During our summer vacation of 2022, we visited our niece Deepti and her family at Sacramento. While touring California in 2008, I believed that either Los Angeles or San Francisco or San Diego could be the capital of California. That time Sacramento did not find a place in our destinations.
A series of devastating fires prompted a group of citizens to establish the first volunteer fire department in the western United States. Sacramento Fire Department was established and became the first paid professional fire department west of the Mississippi.
When most cities around the world moved ahead with the times, Sacramento city preserved old buildings which are historically significant and aesthetically appealing. These buildings have been put to good use for businesses and offices and they also attract a lot of tourists year around.
Can you ever imagine that the survey of the Trans-Himalayan Region was done mostly on foot? That a human being walked all the way through the Himalayas, while counting each step he took to calculate the distances between places.
Reading a 36-page document by Dr Kapil Raj, When Human Travellers Become Instruments: The Indo-British Exploration of Central Asia in the Nineteenth Century, I was fascinated by the ability of the human body and mind to find methods to overcome any difficult situation.
British India in the aftermath of the 1857 mutiny went into mapping and stabilising its surrounding territories. The British needed to bring the Trans-Himalayan region into the ambit of British trade, followed by military intervention. The first step was to map the area of the Kashmir Kingdom, some surrounding areas under the Chinese Empire and some areas in Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Captain Thomas George Montgomerie of the Royal Engineers was entrusted with the task of mapping Kashmir. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1849, arrived in India in 1851, and joined the Great Trigonometrical Survey. The Great Trigonometrical Survey was a project which aimed to survey the entire Indian subcontinent which was begun in 1802 by William Lambton. Under his successor, George Everest, the project was made the responsibility of the Survey of India.
After the survey of Kashmir, Montgomerie had to survey and map Tibet, an autonomous region. Tibetans were very suspicious of the Europeans. Thus, he had to enroll the services of locals who could travel as part of trade caravans to Tibet. Even if he found locals for the task, how could they be trained to use conventional surveying techniques and instruments?
Captain Montgomerie trained the natives, drilled them night and day for weeks, to take a stride of exactly 31.5 inches whatever the terrain or incline. At 63360 inches to a mile, every 2,000 such paces marked a mile.
As his first ‘human instrument’, Montgomerie nominated Mahomed-i-Hameed, aka Moonshee who reached Leh on 4 July 1863 after meticulously mapping his route from Kashmir. On 24 August Hameed, disguised as a merchant and accompanied by two servants and a pony-load of merchandise, joined a caravan heading for Yarkand, a major oasis city on the trade route between China, India, and Central Asia.
The party arrived at Yarkand on 30 September. Hameed had precisely traced the entire route, carefully noting all that he had observed, especially the vegetation and human dwellings. He drew a map of the city and the region and transcribed the history of the region as narrated by locals.
On 27 March 1864 the party commenced their return journey to Leh, but Hameed died en route, after eating poisonous rhubarb, according to his companions. Montgomerie’s assistant, William Johnson, was the ﬁrst to reach the scene of the tragedy. Hameed’s entourage had meanwhile made off with his most saleable belongings. Fortunately, no one had touched his notes. Armed with Hameed’s notes, Montgomerie sailed for England on 20 February 1865 after thirteen years in India. Using this leisure, he drew a map of the route between Leh and Yarkand.
This new mission was entrusted to two Kumaoni Bhotiya cousins, schoolteacher Nain Singh, and Mani Singh, the patwari, the village record-keeper. They had already taken part in topographical surveys and were familiar with geodesic and astronomical instruments and could handle any hurdles in crossing the frontier from Kumaon.
Disguised as Lamas, they carried a prayer wheel and a rosary, perfectly normal adjuncts for the pilgrimage to the holy city of Lhasa. The prayer wheel concealed a small compass, and other miniature survey instruments. Rudraksh Rosary helped count paces, one bead for every hundred paces. The Buddhist rosary has 108 coral beads; those of the cousins only had a hundred, every tenth bead being much larger than the others. A complete round of the Rosary represented exactly 10,000 paces or ﬁve miles.
