We were enjoying the Canada Day long weekend from June 29 to July 01. Our daughter Nidhi and son-in-law Jay had left our grandson James with us and went golfing the weekend. We the grandparents were enjoying a laid-back and relaxed long weekend with our grandson.
Canada Day is celebrated on July 01 to commemorate Canada becoming a self-governing dominion of Great Britain and a federation of four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec in 1867. The anniversary of this date was called Dominion Day until 1982. Since 1983, July 1 has been officially known as Canada Day. It is a public holiday, a day off for the general population with all schools and most businesses closed.
In many towns and cities, municipal governments organise many events, often outdoors being summer. These include pancake breakfasts, parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals, firework displays and so on. Canada’s national flag is widely displayed and a lot of people paint their faces red and white – Canada’s national colors.
On June 30 morning, as I was playing with our grandson and also watching the inglorious defeat of the Indian Cricket team at the hands of their English counterparts in the league stage of the World Cup, I received a call on my cell-phone. The caller spoke in a soft and confident voice introducing himself as Subedar Major (SM) Paramjit Sidhu. He said that he was visiting his daughter in Toronto and had got my number from his Commanding Officer(CO), Colonel Viveka Murthy of 288 Medium Regiment. He informed me that he was at the Square One Shopping Mall near my home and expressed his desire to meet me. I could immediately place Colonel Murthy as I had interacted with him on the Sainik School Amaravati Nagar WhatsApp Group. Colonel Murthy had joined the school in June 1979 shortly after I had left the school to join the National Defence Academy.
I briefed SM Sidhu that our home is only two minute away and he must come to Gate 8 of the Mall and my car would be parked outside the gate. It would be very easy to recognise my black Honda CRV with its unique licence plate.
As I pulled alongside Gate 8, a tall smart Sikh gentleman emerged from the shadows. From his bearing, gait and the meticulous folds of his turban, I couldn’t have missed him a mile away. He was a true representation of the smart and ramrod straight Indian Army Soldier. On entering the car, he greeted me and introduced himself. The way he spoke and his conduct was the reflection of the confidence this soldier had and obviously it came from his CO. I felt he was different from many of the Subedar Majors of the Indian Army that I had come across. Why else should he ring me up in Canada and express his desire to meet a Veteran Gunner who retired 15 years ago?
We drove home to be greeted by Marina and James. We spoke at length about his daughter, family and military life. During our interaction I confirmed my earlier belief that he was ‘something different‘ when he casually mentioned about his achievements in powered hang gliding.
After the meeting, I drove him to his daughter’s home, a 30-minute drive. He was very pleased and thankful to me for this gesture. I said to him that I take it as a matter of pride and my solemn duty to take care of all soldiers of the Indian Army who visit me. Irrespective of rank and stature, I treat everyone alike.
On returning home, I decided to research on SM Sidhu’s power hang gliding. SM Sidhu hails from Sangatpura village in Ludhiana district of Punjab. He joined 76 Medium Regiment and was later posted with the Adventure Cell at the School of Artillery, Devlali. He has an experience of over eight hundred hours of hang gliding during his 21 years stint there.
On 17 February 2012, he broke the 33 years old British world record in powered hang gliding by covering a distance of 380 km between Sriganganagar and Sanderav near Jodhpur. Gerry Breen, a British Pilot had on May 7, 1979 created the previous world record by gliding 325 km from Wales to Norwich.
Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India conferred Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award to SM Sidhu, named after the first Everest summiteer Tenzing Norgay. SM Sidhu also holds three national records in hang gliding as mentioned in the Limca Book of Records. What a great achievement for an Indian Army Soldier!!
I am very thankful to Colonel Viveka Murthy for providing me an opportunity to meet and interact with SM Sidhu. It was an opportunity to rekindle a sense of belonging, regale about the good old times and share a camaraderie and esprit de corps, albeit separated in space and time! I felt wonderful and perhaps a wee bit more thankful to him than he was to me.