I took Catherine Parkinson – mother-in-law of our daughter Nidhi – for cataract surgery. The receptionist, filling out various documents queried, “Who is with you?”
Catherine replied, “My daughter-in-law’s Dad.”
Realising that the receptionist did not get it, she said, “My son’s father-in-law.”
Catherines statement confused the receptionist more and she said, “I will write as family.”
What is my relationship with Catherine?
In Thamizh this relationship is well defined as சம்பந்தி (Sambanthi.) It is the same in Hindi, Bengali and Marathi – सम्बन्धी.
The term Sambanthi is derived from two words – samam or sama meaning equal and bandanam or bandan meaning relation.
Thus, the literal meaning can be assumed as relationship of equal status.
Sambanthi could also be considered a derivation from the Sanskrit word sambanda or sambandham meaning an alliance as a marriage is more of an alliance between the families of the bride and the groom.
The closest I could define our relationship in English was Co-in-Law, akin to a co-brother – a reciprocal relationship not related by blood between two persons.
Co-brother (plural co-brothers or co-brethren) could mean one’s colleague in some profession or trade. The word does not find a place in many English Dictionaries. In India, co-brother is used to describe the relationship between two men married to two blood sisters- one’s wife’s sister’s husband.
Sambandham in Malayalam, the word closest to sambanthi, has a different connotation.
In Kerala in certain communities, women had a special status as they followed a matriarchal system of inheritance of wealth and property. Some families follow this tradition even today though many have moved on to some form of patriarchal system. A lady from these communities could enter into cohabitation (live-in relationship) with men and this co-habitation was called as Sambandam. The male gave a white mundu (dhothi) to the lady. The acceptance of mundu was considered as consummation of the alliance and permission to enter the lady’s bedroom. Colloquially, today, Sambandaham denotes an alliance or a marriage.
Sambandham is now not practiced, but sambanthi continues, though without an English equivalent.
On my birthday, as I was replying to all the birthdays wishes from friends, the news of passing away of Ms Sheila Cherian – Ms Sheila Murphy – came not as a surprise as she was in a coma. Anyone from our vintage reading this eulogy will acknowledge with a nod and a smile that Ms Sheila was the best educator we had ever been blessed with, was an absolute timeless icon.
Ms Sheila Murphy, an Anglo-Indian lady, was among the first group of teachers to join Sainik School, Amaravathinagar, Thamzh Nadu in 1962 at the time of inception. Mr PT Cherian joined our school a year later in 1963. After a few years, fell in love and got married, while we were in our eighth grade. On the evening of their wedding, we were treated to a never ever seen sumptuous dinner at the Cadets’ Mess. Thus, Ms Sheila Murphy became Mrs Sheila Cherian.
Mrs Sheila Cherian is the first teacher anyone who joined Sainik School, Amaravathinagar encountered. Most of us were from Malayalam or Thamizh medium schools having very little knowledge of English. The way she taught us English, especially how to write (her handwriting was exceptional.) She tried her best to improve my handwriting, but the success rate was minimal. She taught us table manners, how to sit at a table, use of cutlery and crockery, how to spread butter and jam with the knife, how to drink soup, how to eat boiled egg and most importantly, how to eat with our mouth closed.
I still remember her first class in July 1971. She was our English teacher and the Class-teacher. She first took us to the washroom and taught us how to use the urinal and the commode, how to flush and how important it is to wash our hands there after. Next, she took us to the library. She introduced us to the books in the junior section and explained to us the need to read – read more – as we grew. Then commenced her English class.
Many of the lessons she taught, I will take them to my grave – so will most of her students.
When I heard the news of her passing, there were so many thoughts and memories that raced through my head. Just like many of you who might have been blessed to be her student. I thought about the last time I met her.
In 1994, we went to Sainik School Amaravathinagar, to attend the Old Boys Association (OBA) meeting. By then Cherians had retired and had settled in the farm they purchased, adjacent to the school. We decided to call on the Cherians in the evening and reached the farmhouse. The house had about 50 old students, some with their families already there. The Cherians, known for their love for their students, whom they adored as children, as God had been unkind to the couple and had forgotten to bless them with any kids. They were playing excellent hosts to each and everyone, including little children.
We paid our respects to the couple, and by about nine in the evening, most guests had left and I was sitting with Mr Cherian enjoying a drink in the coconut grove. Mr Cherian said “Do you know why I did not come to your home to accept the Guru Dakshina? It is not that I did not love you or adore you, but because my marriage has not been complete as the God has not blessed us with any children and that was the reason why Sheila had declined to come for the marriage.”
I just could not speak and our eyes became wet. We both remained silent for the next five minutes and completed the drink.
Mr Cherian fetched another set of drinks and continued “I Married Sheila very well knowing that she would not bear any children for me, due to her gynecological condition. I wanted to set an example for my students by marrying the person I loved. I never wanted my students to tell me that I ditched their teacher.” Tears rolled down my cheeks….
Although decades have passed since we all sat in her class, that feeling we had when she greeted us back then has not faded a bit from our collective memories. We humans tend to hold on to the best memories of our childhood and Mrs Sheila Cherian was most certainly a big part of our best memories. She was indeed . . . and will always be . . . a timeless icon in our lives.
The words I write – I owe it to Mrs Sheila Cherian as she laid the foundation for all my English language abilities – to read and to write. She made our life brighter with her charming smile, motherly affection, knowledge and wisdom.
Rest in Peace Mrs Sheila Chearian. To the world you may just be a teacher, but to us,your students, you were the world.
എന്ന് സ്വന്തം ശ്രീധരൻ ( Ennu Swantham Sreedharan) Always Yours Sreedharan – with English subtitles – is the true depiction of the life of a family in Malabar (North Kerala.) A must watch.
The movie is co-produced by our friend Suresh Nellikode (our neighbour in Canada) and he has essayed a pivotal role in the movie.
എന്ന് സ്വന്തം ശ്രീധരൻ (Ennu Swantham Sreedharan) is a great movie watching experience – the best movie I watched in the past 12 months. While drawing the life of an unsung and unrecognised person or a family on screen, there is a tendency to go overboard and portray them as super-humans. This movie effectively tells the story of a do-gooder – a true good neighbour – a great family – sincerely and realistically.
The story and the situations in the movie brought back the memories of my grandmother – who too had a troop of oldies – across castes, creeds, and religions. I used to enjoy them reminiscing about their good-old-days.
When our grandmother came to live in our home – about 12 km from our ancestral home – these oldie-troopers dropped in to spend time with her. What is depicted in the movie is very close to what I experienced in my childhood.