After months of rigorous drilling in the use of the sextant, compass and other survey instruments and techniques, Nain Singh and Mani Singh left for Tibet in March 1864 and returned to DehraDun on 27 October 1866. They were turned back at the Tibeto-Kumaoni border, so they tried to enter Tibet through Nepal, all the while charting the route they followed. Despite the advantage of their origin, they had to adopt different guises and resort to devious ploys for entering Tibet: passing off as merchants with the survey instruments cleverly hidden in their wares, or even as healers curing people of minor ailments!
During a two-and-a-half-year expedition, Nain Singh walked 1,200 miles at a steadily maintained pace. He counted 2.5 million paces on his rosary! He not only succeeded in pinpointing the location of Lhasa, but also measuring the distance between several important Tibetan cities, thirty-one stations in all. He also mapped the 700-mile upper-course of the Tsangpo River from its source to Lhasa and reported that Tsangpo and the Brahmaputra were the same river.
Nain Singh also gave a detailed account of Tibet’s general climatic conditions, demographics, its cities and monasteries, army, agricultural production, economy, the state of its roads, transportation, communications, and most importantly, Tibet’s trade with China and Kashmir. . The Royal Geographical Society awarded Nain Singh a gold watch in 1868 and the Victoria gold medal in 1875.
Kishen Singh, alias AK, a cousin of Nain Singh, travelled across the Tibetan plains and the Kunlun Mountains between 1878 and 1882. In Lhasa, AK was delayed for over a year waiting for his caravan to leave. He was robbed twice, and even imprisoned by the Mongolians! He was freed by a Tibetan merchant who forced him. to ride a horse, which prevented him from counting his strides. Undeterred and innovative, he got round the problem by measuring the length of the horse’s pace and counting each time the right foreleg hit the ground. When he returned to British India in 1882, he had travelled 2,800 miles and counted an incredible 5.5 million paces!
This confidence in natives to record and narrate facts so vital for the survival of the British Empire is especially surprising when one remembers that geography in the nineteenth century consisted not only in taking topographical readings but also in collecting cultural, ethnolographic, political, and commercial information.
Though the survey instruments used then have long become museum pieces, these measurements are accurate and still the basis on which the maps are made in times of GoogleEarth, GPS, and satellite,
Back-to-School period usually starts and ends in August before the school year starts in Canada, United States, and Europe. In Australia and New Zealand – being in the Southern Hemisphere, this occurs in February, after their summer break.
In merchandising, Back-to-School is the period in which students and their parents purchase school supplies and clothes for the coming school year. At many Canadian Malls, Back-to-School sales are held for school supplies, children and young adults’ clothing, office supplies, back-packs, laptop computers and so on.
Labour Day, which falls on the first Monday of September, a holiday in Canada and the US, marks the end of Back-to-School shopping. Labour Day also marks the unofficial end of summer, though Fall (Autumn) begins only on September 22 – Fall Equinox. The day after Labour Day – first Tuesday of September – marks the beginning of a new school year.
Back-to-School shopping tradition caught on in North America as women flocked to colleges and universities in the early twentieth century. These young women were trend setters for new fashions. Many clothing stores started special lines to cater to college going women. Every September, college these women shopped for their clothing needs and the stores obliged by setting up discounted sales.
Every student is excited about the new academic year they are entering. The first day of school is one of the most important day in the academic year as they show off their latest clothing and discussing as to what about their escapades during the summer holidays. Gossips too are as important.
There is an inherent discomfort at the bottom of the stomach of each student on the first day at school. About 2.5% of school children suffer from acute fear of going to school and this fear is called Didaskaleinophobia– derived from Greek Didasko meaning to teach and Phobos meaning fear. Equivalent Latin term is Scholionophobia.
Am I competing with Mr Tharoor??No way!!!
It is a North American tradition to gift an apple to the teacher by the students on the first day of school when school opened in September as it coincided with the ripening of apples in North America. This tradition of gifting apples to teachers dates to the 16th century when parents in Denmark and Sweden often gifted teachers with baskets of apples and other food to help compensate for their low wages. Tradition of bringing apples to teachers carried on even after schools were modernised.
