Hephaestus, and the spot where Poseidon is believed to have hit the Acropolis with his trident. Other shrines that needed to be accommodated included the sacred olive tree, a well containing sea water and the tomb of Kekrops.

The temple faces East and its entrance is lined with six long Ionic columns.

To the North and West, the wall of the temple drops dramatically to almost twice the altitude of the front and South sides.

The temple is unusual in that it incorporates two porches; one at the North-West corner which is supported by tall Ionic columns, and one at the South-West corner which is supported by six massive female statues, the famous Caryatids.  The Caryatids (replica as the original is in the museum) have become the temple’s signature feature, as they stand and seem to casually support the weight of the porch roof on their heads.

Acropolis also provides an excellent view of Athens and some important historical monuments adjacent to it.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built at the base of the Acropolis is an ancient amphitheatre.  This ancient theater, with a capacity of about 5,000, was built in the Roman times, about 161 AD. by the Roman philosopher, teacher and politician Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Aspasia Regilla.  It was destroyed in 267 AD and was in ruins until restored in the 1950s.  Since then it has been the main venue of the Athens Festival, which runs from May through October each year.  Many world renowned musicians have held concerts here and was the venue for the Miss Universe 1973 pageant.

This is the facade at the entrance to Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, also known as the Olympieion, is located on the South-East of Acropolis.  It was built over several centuries starting in 174 BC and completed by Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 AD. Its unusually tall columns and ambitious layout made the temple one of the largest ever built in the ancient world.

The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is considered to be the world’s first theatre, built at the foot of the Acropolis, cut into its southern cliff.  Dedicated to Dionysus, the God of plays and wine, the theatre could seat 17,000 people.  It was the location for ancient Athens’ biggest theatrical celebration, the Dionysia.  It was an engineering marvel with perfect proportion of depth/circumference. Here is where the great masterpieces by Aeschylus and Sophocles were first performed. I tried to imagine the great  Greek tragedies being enacted with 17000 spectators, seated all around. The thought quietly transported me into a bygone era.

So time for first impressions. Great food, great people and an immense sense of history in every nook and cranny, all together a great getaway.

Greece – The Cradle of Western Civilization

(Image Courtesy Google)

Greece was our destination in the Summer of 2018.  Greece is a country in South-Eastern-Europe with thousands of islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas with Athens as its Capital.

First traces of human habitation in Greece appeared during the Paleolithic Age (120000 – 10000 BC). During the Neolithic Age that followed (7000 – 3000 BC), many buildings spread throughout the country.  The beginning of the Bronze Age (3000-1100 BC) is marked by the appearance of the first urban centers in Greece.

Conquest of Greece in 146 BC by Romans ended Greek dominance.  Christianity was propagated in Greece by Apostle Paul during the First Century.  By the Third Century, Greece became part of the Byzantine Empire.

The Ottomans empire expanded to engulf Greece from the Fourteenth Century.  Around four centuries of Ottoman domination ended with the Greek War of Independence in 1821.  The Greek State took its current form after the end of World War II.  In 1974, after the seven-year dictatorship, a referendum was held and the government changed from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Presidential Parliamentary Democracy, and in 1981 Greece became a member of the European Union.

We landed at Athens on June 09 and drove straight to our hotel.  We were briefed by our Tour Coordinator at the hotel

After completing our  check-in formalities at the hotel, we walked to ‘I Kriti’ Restaurant nearby as recommended by our Tour Coordinator.  The restaurant served a sumptuous Cretan food consisting of fish, lamb in a pan, pork ribs and Greek salad.   Crete is the largest island of Greece and every Cretan village has its own signature cheese, which form part of every Cretan cuisine. They are usually made from sheep or goat’s milk, or a combination of both and each cheese variety has its local interpretation.  We were also entertained by a local musician playing his accordion.

After lunch we walked to National Archeological Museum housed in the old parliament building.  It is an imposing neoclassical building of the nineteenth century which earlier served as the Greek Parliament.  It houses over 20,000 exhibits, providing  a panoramic view of the great Greek civilization.

Some of the museum exhibits of extraordinary splendour  that caught our attention are:-

Dipylon Amphora
. This is a large Ancient Greek painted vase, made around 750 BC.  Such large sized painted vases were used as grave markers.  The vase was made on a potter’s wheel in three sections that were joined together to form a single large vessel,  over five feet high. The base has a hole to allow offerings to be poured for the dead.