The role played in the movie by the fish, the train and the never meeting railway tracks are apt for the story and for the occasion. Every scene and every frame in the movie is well crafted. My special kudos to the cameraman and director Siddik.
Shihabuddin has narratesthe story (real life of a few people) well and is bound to touch the viewer’s heart. His lyrics and Muhammed’s are apt for the situation, fits the story and very meaningful. The singers have rendered the songs well and they deserve a special mention.
Baburaj and Raza’s music score flows with the narration. Use of natural sounds adds value to the fare. Subair, the art director has recreated the life on Malabar realistically.
All actors, especially the children and the youth – they stole the show with their subtle acting. The women – generally used as props in many movies – here everyone has a role to play – from the grandmother to the baby-girl. Hats off to all the performers.
Suresh – you deserve an award for the subtle portrayal of Usthad. You have transformed yourself totally. My opinion could be since I know the real Suresh. But the Usthad is not you!!!!
Compliments to Memory Creations for bringing out such a fantastic movie. Siddik as a director I’m sure will have a fabulous career ahead and will execute many Memorable Creations.
While preparing for the entrance examination for the Long Gunnery Staff Course (LGSC) in 1988, the prescribed book on basic physics had a question – Recoil of a gun is based on which of Newton’s Laws of Motion? The options were:-
None of the above.
Based on my previous knowledge, I presumed that the answer is the Third Law, but the book stated that it is the Second Law. I sought help of our senior officers who had graduated from LGSC and they all said that it’s the Third Law. I concluded then that it might be a typo error in the book.
In 1996, I attended Technical Staff Course. Those of us without any technical qualifications like B Tech had a six months scientific orientation course prior to the commencement of the course. This orientation course covered basic sciences and mathematics.
During the class on Newton’s Laws of Motion by Dr Ganesh, a young scientist, I queried about Newton’s Laws and Gun’s Recoil to clear my mind of the lingering doubt. Dr Ganesh explained it in detail.
The gun with the bullet/ shell housed inside prior to pressing of the trigger, total momentum of the system equals zero.
On pressing the trigger, the bullet gains velocity and the gun recoils. Here too the total momentum of the system does not change. Momentum is the product of the Mass and Velocity.
That is why we calculate recoil by equating the momentum of the Gun and the bullet by the formula – Mg X vg = mb x Vb where
Mg is Mass of the Gun
vg is Velocity of the Gun
mb is Mass of the Bullet
vB is Velocity of the Bullet
We account for both the forward momentum of the bullet and the rearward momentum of the gun. Here the sum of the magnitude and direction of the momentum of both the bodies involved does not change being in opposite direction. Hence, momentum of the system is conserved.
This conservation of momentum is why gun recoil occurs in the opposite direction of bullet projection – the mass times velocity of the projectile in the positive direction equals the mass times velocity of the gun in the negative direction. Thus the sum of momentum before the trigger is pulled or when the gun fires remains the same.
Thus, the recoil of a gun is attributed to the Law of Conservation of Momentum – that is the Second Law.
Now I realised that the basic Physics book I read while preparing for LGSC was correct.
My first close encounter with the 81mm Mortar happened in 1993 when I had to organise Inter-Battalion Mortar Competition as the Brigade Major of the Artillery Brigade. I wanted to have a first-hand feel of it and requested the Mortar Platoon of one of the battalions for a demonstration of their drills.
81mm mortar is a joint design by the UK and Canada and was introduced into service in 1965–66, replacing the 3-inch Mortar. To match and then overwhelm German firepower during World War I, British engineer Sir Wilfred Stokes invented the Stokes 3-inch Mortar System.
81mm Mortar can be man-packed by the mortar detachment, in which case the ammunition is to be carried by other soldiers of the battalion. In addition to their normal equipment, each soldier carries four bombs. These mortars are the Infantry Battalion’s organic firepower, better known as the Commanding Officer’s Artillery and can be used to deliver a heavy volume of fire down on an objective in an extremely short period.
As the mortar was being brought into action, the detachment was heard shouting “Mathy, Mathy, Mathy.” I interpreted it to be ‘Maththi’ (മത്തി) – Sardine in Malayalam. The shouting subsided and the chaos settled with the mortar set in action.
I wanted to know why the clamour was all about and what they were shouting. A Mallu officer came out – he must have realised my confusion – and said “Sir, it is Madhya (मध्य)” -meaning centre. It appeared that the detachment shouted “Madhya, Madhya, Madhya” as they brought the bubbles of the spirit levels on the two axes on the dial-sight in the centre to level the mortar on a horizontal plane.
Now I had a closer look at the dial-sight to find neither bubble was centered. I asked as to what the shouting was all around. (Gunners do not shout while levelling the bubbles.)
“That’s the drill sir,” replied the officer. (A standard reply to most questions in the Army!!)
As we progressed through the competition, I realised that all Platoon Commanders assembled their platoons to indicate the AP (Aiming Point.) He said “Door se door, sahi pehachan, achcha laying edge – Abhi keliye 100-meter pe jhanda.” (दूर से दूर, सही पहचान, अच्छा laying edge – अभी केलिए 100-meter पे झंडा.)
An Aiming Point provides a point of angular reference to aim a gun in the required horizontal direction. An aiming point must be as far as possible, sharply defined and easily distinguished feature, such as the edge of a building. The Platoon Commander was correct in the definition which all Platoon commanders rattled out, but everyone used the Flag @ 100 meter.
Was the flag designated as Aiming Point at 100 meter?? No way! Even if I stretched my imagination beyond its elastic limits – it could at most be 100 feet. May be, an Infantry soldier can stretch a foot to a meter!!
I knew that selection and use of an Aiming Point on ground presents problems in featureless areas, in bad visibility or at night as putting lights on distant aiming points is seldom practical. Therefore, modern guns employ a ‘Collimator’ to simulate an Aiming Point at artificial infinity on the principle of parallel lines meet at infinity. Many Gunners – including officers – call it colli-METER.
The Flag @100 meter baffled me, and my gunnery brain cells worked on hypersonic speed to resolve the riddle. Unsuccessful, I gave it up and summoned the very same Platoon Commander who first demonstrated the functioning of a Mortar Platoon. He claimed that he was an instructor at Infantry School. He failed to convince me as all his explanations were illogical and unscientific.
“Where do you conduct your Mortar Platoon training at Infantry School? Is the area surrounded by buildings?” I asked. “Yes,” said the Platoon Commander
Now I realised that the Flag @ 100 meter (feet) was creating the artificial infinity at Infantry School, and it was being carried to all the battalions by the Platoon commanders trained at Infantry School.