In the 1920s, apple polishing was used as a slang for trying to curry favour to the teacher. Bing Crosby and Connie Boswell sang in 1939:-
“An apple for the teacher that seems the thing to do because I want to learn about romance from you.
An apple for the teacher to show I’m meek and mild If you insist on saying that I’m just a problem child.
An apple for the teacher will always do the trick when you don’t know your lesson in arithmetic.
We have other words that mean the same thing. We also call this type of person a kiss-up, toady or boot-licker. Another popular one is teacher’s pet.
It is an apple-polisher’s dream to become the teacher’s pet – much to the anger of fellow classmates.”
Nothing much has changed to this day. We were all mortally scared on our first day of school. Our stomachs were churning. We all went through it and so did our children. Now it is the turn of our grandchildren.
The only change is that today Apple denotes not the fruit for the young generations.
On assuming command of our Regiment in June 2002, I gifted an umbrella to all school going children of our Regiment when the schools opened. Please Click Here to read about it. At that time, I was unaware of the Back-to-School traditions.
In 2003, I ordered our Religious Teacher [Regimental Chaplin- a Hindu Pundit] to prepare a packet for each school going children of the Regiment with necessary school supplies and gift the same to the children. Our Religious Teacher was a bit reluctant initially, having never heard of such a practice during his two decades of military service. On completion of the assigned task, he reported, “Sir, this is the apt method to spend the Mandir Fund. It will inspire all our children to put in their best at school.”
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
While driving through the town, I found a man outside his home, bringing the Canadian Flag to half mast. I checked the news feed and learnt that Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state, dead at 96.
The British Monarch remains the constitutional head of state of Canada and the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, no matter who holds the role. Hence, the succession from the Queen to her eldest son Charles is automatic.
After Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne on 6 Feb 1952, fifteen Canadian Prime Ministers have been in office. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest for any British monarch and the second longest recorded for any monarch of a sovereign country. (Longest reigning monarch was Louis XIV of France, who reigned from 14th May 1643 until 1st September 1715 —72 years and 110 days.)
In the past four decades since I learnt about her, she matured into her senior years with josh and cheer. Her dress sense and choice of colours befitted her royal status and it always stood out. Who will ever miss her signature Launer handbag she always carried? She reportedly owned more than 200 of them!
The contents of her handbag was no different from what normal women carry with them. It mostly contained a mirror, lipstick, mint lozenges, and her reading glasses.
It is said that the Queen used her handbags to signal to her staff to help her wriggle out of difficult situations. If she shifted the handbag on her left arm (where she normally carried it) to her right arm, it indicated that it was time to wrap up. If she placed her handbag on the floor, it signaled to her staff that she needed to be saved from an uncomfortable conversation. If she placed her handbag on the dinner table, it meant that she wanted to end the event in the next five minutes.
Prince Charles was appointed Field Marshal of the British Army, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy and Marshal of the Royal Air Force in June 2012. His appointment to the honorary five-star ranks recognised his support for the Queen as Commander-in-Chief.
In Canada’s system of government, the power to govern is vested in the Crown but is entrusted to the government to exercise on behalf and in the interest of the people. The Crown reminds the government of the day that the source of the power to govern rests elsewhere and that it is only given to them for a limited duration.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a befitting tribute to Canada’s longest-reigning Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, calling her a person of ‘wisdom, compassion and warmth.’
The Crown in Canada was first established by the kings of France in the sixteenth century. Organised as a royal province of France, both French and British kings and queens have reigned over Canada since 1534. Under Canada’s sovereigns, the country has evolved from a French colony to an independent nation.
From 2009, Prince Charles holds the rank of Lieutenant-General in the Canadian Army & Air Force and Vice-Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy. The Queen and other members of the Canadian Royal Family hold honorary positions in various branches and regiments embodying the historical relationship of the Crown with the Canadian armed forces.