. A marble statue of a naked youth (530 BC), erected on the grave of Kroisos, who fell in battle, according to the epigram carved on the front of the pedestal.  He is represented standing frontally with his left leg forward and fists clenched.  He symbolises youthfulness, beauty, power and hope.

Kore (Maiden)
. This marble statue of a maiden (550-540 BC), stood on the grave of Phrasikleia. The Kore is depicted by the sculptor wearing a wreath on the head, jewellery and a long gown.

Statues depicting men had their left foot forward and women were depicted standing with their feet together.  This could also prove my observation of ‘Left Foot First’.  Please click here to read my earlier post.

. This marble statue of a Sphinx (570-550 BC) is one of the earliest known Archaic Sphinxes and it was set above a grave.  Sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion.

Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon. This statue (460 BC) was recovered for the seabed is still debated as to whether it represented Zeus or Poseidon.  The statue is over two meter tall.  The God is depicted with left leg forward in a  great stride, with His left arm forward, while throwing the thunderbolt or the trident held in His right hand.  Notable feature is  the exquisite rendering of motion and anatomy.

Funerary Stele
. This marble piece (400 BC) was found in 1870 in an ancient cemetery. It shows a lady seated on a chair, looks at a piece of jewellery held in her raised right hand. Opposite her, a sorrowful standing attendant holds an open jewellery box belonging to a dead woman.  The sorrowful expressions on the face of the two ladies, their hairstyles and rendering of their jewellery and dress is all very impressive.

Artemision Jockey
. Bronze statue of a horse and a young jockey (140 BC) retrieved in 1928 and 1937 in pieces from the seafloor. The word Artemision comes from Cape Artemision, the site of the shipwreck. The young jockey, probably of African origin, holds the reins of the galloping horse in his left hand and a whip in his right. The contractions and furrows in his face, especially on the forehead, reveal agony and passion.

Statue of Hermes
. This marble statue (27 BC-AD 14), is probably a funerary and was found in 1860. Hermes was the  Greek God of trade, wealth, luck, fertility, animal husbandry, sleep, language, thieves, and travel.  He is depicted standing, wearing a short cloak that is wound around his left arm. In his right hand he is holding  a purse and in his left the Caduceus, his staff.

Bronze Statue of a Youth
. A bronze statue (340-330 BC), recovered in 1990 from  an ancient shipwreck on the sea floor.  It depicts either Perseus, who would have been holding the head of Medusa, or, more probably, Paris, with the ‘apple of Strife’, ready to award it to the most beautiful Goddess, Aphrodite.  Outstanding feature of this statue is the strongly modeled muscles and the expressive face.

National Archeological Museum with its numerous and outstanding exhibits give the visitor a peep into Greek history.   Unique treasures displayed with detailed captions and signboards will mesmerise you and it is really worth a visit.  The sculpture collection depicts the evolution of ancient Greek sculpture from 700 BC to the Fifth Century AD.  It requires plenty of time to read through various information boards and enjoy the artistic value of the statues and artifacts displayed.

We returned to our hotel rooms by dusk.  We had dinner at the roof-top restaurant of the hotel which offered a stunning view of illuminated Acropolis.

I felt a fleeting sense of awe and humility. Looking at the brilliance of what is left of a more than 2000 year old structure, i couldn’t help but feel that despite the ravages of time, here is where history stands tall, with elegance and poise.

After Action Report -Thai Cave Rescue

In their first public appearance since emerging from their ten-day ordeal in the cave, the boys recounted their side of an extraordinary story that captured the imagination of the world.

(Photo courtesy (Vincent Thian/The Associated Press)

A packed crowd greeted the youngsters after they were discharged from hospital in Chiang Rai, and watched as they played with footballs on a small makeshift pitch before taking their seats.

Sitting beside the boys were the Thai Navy SEALs who stayed inside the cave with them after they were found, as well as members of the medical team who looked after them after the rescue.

Thai authorities organised a  press conference, for which questions were pre-screened,  More than 100 questions were sent in by the media, though only a handful were selected.   The media was urged to give the boys uninterrupted time with their families so as not to harm their recovery

Dressed in matching team shirts, the boys and their coach Ake appeared happy and relaxed as they faced the world’s media.  The boys introduced themselves  with their nicknames and the position they played on the team.

The largely joyous mood of the press conference was tempered, however, when the boys and Ake discussed the loss of Saman Kunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL who had died during the rescue effort. Ake said the team were shocked to learn of Saman Kunan’s death, called him a hero.   In memory of the navy diver, Ake and the boys decided to spend time as novice Buddhist monks — a practice considered a high honour in Thailand.