Infantry will make parallel lines to meet even @ 100 feet.
On return to our regiment – 75 Medium Regiment – after completion of the ‘Computer Course’ in August 1991, our then Commanding Officer (CO) Colonel Rajan Anand appointed me as the Battery Commander (BC) of 751 Medium Battery. 75 Medium Regiment then had three batteries with fixed class composition. 751 Medium Battery consisted of Brahmins from North India, 752 Medium Battery had Jats and our 753 Medium Battery had South Indians.
That was the first time I became the BC of the Brahmin Battery and always commanded the same Battery during the rest of my service with the unit. Our Regiment was then located at Udhampur (Jammu & Kashmir). The Regiment was tasked to display the newly acquired 155mm Bofors Gun for the Gunners’ Day on Saturday, 28 September 1991 for everyone in the station and school children. Our CO gave the task of the equipment display to me. The previous day, I briefed everyone about the task at hand and the next morning at 8AM, we marched off to the stadium where the display was being conducted. The event was organised under the aegis of 8 Artillery Brigade, who were then staging at Udhampur on their induction into the Kashmir Valley. Our Regiment was under 39 Artillery Brigade. On reaching the stadium, I was shown the area where the Bofors gun and allied equipment was to be displayed by the Deputy Commander of 8 Artillery Brigade. The Deputy Commander was a Colonel with over 25 years of service, while I had eight years behind me.
I took Havildar (Sergeant) Major Lekh Ram and the Gun Detachment Commander – Havildar Chaman Prakash – and briefed them about the placement of the Gun and other equipment and various boards and charts defining the characteristics of the equipment. By 8:30AM, I moved to the tent where the Deputy Commander was sitting, pulled a chair and sat next to him. From his body language, it was evident that he did not approve of my action a wee bit. All the officers of other Regiments, mostly from 8 Artillery Brigade, were busy supervising the equipment display and were all near their detachments.
The Deputy Commander now asked me as to why I was not next to the detachment supervising their actions. I told him that I had briefed everyone well about the impending task and the Havildar Major would do his job and report to me on completion of the task and my job would commence then. I had faith in my soldiers and NCOs and I was sure that they would do an excellent job. I also said that everyone is going to see the Bofors Gun, being in the news for wrong reasons then, and not many would be interested in the field guns and mortars displayed by 8 Artillery Brigade.
Adjacent to our Bofors Gun was the detachment of the 105mm Light Field Gun, from a field regiment of 8 Artillery Brigade. By 9 AM, when the field gun detachment got ready, the Subedar Major (Master Warrant Officer) of that regiment held a practice of bringing the gun into action. This entailed the detachment of five soldiers heaving the gun on to a circular metallic platform. Due to heavy downpour for the previous four days, the ground was soggy and the detachment had to heave hard to pull the gun on to the platform. While pulling the gun on to the platform, the detachment would shout in chorus “All together heave!”
At this time Havildar Major Lekh Ram reported to me that everything is ready. After seeing the entire arrangement, I summoned everyone and said a few words of appreciation for executing the assigned task well. I ordered everyone to have a tea break, change into their ceremonial uniform and to be ready by 9:45 AM as the demonstrations were to commence at 10 AM.
After ten minutes, it was the turn of the Adjutant (Captain) of the field regiment and he too ordered the detachment into action. The detachment pulled the gun on to the platform “All together heave!” Now came the Battery Commander (Major) and the same drill was repeated. With each practice, the ground beneath the platform sank in more, making it overly difficult for the detachment.
I now told the Deputy Commander sitting beside me that with so many practices, the detachment will be tired and any more practice will surely sink the ground furthermore. He gave me a frown. Next was the turn of the CO (Colonel) of that regiment and the soldiers became even more tired.
At 9:45 AM, the Brigade Commander of 8 Artillery Brigade arrived and his first question (as expected) was as to where our CO was. I said that he was busy with other important commitments and hence had deputed me for the task. The Brigade Commander wanted me to convey his displeasure to our CO for his absence, which I dutifully agreed.
The Brigade Commander now moved on to the field gun and ordered the detachment into action. It was again “All together heave!” It left the detachment in a state of exhaustion, with their ceremonial uniforms all crumbled.
At the appointed time, the Army Commander of Northern Command arrived and he headed straight to the Bofors Gun. We gave an excellent demonstration of the capabilities of the gun and briefed about the computers for ballistic calculations, Scania gun towing vehicle and other equipment. The Army Commander complimented all our soldiers for their smart turnout, actions and briefing and moved on to the field gun.
“All together heave!” the detachment commander shouted at the top of his voice, the overly tired soldiers pulled with all their might, but the gun refused to climb on the platform as the ground beneath it had sunk in.
Once the Army Commander left, all visitors made a beeline to the Bofors gun as expected and hardly anyone cared for the field guns and mortars.
“All together heave!” and similar cries during Gun Drill has a colonial linkage. It may soon be changed to Hindi cries.
Hindenburg is in news with expose on Adani. The company is a short-seller that specialises in forensic financial research, founded in 2017 by Nathan Anderson.
The company’s website claims, ‘We view the Hindenburg as the epitome of a totally man-made, totally avoidable disaster. We look for similar man-made disasters floating around in the market and aim to shed light on them before they lure in more unsuspecting victims.’
Where does this company get its name Hindenburg?
Let us peep into the history of the real Hindenburg.
Nazi Germany built the largest airship of that time. The airship used highly flammable hydrogen gas for lift off but was vulnerable to explosion. In the 1930s, the Graf Zeppelin made an airship that pioneered the first transatlantic air service. It was named Hindenburg after Paul Von Hindenburg (1847-1934,) a German World War I military commander and President. The airship measured 804 feet from stern to bow.
Why was Helium, a non-combustible gas not used in the German airship?
U.S. law of the time prevented the Hindenburg from using helium.
Hindenburg’s designer – Hugo Eckener – wanted to use Helium, but the U.S., which had a monopoly on Helium and feared that other countries might use the gas for military purposes, banned its export.
After the Hindenburg disaster, owing to American public opinion, the law was amended to allow helium export for nonmilitary use.
Despite being filled with 7 million cubic feet of highly combustible hydrogen gas, the Hindenburg featured a smoking room. Passengers were unable to bring matches and personal lighters aboard the airship, but they could buy cigarettes and Cuban cigars on board and light up in a room pressurised to prevent any hydrogen from entering. A steward admitted passengers and crew through a double-door airlock into the smokers’ lounge, which had a single electric lighter, and made sure no one left with a lit cigarette or pipe.
