A Washroom Abashment

For my morning stroll, I walk to the Square 1 Mall, a five minute walk from our home.  Square 1 Mall opens at 6 am, not for shoppers, but for the cleaning staff and for the salespersons to set up their stores.  The aisles are nearly empty where it is always warm at +25°C with music and it never rains or snows.  The ground is even and level and there is no chance of slipping and falling.  Morning walkers, mostly senior citizens use the facility.

Square 1 Mall is the largest shopping centre in Ontario and the second largest shopping centre in Canada. It has over 2,200,000 square feet (200,000 m2) of retail space, with more than 360 stores and services.

As I entered the mall on a freezing December morning, the girl at the Santa-Photo Centre which comes up every Christmas Holidays, was setting up the place.  This is where families take their Photo-with-Santa while they shop at the mall.  Is there a better way to remember the holidays than having your picture taken with Santa

Nearing completion of my walk, I felt an urgent need to empty my bladder, to wet the white porcelain throne in the washroom.  I was lost in my thoughts as I entered one of the many washrooms in the mall.  I went through the front door and turned left to the men’s washroom.

There it was, a spic and span, freshly cleaned washroom welcomed me in.  I was a bit surprised to find the washroom a bit  too spacious for a Canadian public washroom.  Was it that it catered for turning of a wheelchair bound user? I presumed. The grab bars confirmed that the cubicle was meant for a differently-abled person.  Still there was something amiss!

As I completed the nature’s call and turned I saw the sanitary waste bin – a container that allows safe disposal of sanitary waste in washrooms. If washroom users continuously flush items that  shouldn’t go down the toilet, it is bound to cause drain blockages and plumbing issues.  Providing toilet paper and soap are essential in every washroom environment, but personal hygiene disposal units must be provided too.

It is a women’s washroom!!  Reality dawned on me.  When I entered, I saw only the last three letters of the signage.  English language and its spellings can be real tricky! Not my fault!!!! I justified.

Why couldn’t there be Gender Neutral Washrooms?? A mother taking her son or a father taking his daughter to a washroom, where will they go?

Toronto Police Headquarters, The Royal Ontario Museum and many schools provide gender neutral washrooms. Four of the family washrooms in Square 1 Mall are gender neutral.

Slowly I stepped out and walked to the entrance of the washroom.  Luckily for me I was the only one.  I adjusted my mask to cover my entire face and walked out with my right leg first.  Why with my right leg?  Please click here to read the reason.

The Time magazine should have declared the Mask and not Musk as the person of the year 2021???

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Before we usher in 2022, me must examine the Terms and Conditions that come with it!!!!

2021 was one of the most challenging year for most of us. Let us be thankful that we are happy and safe and all set to enter into 2022.

Atmospheric River

Canada’s West Coast- British Columbia – was battered with heavy rainfall resulting in catastrophic flooding and landslides in November 2021. It is believed to have been caused by more than one Atmospheric Rivers (AR.)

The term AR was coined in 1998 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers Yong Zhu and Richard Newell, though ARs did play havoc earlier too. Until then AR was mostly referred to as tropical plume, tropical connection, moisture plume, water vapor surge, cloud burst and cloud band.

An AR is no river in the sky as the name suggests, but is a weather phenomenon.  It is a narrow corridor of highly saturated moisture in the atmosphere that stretches to 1600 km long and about 600 km wide.  Water an AR carries can be roughly compared to about 25 times carried by any major river like the Ganges or the Mississippi.

AR is born in the tropical ocean regions near the equator, and as it travels away from the equator, the warm air mass gets saturated with water vapour.  As the AR makes its landfall, water vapour condenses into precipitation, resulting in heavy rain or snow.

ARs originate form eight oceanic regions around the world, some closer to continental coasts than others. One of those regions is just off North America’s western coast and can produce between one to two dozen ARs per year. ARs from the Indian Ocean caused havoc in Australia and in India, especially Kerala, Uttarakhand, Bengal in the recent years.

Has climate change caused the ARs to be lethal?

Scientists and climatologists believe that the frequency of ARs may reduce by 10% in the years to come, but they may increase in size by about 25%. This would result in ARs dumping more water on the land as years pass by.  Global warming will cause the air in the AR  to become warmer and warmer the air, more water vapour it carries. When the AR makes landfall, it will release more rain or snow than the previous one. 

What caused flooding and land-slides in British Columbia?

The summer season in 2021 in British Columbia saw more than 1,600 fires charring nearly 8,700 square km of forest land.  These forest fires bake the soil, making them more hydrophobic or making them to repel water.  The coniferous trees in Canadian forests, when they burn, release a waxy compound that bind the forest soil, making it more hydrophobic. The water-repelling layer is typically found at or a few cm below the ground surface and is commonly covered by a layer of burned soil or ash. 

When the ARs dumped heavy volume of water in areas burned during the 2021 wildfires, the runoff from these burned grounds was greater and more rapid because of the hydrophobicity of the soil.  Burning down of the trees and vegetation binding the soil on the mountain slopes resulted in the soil becoming loose, causing many land-slides.