The boys thanked their rescuers and medical staff, and paid tribute to Kunan. They also bowed before a portrait of the Thai king.

The boys explained as to when they realised that they were trapped, how they adapted to their surroundings and their eventual joy at being found, ten days later.  They described their rescue as a miracle, thanked the experts who saved them and discussed how the experience would affect the rest of their lives.

Contrary to the belief that the team entered the cave complex to celebrate the birthday of Night on the day the team went missing, Ake said that the boys were merely curious to look inside as some of them had never been there before.  He said it was not unusual for the group to participate in group activities after soccer practice on Saturday afternoons.

They explored the caves for about an hour, before deciding to return.   By this time the cave had become partially flooded and their exit was blocked.   All the boys can swim, country to earlier reports, and they to swam to safety when the water started rising.

At his point, they realised that they were trapped. With no obvious way out, the group retreated about 200 meter further into the cave to find somewhere to rest for the night.

There they found a bit of slope with a small water source,  Ake instructed the team to drink water dripping from the roof of the cave as it would be purer than the dirty floodwater on the floor.   Having eaten after soccer practice, the boys had no food during their ordeal.  Instead, they drank water from the cave.

Before they slept, Ake told them to say a prayer and they prayed that night. The team were not scared and Ake hoped the water level would drop the next day, and that help would arrive.

The waters did not subside, however.  Instead the levels rose fast.  Ake ordered the group to find higher ground. Concerned that they might soon be submerged, he instructed the boys to start digging and look for a potential exit.  They managed to burrow a hole into the cave in shifts after the water rose by three meter.

Adun, the only member who spoke English, responded with a “Hello”  in disbelief  to the first British diver who reached the group.  Adun, like other members of the group, was busy digging — looking for a possible way out — when some of the boys thought they heard the sound of people talking.  Ake instructed the group to stay quiet. He asked one of the boys to move closer to the ledge and shine a flashlight on the water, but the boy was too scared, and Adun volunteered instead.

The boys described how they formed a bond with the Thai Navy SEALs who remained with them in the cave while rescuers worked out a plan to free them. They played checkers — and one of the Navy SEALs sitting alongside them at the press conference always won.   This SEAL was titled ‘King of the Cave.  One SEAL had spent most of the time in just his underwear and a small piece of foil, having stripped off his clothes to give to the boys to keep warm.

None of the boys wanted to leave the cave first when rescuers asked for volunteers when the decision was made to extract the boys through the floodwaters.  Ake joked he and the boys made the decision on who should go first based on who lived the furthest away. Ake thought the rescued kids would go straight home and those who got out first could spread the word.

When asked about the lessons they’ve learned from the incident, Ake said he was going to live life more carefully.   Ardun said though people can’t predict the future, the experience had taught him about the consequences of acting carelessly.   Other boys said though they still dreamed of becoming soccer players, some said they now wanted to become Navy SEALs.

The boys and Ake apologised to their parents for not telling them they went to the cave.

Thai authorities are concerned about their long-term psychological health.  They urged the media to respect the boys’ privacy in the future, out of concern for their mental health.  They are also in the process of granting four team members who are stateless Thai citizenship.

The day after the press conference the boys were allowed to go home.   Doctors have advised their families that they should avoid contact with journalists for at least a month.


Wild Boar Boys Football Team Rescue Operations

Rescue operations of Thai Wild Boar Boys Football Team and coach, a group of ‘Unlucky Thirteen’ captured the world’s attention, as divers successfully brought them out of the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.  “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” – from my blogpost ‘Arithmetic of Licence Plates.’

‘God Himself never did any miracle, but it was always through humans’, I had written in my earlier blogpost ‘Randomness of Life.’  We must thank the God Almighty for the efforts of the rescue team, but should never forget to thank all those members of the rescue team, who untiringly executed the dangerous rescue operation.

First, let us bow our heads and say a few prayers for Kunont, also known as Gunan or Kunan, who laid down his life, without caring for his personal safety.  He was part of the North Face Adventure Team, one of Thailand’s top trail runners and a former Navy Seal diver.

Kunont made his way through a submerged cave to bring oxygen.  He  then ran out of oxygen on his way back to the entrance, highlighting how hard it would be to rescue the boys untrained in diving.  On his way back he lost consciousness and  his friend tried to help bring him out.  Kunont, in a soldierly way, did the supreme sacrifice in trying to save others.

(Image Courtesy Australian Associated Press)

Dr Richard Harris, 53, an anesthesiologist from Adelaide, works for the South Australian Ambulance Services.  He is an expert in cave-diving.  He joined the rescue team on the request of British officials.