On May 3, 1937, the Hindenburg left Frankfurt, Germany, on its flight across the Atlantic to Naval Air Station Lakehurst, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, just outside of New York City. It was carrying 36 passengers and 61 crew and was captained by Captain Max Pruss.
1n 1936, Hindenburg had crossed the Atlantic, often to Brazil, 34 times. While attempting to moor at Lakehurst, the airship suddenly burst into flames, probably after a spark ignited its hydrogen core. 13 passengers, 21 crew, and a ground crew lost their lives, and most of the survivors suffered serious injuries.
Hindenburg’s final flight across the Atlantic was relatively uneventful, other than some headwinds, that slowed it by an hour. When the aircraft flew over New York area, thunderstorms and bad weather thwarted the scheduled late-morning landing at Lakehurst.
To avoid the storm, Captain Pruss flew over Manhattan and out into the Atlantic, to wait until the storm subsided. People of New York ran out of their homes to watch the world’s largest airship overhead. It raised curiosity as it was roughly the size of the Titanic, but it flew overhead.
Around 6 PM, the storms passed, and Captain Pruss ordered his ship to Lakehurst, almost a half-day late. By 7 PM, the Hindenburg was on final approach to Lakehurst, which had mooring mast and a winch. In those days, large airships dropped its lines and cable to be run down through the mooring mast and into the winch, which pulled the airship to the ground. This procedure was called Flying Moor.
When Hindenburg was at an altitude of 295 feet, the mooring lines were dropped to the ground as a light rain began to fall. The lines were connected through the mooring masts to the winch and as the Flying Moor operations commenced, Hindenburg caught fire.
As the Hindenburg’s flaming tail began to drift toward the earth, the flames moved forward through the different hydrogen-holding cells toward her bow. The ship began falling steeply. When the airship’s stern hit the ground, the fire burst through its nosecone. The entire disaster lasted less than 40 seconds.
Hindenburg disaster marked the end of an era of airships. Then began World War II and arrived speedy fighter aircraft which could easily shoot down the slow-moving airships, blew the death knell to the airship industry.
Radio announcer Herb Morrison, who was at Lakehurst to record a newsreel for NBC, immortalised the Hindenburg disaster in a famous statement, “Oh, the humanity!”
The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Navy couldn’t come to any solid conclusion in their report and stated ‘the firey disaster was a result of the mixture of free hydrogen and air.’ The mystery Hindenburg disaster lives on, likely never to be definitively solved.
Such are the man-made disasters Hindenburg refers to and the company claims to shed light on them before they lure in more unsuspecting victims.
Ms Hazel McCallion, who transformed our city – Mississauga – a suburb of Toronto from a largely rural community into a bustling metropolis during her 36-year tenure as mayor, died at the ripe age of 101 on January 29, 2023.
Nicknamed Hurricane Hazel due to her unique political style, she served 12 terms as the Mayor of Mississauga from 1978 to 2014.
Hazel was born in Port Daniel, Que., on February 14, 1921. Her family owned a fishing and canning company. She attended business secretarial school in Quebec City and Montreal after high school. She joined the Canadian Kellogg company and transferred to Toronto. She remained with the company for 19 years. In 1967 she decided to leave the corporate world and devote her career to politics.
In 1945, she met her husband Sam, and the couple married six years later. The McCallions then settled in Streetsville (now part of Mississauga,), where Hazel’s political career began. Sam passed away in 1997. Hazel’s in-laws on her marriage to Sam gifted a piece of land in the village of Streetsville,where she lived at the time of her death
Hazel McCallion was the Greater Toronto Airports Authority board of directors at the time of her death. She was first appointed to the board in 2017. McCallion also sat as a chancellor of Sheridan College and a special advisor to the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus.
McCallion the Mayor of Mississauga, I saw her the first time when she gave the graduation address to the students when our daughter Nidhi graduated from high school in 2009. She came driving her Chevrolet Malibu car bearing the licence plate MAYOR1. The graduation address was inspiring, motivating and made the listeners think. She peppered her address with wit and humour and made everyone laugh too. Immediately after delivering the address, she dashed off to the next high school in the city to address that school’s graduates. This proved that her nickname of Hurricane Hazel suited her to the tee.
Hazel McCallion, has won every mayoral election contested in Mississauga since 1978. She is the longest serving mayor in Canada and has kept the city debt-free since her first term of office. McCallion began her political career in 1968 on the Streetsville municipality which she served as Chairman of the Planning Board, and then Mayor of Streetsville. In 1974, Streesville got incorporated into the City of Mississauga.
In her first mayoral election in 1978 she narrowly defeated the incumbent mayor. In 1979 she came into world news when a public health and safety crisis occurred during the 1979 Mississauga train derailment. A train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a heavily populated area of Mississauga. A large explosion and fire ensued as hazardous chemicals spilled. McCallion, along with the Police and other governmental authorities, oversaw an orderly and peaceful evacuation of the entire city of 200,000 residents. Despite having sprained her ankle, she continued to hold press conferences and update briefings. There were no deaths or serious injuries during the week-long emergency.
Her reputation has hinged on her financial acumen and political pragmatism, with her no-nonsense style endearing her to constituents and alienating some opponents. In 1991 she became the first mayor to submit their city’s budget to public scrutiny.
Mayor McCallion is well known for her love of hockey. She played for a professional women’s team while attending school in Montreal. One of her friends and a hockey commentator Don Cherry, who joked during her 87th birthday that while 98 per cent of the city voted for her, he was looking for the remaining 2 per cent that didn’t. She never campaigned for the elections, she never put up posters, she never delivered any elections speeches, but she always got over 90% of the votes.
Her principles were grounded in the belief that a city should be run like a business; thus, she encouraged the business model of governance. Her family’s business background, her education, and her prior career in a corporation prepared her to approach government with this model.
Hazel’s Hope, a campaign to fund health care for children afflicted with AIDS and HIV in southern Africa is her charity initiative. Hazel became the poster girl for longevity and good health for Trillium Health Centre. On her 90th birthday, Dr. Barbara Clive, a geriatrician, marvelled at Hazel’s good health: “At 90 her gait is perfect, her speech is totally sharp and she has the drive to still run this city. She’s the poster child for seniors.”
On her 100th birthday she said “My mom or dad couldn’t afford to send me to college or university. So I had to do it without that additional education. It’s the people you meet along the way, there’s always people to help you along the way if you’re willing to accept the help.”
In December 2014, Mayor McCallion stepped-down and people of the city remain ever grateful to her. What an amazing woman, who has given her life to our great city. What an inspiration for all women and for those of a certain age, that they aren’t done yet and can still live happy very productive active lives. To the generations coming up behind, to work hard and make a name for oneself and make a difference.