Let us now look at the mythological aspects.

The Abrahamic religions narrate the flood story of Noah’s Ark where the God became angry with the sins of mankind. He told his faithful servant, Noah, to build an ark large enough for his family and two of every creature on earth. God delivered the promised deluge, lasting 40 days, that killed everyone and everything on earth except the population of the ark.  After the flood, the ark came to rest on a mountain top, indicating that the depth of the water was higher than the mountains.

As per Greek mythology, Zeus, the king of the Gods, was displeased with the humans. Zeus told Deucalion to construct an ark for himself and his wife. After nine days of flooding, the world was destroyed, and the ark rested on top of Mount Parnassus.

Hindu mythology too refers to such a flood. Lord Vishnu in the form of a fish appeared to Manu and told Manu that the world would be destroyed in a great flood. Manu built a boat and tied it to the fish. The fish guided Manu’s boat through the floods to the top of a mountain.

The Chinese too have many stories and myths about floods, Gods, dragons, and spirits. Like other flood stories, there are only a handful of survivors.

Could these floods have been caused by an AR? Some say it might have been caused by tsunamis or by comets or asteroids hitting  the earth.

Flood stories are universal and is part of all religions and mythology where the God sent flood to destroy the sinners as punishment..  Hungarian psychoanalyst Geza Roheim hypothesised that dreams of the flood came when humans were asleep with full bladders!!

Are the Gods unhappy with the humanity that the next flood is near? Are we to pay for our sins of not caring for Mother Nature?

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.’ Bible : Genesis 6:5

Rest In Peace Mrs Mercy Mathai

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Mrs Mercy Mathai and Mr Mathai on extreme left with Mr PT Cherian and Mrs Sheila Cherian on the extreme right.  Photo taken in 1969, courtesy  Mr Steve Rosson (in the middle), who taught at our school in 1969 as a Voluntary Service Overseas teacher from England.    The children in the pic are Mathais – Robin and Reena.

Facebook this morning brought the sad news from Veteran Colonel Sajan Moideen about the demise of Mrs Mercy Mathai, our Matron at Sainik School Amaravathinagar, Tamil Nadu. 

Death cannot take away Mrs Mercy, she will always remain alive in our hearts.  Many cadets like me, owe their little domestic skills to her.  I feel lucky because I was one among her many wards, helped and developed by her, during our formative days at school. I pray he is in the good place now, watching us from the right side of the Creator.

When we, 30 of us from Kerala, joined the school in grade 5, at the age of nine in July 1971, armed with little communication skill in our mother tongue Malayalam, we were welcomed in at our dorm – the Feeder House – by Mrs Mercy.  We were all happy that our Matron – Mrs Mercy – spoke Malayalam.  Everyone of us will vouch that she was a mother to each one of us.  Her love for each cadet and her devotion to duty made up for our mother’s care and love that hardly anyone felt home-sick.

Most of us, until we joined school, hardly ever wore shoes.  It was Mrs Mercy who taught us how to wear the socks and shoes and the biggest bugbear for us was tying the shoelaces.  In the Cadets’ Mess, she with Mrs Sheila Cherian taught us table manners – how to sit on a dining table, how to use the cutlery.

Making our bed in the morning was the first ritual of the day and it was Mrs Mercy who taught us how to execute the task with the counterpane covering the bed to protect it from dust. 

Counterpane – the first complicated English word in our vocabulary – is a fifteenth century word meaning a quilt, coverlet, or outer covering of a bed.  I have heard only cadets from our school and students from some public schools at Ooty (Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu) use this word.  I never heard it later while in service with the Indian Army.

She taught us many domestic skills like threading a needle, stitching a button, darning our socks, etc.  We had to put the dirty linen and clothes in our pillowcase and place them at the designated place and after three days we picked them up washed and pressed.  No one ever missed any of  their garments.  How she managed it still remains a mystery.

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Mrs Mercy was very strict with us regarding personal hygiene.  She taught us how to brush our teeth, how to bathe, how to flush the toilet, etc.  She ensured that we clipped our nails – for the defaulters, she clipped them.

She ensured that we wrote a letter home every Sunday – the only means of communication then – and she posted them on Monday.  When parents came to visit their sons, she made them confident that their son was in good care. 

She was a great leader with exceptional organisational abilities.  For our House Day, she made sure that each one of us participated in the cultural show.  For many of us appeared on stage, it was our first stage experience.  While others sang, danced and acted in skits, the likes of me without a tinge of musical or dramatic skills became trees on stage.

How can one forget the birthday bash she organised for our House Captain PM Hariz, who is now a Veteran General?  Many of her wards served the Armed Forces of India and many served as doctors, engineers, lawyers and bureaucrats.

Rest in Peace Mrs Mercy Mathai – there are many like I missing our mother – who ensured that our dorm was a home away from home.