Risking his own life, Harris made the treacherous trip into the subterranean chamber to check on the boys after they had been trapped for more than two weeks.  After examining them, Harris recommended that the weakest of the boys be rescued before their stronger teammates — against the earlier opinion of saving the strongest first.

Ekapol Chantawong, affectionately known as “Ake,” is the assistant coach of the football team.  Ekapol had already cheated death; when he was just 10 years old.  His parents and brother were killed by a disease that ravaged his village, only sparing him.  He lived with extended family members for a short time after his family’s deaths, but felt sad and lonely.  This lead him to be a Buddhist Monk.

Ake would be there at the field waiting for kids to show up after school. According to him, it is a great way to keep the children healthy, away from modern gizmos and other diversions and also to interact with friends.  The members of the Wild Boars are a team on and off the soccer field, traveling to competitions, cycling mountain roads and swimming in waterfalls together.

The team entered the cave complex to celebrate the birthday of Peerapat Sompiangjai, nicknamed Night, turned 17 on 23 June, the day the team went missing.  Before they were found, the group had to survive for nine days in the darkness unaware of the desperate search efforts.

How did this team survive through the ordeal?

Air.    Most caves naturally ‘breathe’ through various pores and cracks.  However, as the days went on, oxygen levels dipped to about 15% where the team were huddled. The usual level is about 21%.  Ake, being a Buddhist Monk, had trained the team in breathing techniques to make sure they used as little air as possible,

Food.    The team had bought snacks to celebrate Night’s birthday, and it was these snacks that helped sustain them after getting trapped in the caves. Ake reportedly refused to eat any food so the boys would have more for themselves, leaving him the weakest when divers eventually found the team on 2 July.  What a great leader!

Water.    Humans  can survive for many months without food, but water is an absolute necessity.  As it was monsoon season, the cave had adequate water  and they chose clean water to drink,  Water dripping from the cave ceiling would have really helped.

Hypothermia.    It is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce.  It can often be a risk underground, especially in flooded caves.  The team used rocks to dig five metres deeper into the cave to create a tunnel so that they could keep warm.

Disorientation.   The team had to handle the total darkness of the cave, without any awareness of time or of the massive search efforts to find them.  Meditation training by Ake helped the team withstand disorientation.

Stress.   The efforts of Ake must have been instrumental in keeping them calm.  Meditation would have helped them handle the stress.

When the rescuers managed to get through to the team, they delivered letters from their families and took notes back to allow them communication with the outside world.  In his letter, Ake apologised to the parents for taking the boys into the cave network, but several replied to say they did not blame him.

“I promise I will take care of the kids as best as I can,” he wrote.

Lesson to be learnt from the rescue operations are:-

Planning and Coordination of Rescue Efforts.    Coordination between various Thai agencies and also international agencies ensured speedy rescue. A mission which was expected to take a few weeks was executed in few days.

Leadership of the Coach Ake.    Exemplary leadership demonstrated by the coach of Wild Boars football team in ensuring survival of the entire team.   Surely, he must be well trained in First-Aid, CPR, survival skills, child psychology, etc. Our son works as a Swimming Instructor and Life Guard in Canada and he is well trained in these aspects.

Team-Work.     The entire team of teens must have listened to their coach – else they would not have survived through this ordeal.

Trust in the Leader.    The coach must be enjoying a lot of trust and confidence of the team of teens for sure.

Dedication of the Rescue Team.     Despite losing a rescue diver, Saman Kunan, the rescue team endured to complete the dangerous mission.

Composition of Rescue Team.    A doctor with cave-diving experience first went into the chamber and approved the boys for the operation.

No VIPs.    The VIPs kept away from the scene, thus all resources like helicopters, road-space, etc were available to the rescue team.

No Media Presence.    Media and their camera crew were kept away from the scene and there were no reporters milling around to give the ‘latest situation reports.’

Crowd Management.    Local population appear to have cooperated with the authorities and there was no crowding – especially those with their cellphones – all ready to post images on the social media.

Quarantining of the Team
..    Thai health officials said that some of the first boys freed had elevated white-blood cell levels, indicating infections, and two showed signs of pneumonia but were responding well to treatment. They are expected to be quarantined in hospital for at least seven days.

Post Trauma Support.    A psychiatrist is evaluating the rescued team and would provide needed counseling and psychological support.

Kudos to all those involved in this rescue mission and Rest In Peace Saman Kunan,  – you have achieved Great Glory – true to the spirit of a soldier.