After delivering her annual State of the City speech, her last as mayor on September 23, 2014, Mayor McCallion had some advice for anyone who wanted to fill her coveted seat in Mississauga: “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. You have got to be honest with people. You can’t make promises when you haven’t got a hope to fulfill them.”
RIP Hazel.Thank you Hazel for all your hard work, commitment and dedication and to prove that age is only a number – even past hundred.
Col Manu Satti bid farewell to this world to be with his creator on January 25, 2023 at his home in Kakinada due to cardiac arrest. It came as a shock to me as I have been interacting with him through my blogs on various subjects.
He was a gentleman to the core who cherished great values, but was physically one among the toughest soldiers I came across.
Colonel Manu Satti graduated from Army Cadet College (ACC) and was a course senior to us at the Indian Military Academy. He was ever smiling and quiet. He was competing in the final bout of the inter-company boxing championship. His opponent was Gentleman Cadet (GC) Hamilton from Botswana. GC Hamilton was better built than GC Satti.
There was a psychological game being played against GC Satti – both by the GCs from the Hamilton’s company and by fellow GCs from Botswana – by claiming that GC Satti will not last the first round. Many made fun of him, teased him and he replied with his charming smile. GC Satti remained cool as a cucumber but was obviously boiling inside which everyone realised after what happened on the boxing ring.
Within five seconds of the gong sounding the commencement of the first round, GC Hamilton was on the mat, writhing in pain. Luckily the medical specialist at the Military Hospital Dehradun realised the seriousness of the injury suffered by GC Hamilton. He was immediately evacuated by helicopter to Command Hospital, Lucknow, and GC Hamilton’s life was saved. GC Satti’s punch was so powerful that GC Hamilton had a rupture of his small intestine and suffered heavy internal bleeding.
Colonel Satti was commissioned to 36 (Maratha) Medium Regiment in June 1982 when the Regiment was located at Meerut. We shared a good bonhomie as we were Second Lieutenants in the same Artillery Brigade. We competed fiercely on the games field and during various technical competitions, but our friendship was everlasting.
Generally, our Regiment, 75 Medium Regiment (Basantar River) used to comfortably win basketball and other games against 36 (M) Medium Regiment. But for a change, in 1985, 36 (M) Medium convincingly defeated 75 Medium. Colonel Satti was the Team Captain and the Marathas slogged for almost three months, practising morning and evening, ultimately to win the inter-regiment championship.
Colonel Mahavir Singh, our Commanding Officer played with our team. He had developed an immense liking for Colonel Satti – could be that he saw us, the Subalterns of our Regiment enjoying the company of Colonel Satti and that he was leading and coaching most sports teams of 36 (M) Medium Regiment.
In the year 1986, Colonel Satti’s father’s leg was amputated and required an artificial limp at Artificial Limb Centre (ALC) Pune. At that time, a vacancy for an officer to attend Field Engineering (FE) Course at College of Military Engineering (CME) Pune, was allotted to our Regiment. During a Commanding Officers’ conference, Colonel Mahavir came to know about his case and our Brigade Commander wanted a change of the course allotment from 75 Medium to 36 Medium.
Colonel Mahavir readily agreed once he came to know that it was Colonel Satti’s father. Such type of Commanding Officers is rare to be found. I was the nominated officer for the course and I was very happy that I could help Colonel Satti at a crucial time.
Now, Colonel Satti must be smiling at us from the heavens. Rest In Peace Buddy. We will cherish the memories and live on.
By Veteran Colonel Josey Joseph(Army Service Corps)
One Monday morning of 1995, all hell broke loose at the Northern Command HQ during the Army Commander’s morning prayer. Many Major Generals thundered that a Major had hijacked the Transit Camp Bus, leaving behind their PAs and Clerks. “How can the officer leave the soldiers behind. The officer got to be fixed. It should be a lesson for all,” opined various two starred Generals.
What lead to all these upheavals?
The young officers of Udhampur station were always critical of the Officers’ Transit Camp Bus plying between Udhampur and Jammu. Their grudge was that the senior officers, Colonels and above, travelled to Jammu on leave in Jeep, leaving the lesser mortals to travel by the Army Bus starting from the Officers’ Transit camp.
This bus was preferred by the sizeable number of clerical staff and sahayaks (helpers) of Command HQ. Every Saturday, they travelled by this bus to Jammu, spent the weekend with their families and returned Monday morning.
On Saturdays, by the time the officers reached the transit camp, all seats were occupied by these VIPs and it was a herculean task to remove them. The VIPs were stuck to their seats with bond stronger than that of Fevicol. If an officer requested for a seat, these VIPs turned their head in the opposite direction. Fevicol was not allowing them to get up and their ego of being the personal staff of Generals did not permit them to move. The bus driver and conductor remained helpless and the transit camp NCO responsible for allotment of seats tactically vanished from the scene. No one wanted to annoy the VIPs, typically following the famous Malayalam saying, You must be equally scared of the elephant shit as much as the real elephant.
On social occasions, after a few drinks, young officers of Udhampur did vent their ire on Army Service Corps (ASC) Officers and after few more drinks cursed the ASC as the bus was from one of the ASC battalions in Udhampur. It made no difference to them if the officer was from the Animal Transport Battalion. They said “Yes, AT and MT are same. Both are transport only.” Now, who would argue that Animal Transport had mules and that the technology was ages behind Motor Transport?
On that fateful Saturday, this Major reached the transit camp to travel to Jammu to see off his four-year-old daughter who had joined him for a week during Dussehra holidays. His wife, staying in SF accommodation in Delhi, had boarded her at the Delhi airport as an unaccompanied minor.
As the Major got into the bus, he found all seats occupied by the VIPs. His request to provide him a seat fell on deaf ears and the bus driver pleaded helplessness. Officers senior to him, seated in the bus did not take any action. The Major took a command decision and ordered all the JCOs/OR to get down. Reluctantly and expecting this to be some sort of prank, one by one, they came down from the bus. Finally, with the last VIP disembarked, the Major ordered the driver to start the bus and leave for Jammu. So, the officer, his daughter and another five officers left for Jammu in a bus with a seating capacity of 42 passengers.
The VIPs had been wronged! They vowed to fight together and avenge insult to their status!
“Mera 25 saal naukri mein aisa kabhi nahin hua,” (In my 25 years of service, it never happened like this,) declared the PA of Brig A. The rest nodded in agreement. “Iska kuch karna hoga,” (We got to do something about it,) and the rest again agreed. They then boarded a Shakthiman truck from the JCOs/OR transit camp, fuming at the insult to their status.