From 2015, in New Zealand, like in UK, he is the Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Charles’s official coronation won’t take place immediately following a period of mourning for the Queen. A coronation is not necessary to become king—Edward VIII reigned as King without ever being crowned. After Queen Elizabeth’s accession on February 6, 1952, her coronation took place on June 2, 1953, over a year later.
Charles, whose regal name is King Charles III, is set to travel to London with Camilla, who is now the Queen Consort, to oversee the preparations for the funeral
The Guardian in 2017 reported that in the event of the Queen’s death, her funeral would take place nine days after her passing. Hence, it might be held on Saturday September 17. The funeral ceremony will commence at 9 AM, when Big Ben will chime with a muffled hammer. The funeral cortege will arrive at the at Westminster Abbey where she will be laid to rest.
Those were the days when Selections ruled the roost at School of Artillery Devlali. It was skimming at the highest level of the Regiment of Artillery.
When we passed out of Indian Military Academy in 1982, we were forced to return our Blue Patrols for mere Rs 100 – all because the Artillery version had a red stripe on the trousers’ side which was half an inch thicker than what was provided by Kapoor & Co at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. While officers commissioned to all other arms/ services retained their Blue Patrols, we the Gunners had to return them to Kapoor & Co.
On joining Young Officers Course at School of Artillery, Devlali, every student officer had to get a new pair of Blue Patrol and winter ceremonial uniform or Service Dress (SD) stitched – costing over a thousand rupees those days – only from Selections. The reasons – obvious. A Second Lieutenant’s pay was much less than a thousand rupees a month then. Free rations was not entitled then and monthly mess bill ate into over half a month’s salary.
Service Dress is the style of khaki serge dress uniform introduced by the British Army for use in the field from the early 1902, following the experiences of a number of imperial wars and conflicts, including the Second Boer War. The uniform was originally issued as a field uniform, later designated as SD. Variant of this uniform continues to be worn today, although only in a formal role, as No. 2 Pattern dress by the British and the Commonwealth Armies. Indian Army too continued with a similar winter SD for the officers until 1990s. Today the Indian Army officers wear a similar uniform designated as Dress No. 5SD.
No. 1 Dress , sometimes referred to as ‘blues’ or ‘blue patrol,’ is a universal ceremonial uniform which is almost consistent throughout the Commonwealth Armies. For most regiments and corps, this No. 1 dress consists of dark blue tunic and trousers. Different units are distinguished by the colouring of the cap, piping on the tunic and of the welts or stripes on the trousers, as well as badges and in certain Cavalry Regiments by the colour of the collar.
Indian Army Blue Patrol consists of a ‘bandgala’ tunic and a trouser. The shoulder pips are embroidered along with ranks on the coat except for Armoured Corps officers who wear a chain mail along with their ranks on the shoulders.
It was not until 1981 when Second Lieutenant SP Mudholkar issued a show-cause notice and raised the issue with the School of Artillery against the order of getting the SD and Blue Patrl stitched only from Selections, inclusion of a private firm in the Offices’ Mess Bills for recovery . In those days, Mess Bills of various messes at School of Artillery had a serial dedicated to Selections. You can well imagine as to the patronage Selections enjoyed from the highest levels of the Regiment of Artillery – mostly occupied by officers belonging to the Khlan.
By the time we went to Devlali to attend our Young Officers’ Course in 1983, Blue Patrol and SD procurement was done away with – thanks to Second Lieutenant SP Mudholkar – else I too would have succumbed to the pressure from the Chief/ Senior Instructor. In those good-old days, any Young Officer refusing to procure their SD and Blue Patrol were marched up to the Chief/ Senior Instructor until they relented. Another tactic was to blackmail the Young Officer with a poor grading, though most ended up with a C grading. The Great Good-Old Days!!! Who wants to begin their military career on the wrong foot?
Selections appeared on the Mess Bills during our course- luckily for us it remained at zero value.
Three years later, Lieutenant General Sood, Commandant, School of Artillery, was appointed the Director General of Artillery – and away went Selections. The ‘baby‘ of the erstwhile higher-ups of Regiment of Artillery was thrown out with the tub, water, soap, and loofah to land in Devlali market.