Bad news spreads fast but gossip spreads faster. My Company Second-in-Command (2IC,) receiver, and broadcaster of all gossip in Udhampur, came to me with the news that a Major had hijacked the Officer’s Bus and was moving to Jammu with the bus.
I laughed. The 2IC lost his senses. He stared at me as if I was also a hijacker. In between laughter, I assured him that the Major will come out of it. He still could not understand. He said, “Do you know, PA of Brig A had to travel in a Shakthiman truck?” I was soon identified as course-mate of the hijacker.
On that Monday, I was summoned by the DDST to enquire about the Major. With a straight face, I answered all his queries and found him to be appreciative of the Major. The Generals and Brigadiers wanted to order a Court of Inquiry and fix the officer. The Major requested for the same under Army Rule 180, wherein the person against whom allegations have been made has to be present and ask questions to the witnesses.
Since there were many loose ends and it was revealed that many of the Command HQ staff did not have official leave approval; the case was left to die a natural death.
The happiest were the ASC officers as we did not have to listen to complaints on social occasions. The ASC Branch was happy that someone had the guts to take such an action. Orders were passed that the Officers’ Transit Camp Bus was meant only for Officers and all the VIP JCOs and NCOs were barred from travelling in it, giving some relief and respect to young officers.
Two weeks later, the hijacker proceeded on Technical Staff Course at AIT, Pune and the case was finally closed.
You must be itching to know who the officer was?
None other than Reji Koduvath nick named ‘Kaduva’ (Meaning Tiger in Malayalam,) a veteran of several such battles. As a Lieutenant, while serving in Delhi, he had thrashed a Superintendent of Police and sorted out many senior Police officials.
Historically armies practised drill to prepare soldiers for battle. Drill enabled commanders to quickly move their forces from one point to another, mass their forces into a battle formation that afforded concentration of both human effort and firepower and maneuver the forces as the situation developed – akin to our school morning assembly.
The first lesson of Drill or Foot Drill for most of us was the school morning assembly. We trooped into the Assembly Hall/ Ground, wearing our school uniform, from our classrooms in single file, mostly led by our class teacher. The files then assembled, aligning in a straight line from the front and to our sides. We stood at ‘Attention’ for the prayer and the national anthem and for the rest of the assembly was in ‘Stand at Ease’ position.
The drill was employed to train soldiers over and over until a task became second nature and everyone knew how the whole formation moved at any given time. It was in fact Drilled into every soldier that they reacted to commands than thought. The Greeks and Romans had the phalanx involving the soldiers standing side by side in ranks. Just before contact with the enemy, the soldiers moved in very close together so that each man’s shield helped to protect the man on his left. In the beginning, drill gave the soldiers the ability to lock their shields together and form a moving wall of swords and spears. Today, this drill is employed by police across the globe for riot control by locking their shields.
Mahabharata describes Chakravyuh (nodal point defence), Kamalvyuh (lotus array formation), Ardh-Chandravyuh (half-moon array formation) and Shakaatvyuh (T shape formation with a Chakra on it.) Vyuh is a geometrical shape formed for battle with battle drills by maneuvering foot-soldiers, horses, chariots, and elephants. To beat any formation, it was by Makarvyuh (assaulting human waves) which the Indian Army employed during Kargil War. The origin of chess is attributed to these arrays so that the new maneuvers and formations could be war-gamed to surround the enemies.
The hallmarks of military drill are efficiency, precision, and dignity. These qualities are developed through self-discipline and practice. They lead to unit pride and cohesion. Military troops which display constant competence in drill are considered highly trained, well-disciplined, and professional. Drill develops individual pride, mental alertness, precision, and esprit-de-corps which will assist the soldiers to always carry out orders instinctively. Good drill, well-rehearsed, closely supervised, and precise, is an exercise in obedience and alertness. It builds a sense of confidence between commanders and subordinates that is essential to high morale.
The personal qualities developed on the parade ground must be maintained in all aspects of military life. Commanders must insist on the same high standards both on and off parade, to instill these qualities strongly enough to endure the strain of military duty in peace or war. The systematic correction of minor errors strengthens these characteristics and improves both individual and unit standards.
Goose Stepping, throwing their legs as high as they could while marching was a form of extreme marching held by German, Prussian, and Russian militaries to be an ultimate display of the unbreakable will and discipline of its soldiers. While marching, they do not dig their heels hard. Most modern armies have done away with this ‘fascist’ approach to marching as being too extreme. Only a few countries use it as a powerful display of military discipline.
Today, foot drill is a fundamental activity of the military and is practised regularly during initial military training. Foot drill involves marching with an exaggerated heel strike, and regimented manoeuvres performed while marching and standing characterised by an exaggerated stamping of one foot into the ground.
High levels of bone strain caused by such exaggerated drills results in stress fracture. It may also cause micro-damage to bones. Digging down of heels, especially with the foot raised over the head may cause severe strain to the neck and spine and brain damage. These soldiers may also end up with joint pains, migraines, and headaches.
A recent post on the social media that the large number of stress fracture of the hips among Lady Cadets in OTA was attributed was the difference in bone structure of women and the fact that the female hips are not meant to take the same stress as males because they have widened pelvis to enable childbearing. This made me research into the subject of stress fracture during military training.
Stress fractures represent one of the most common and potentially serious overuse injuries, especially among recruits and Officer Cadets the world over. Repetitive weight-bearing activities such as running and marching are the most frequently reported causes of stress fracture. Stress fractures have been reported in most bones of the limbs, as well as the ribs and the spine, but the most common location is the lower limb.
Military foot drill generates higher forces, loading rates and accelerations on the human body and especially the lower limbs compared to running and load carriage. This large biomechanical loading of foot drill may contribute to the high rate of stress fracture during initial military training. Lower limb injury rates, in particular stress fractures, are reportedly higher for running in women compared with men. [i]
A US Army study found that 14% of women suffered stress fractures[ii] compared to 2.3% of men. Women have an anatomical disadvantage that increase their risk of developing stress fractures. Women have wider pelvic breadths, which negatively alter loading strains. A wider pelvis alters the angular tilt on the hips and knees, increasing the stress on these bones and on those of the lower leg and foot. This anatomical difference may explain the greater distribution of stress fractures in the pelvis and hip observed in female recruits.[iii]
In female Army cadets, women who had fewer than 10 menstrual cycles in the year preceding training had significantly lower spine and hip Bone Mineral Density (BMD) than women with at least 10 cycles. In studies of elite Australian female athletes, those who suffered from stress fractures had significantly fewer menstrual cycles/year. Thus, female bones may be more sensitive to severe energy deficiencies that cause depressed estrogen levels and altered bone remodeling.[iv]
3,025 US Marine recruits were studied for 12 weeks of training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Polymer and standard mesh insoles were systematically distributed in boots that were issued to members of odd and even numbered platoons. The most important finding was that an elastic polymer insole with good shock absorbency properties did not prevent stress reactions of bone during a 12-week period of vigorous physical training.[v]
Another study that examined 1,299,332 US Soldiers found that female soldiers had a 3.6-fold higher incidence of stress fracture than male soldiers. They examined age, sex, Body Mass Index (BMI,) and race-origin of stress fracture cases. In both sexes, non-Hispanic white men and women had the highest risk of stress fracture, with a 59% and 92% higher risk respectively, than non-Hispanic blacks. The second highest risk group was Hispanics, with Hispanic men and women having a 19% and 65% greater risk respectively, than non-Hispanic black men and women. Among Native Americans /Native Alaskans and Asians, only women showed increased stress fracture risk compared with their non-Hispanic black counterparts. Asian women had 32%, higher risk of stress fracture than non-Hispanic black women.[vi]
Notwithstanding women joining the Indian Army, it is time to revisit the training norms – both for drill and Physical Training (PT.)
That brings me to the Gun Drill of the Regiment of Artillery where the detachments are trained to bring the gun into/ out of action and engagement of targets, as if in a war situation. Here too, over a period, exaggerated movements did creep in, causing skeletal damage to soldiers.
[i] Force and acceleration characteristics of military foot drill: implications for injury risk in recruits : Patrick P J Carden, Rachel M Izard, Julie P Greeves, Jason P Lake, Stephen D Myers
[ii] The impact of lifestyle factors on stress-fractures in female Army recruits: Lappe JM , Stegman MR , Recker RR :.
[iii] Females Have a Greater Incidence of Stress Fractures Than Males in Both Military and Athletic Populations: A Systemic Review Laurel Wentz , MS, RD ; Pei-Yang Liu , PhD, RD ; Emily Haymes , PhD ; Jasminka Z. Ilich , PhD, RD
[iv] Bone density of elite female athletes with stress-fractures : Carbon R , Sambrook PN , Deakin V , et al :. Med J Aust 1990..
[v] Prevention of lower extremity stress fractures: a controlled trial of a shock absorbent insole. L I Gardner, Jr, J E Dziados, B H Jones, J F Brundage, J M Harris, R Sullivan, and P Gill
[vi] Risk of Stress Fracture Varies by Race/Ethnic Origin in a Cohort Study of 1.3 Million US Army Soldiers. Lakmini Bulathsinhala, Julie M Hughes, Craig J McKinnon, Joseph R Kardouni, Katelyn I Guerriere, Kristin L Popp, Ronald W Matheny Jr, Mary L Bouxsein
Recently there was an article on social media about Indian expats in Europe still seeking an arranged marriage. The irony is that it was written by a professional matchmaker of Indian origin based in Europe.
Arranged marriages among the next gen in our family in India is on the decline. The youth want to select their mates on their own rather than opt for an arranged marriage. It could well be that the children are allowed free choice. Our generation was not allowed this freedom, more out of social and economic considerations. “Who can love whom and by how much was written in the love laws a long time ago,” lamented Arundhati Roy in the God of Small Things. But mercifully by and large the next generation has chosen to break all abhorrent caste and religious barriers.
Similar is the case in North America, among people of Indian descent. Most of those who import brides/ grooms or Mail Order Brides/ Grooms – they have not been capable of finding their partners – or they were never allowed to do so. This mostly happens to children who immigrated in their high-school or later. For them it is difficult to merge into the North American system of dating.
On migration, the parents are unaware of the social realities of North America. Like us, many came with imported cultural and social values. This did not allow for flexibility in parenting and the eldest child generally took the brunt. By the time the next one reached high school, the strings were loosened, the parents by then a little more flexible.
One of our nieces who migrated while she was in high school is now a surgeon in the US. When her parents thought that she was marriageable, they generously asked her to look for a partner. She was furious and retorted “You never allowed me to date! Why? you did not even allow me to return home late! Now you want me to bring a boy home! Is it feasible?” She settled for an arranged marriage, but her younger sister married her long-time fiancé. In our case, we had migrated when our children were very young and perhaps, we as parents had more time to accept and merge into the new value system. Our daughter Nidhi married her fiancé and our son Nikhil lives with his fiancé.
Many who go in for mail order brides/ grooms are often dependent on their parents economically. This leaves them no choice other than to follow parental diktats. The situation is often pathetic in such cases. Caught between the nuances of different cultural values, often these marriages end up unhappy. This observation is personal and there is no empirical data to evaluate which system results in happier marriages.
Nowadays there is a proliferation in the Indian digital marriage market sponsored by various matrimony sites. In the traditional value system the task is now outsourced to these companies. It does not come cheap. To this imbroglio, throw in the religious and caste angle coupled with the tenets of astronomy, and we have the comical evolution of a traditional system into the digital age.
About 23 percent of the Canadians who marry overseas from India every year and file international spousal sponsorships have their applications rejected. This has prompted applicants to complain that Canadian visa officers are suspicious of all Indian marriages – even genuine ones. It’s a crime for a foreign national to marry a Canadian citizen or permanent resident only to gain entry to Canada.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is often not convinced that the relationship is genuine and was entered into for honest reasons. It is difficult to evaluate the genuineness of these cases, with each spouse telling different versions of events and at times even questioning the genuineness of supporting documents issued by many government institutions. In short, be doubly sure when you marry an overseas citizen.
Remember Dr Balamurali Ambatti, who made it into the Guinness Book of Records for becoming the world’s youngest MD in 1995. His achievements then were widely celebrated by Indian parents. Balmurali graduated from Baltimore City College at age 11, graduated from New York University and joined medical school at 14. At age 17, he received his MD from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Hyderabad police arrested Balmurali Ambati and three members of his family on a complaint filed by Balamurali’s wife that she was harassed by them for not paying a promised dowry. She said that the family had locked her in a room of her New York City apartment and allowed her to return to India with them on a visit only after she signed a document agreeing to a divorce.
I was commissioned into 75 Medium Regiment (Basantar River,) a great unit which participated in 1971 war with elan and earned laurels. The Regiment had a unique combination of soldiers, Brahmin, Jat and South Indian Class. Being a Medium Regiment, the unit had all tall and well-built gunners. The unit won most of the sports trophies and excelled in all training competitions. The unit had moved from J & K to Gurgaon. Due to its proximity to New Delhi, unit was posted with full complement of officers. During those days it was an honour and privilege to be the Adjutant of the Regiment.
Adjutant of the Artillery unit is responsible for administration and assist the Commanding Officer in administration, training and discipline. In the battle and training, the Adjutant’s duty is to control and coordinate fire of 18 guns of the Regiment.
I was lucky to have all three officer GPOs (Gun Position Officers) responsible to control fire of each battery and ready to assist me in all regimental duties. The first one was Captain Paramjit Singh Ralhan, a handsome sardar who graduated from IMA as Direct Entry. He had decent manners and a smiling face. Second was Lieutenant Koduvath Reji, Sainik School and NDA brat, who was enthusiastic and bubbling with energy, sometimes exceeded limit of his enthusiasm. The third one was Lieutenant Gulshan Rai Kausik, matured service entry officer with boxer built and red eyes. His looks were sufficient to make any soldier to behave. All three were josh machines and when ordered can produce anything.
Ralhan was of a great help to control discipline of Brahmin battery and to organize any event in the unit or officer’s mess. Ralhan with his diligence and demure resolved any kind of situation or indiscipline with his cool mind and report “Sir, no problem, matter is resolved.” I remember one incident, where the problem was created by a rogue soldier. Ralhan handled the situation exceedingly well and disciplinary action was taken against the defaulter.
Reji used to follow the dictum that as youngster commit any mistake but keep Adjutant informed. Therefore, it was quite often that I used to jump from the chair when he used to come and inform “Sir, chhotasa galati ho gaya.(Sir,I Committed a small mistake.)” The so-called small mistake used to be slapping Superintendent of Police or bashing up BSF Dy Commandant. It wasn’t for the wrong reasons, but we had to sort out the issues.
On 31 Oct 1984, Regiment’s column was ordered to move and take responsibility of security of Teen Murty Bhawan, where mortal remains of our late Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi were kept. Regiment was also responsible for controlling VIP visitors, who came there to pay homage to late Prime Minister. Reji, stopped Inspector General of Delhi Police, who along with family was sneaking through VIP gate. This resulted into arguments with the Police Officer asking, “What are you doing here and who are you to stop me?” Reji told that officer, “Had police been working properly, Army would not have come to control this.” This was being heard and observed by Minister-in-Charge there Mr Shivraj Patil and he appreciated Reji for his dedication to duty and rebuked Police Officer. Later, the Regiment received an appreciation letter and cash prize from the Minister.
Kaushik, with his presence of mind could handle any situation. Once the Regiment was playing final match of Kabaddi with Rocket Regiment, the hosts. They had arranged referees who were biased and obvious that they were helping Rocket Regiment. Our soldiers could not tolerate that injustice and warned referees. But referees again gave a wrong decision in favour of Rocket Regiment and our soldiers could no longer bear this injustice. They entered ground and caught hold of one of the referees. This resulted into commotion and big fight broke out between the soldiers of both Regiments. Adjutant of Rocket Regiment and I intervened to control the situation but we too faced the wrath of fighting soldiers. Lieutenant Kaushik fearlessly entered mob and with his commanding voice ordered Savdhan. To everyone’s surprise, we found all soldiers stood to attention. Then he ordered “Rocket Regiment dahine mood and Medium Regiment baye mood; tej chal.(Rocker Regiment Right Turn and Medium Regiment Left Turn; Quick March.)” Soldiers followed the orders and moved out of the field. The worst was averted.
All three officers were real assets in our Regimental life and during the training too. During firing of those monster 130 mm guns, I had to be careful and watchful as in Artillery they say that, once ordered and fired round/rounds of gun/guns cannot be corrected and result is depicted on the target. As an Adjutant, whenever all guns were ordered to fire together, I had to control my GPOs to ensure all guns fired accurately and in unison. As soon as I used to pass order for firing and report ready. Reji, who was most chatak(quick,) reacted and made his guns ready and report, thereafter, would not stop to point out mistakes of others if any. Ralhan, who was as cool as penguin checked, rechecked and took his time. To keep an atmosphere warm in his command post, I used to pass on heat online of fire control net. Kaushik, with good sense of hearing and watchful eyes used to take time and get ready. The end result was accurate and coordinated fire.
There is lot to write about them. I can never forget their contribution to maintain josh, discipline, and winning competitions. All three are now well settled – Ralhan in USA, Reji in Canada, and Kaushik in South Delhi. I wish them very best for their endeavours.
At the Canadian War Museum, thousands of people have seen a painting of a Black Canadian woman in a military uniform, standing behind a canteen counter, with crossed arms and a stern face. Most Canadians neither know the woman in the painting nor the artist. It is one of the most famous canvases to come from the brush of Molly Lamb Bobak, Canada’s first female war artist.
The painting is of Sergeant Eva May Roy and it remains in storage at the Canadian War Museum. She is one of many Black women who served in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II and is among the people whose stories are largely missing not only from public record but from public conscience as well.
Roy was a trailblazer, who served overseas at a time when it was rare to see a Canadian military woman working in Europe. After the war broke out, Roy left her job as a presser in a laundry to become a machine operator and fuse assembler at the General Engineering Co. munitions plant in Scarborough, Ontario.
Roy enlisted in 1944 and joined the CWAC, a new division created just three years earlier. CWAC had 50,000 women in its ranks during World War II in support roles ranging from cooking to decoding. Roy trained as a cook and served in military canteens in Canada, the United Kingdom and Holland.
Many people associated with Roy say that the stern image presented by her portrait is somewhat misleading. She had an outgoing personality, was enthusiastic about the army and loved to sing.
After returning to Canada in January 1946, Roy worked as a government postal clerk in Toronto. Almost a decade later, when CWAC launched another recruiting campaign, Roy re-enlisted, served from 1955 to 1965 and attained the rank of sergeant. She died in 1990.
Molly Lamb Bobak (1920–2014) was the first Canadian woman war artist. In 1942 Bobak joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) and was appointed Official War Artist with the rank of Lieutenant in 1945. She served overseas in London where she painted women on military training as well as dynamic scenes of marches and parades.
Upon her return from London, Molly married fellow war artist Bruno Bobak. For her role in the Second World War and many other accomplishments she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1973 and presented with the Order of Canada in 1995.
The Canadian Armed forces have now ordered that all military personnel will be allowed to wear their uniforms to civilian criminal court only if they are testifying on behalf of the forces or the Crown in a military capacity.
The move comes in the wake of the case proceedings of Major General Dany Fortin, the former head of Canada’s vaccine task force, who was charged with one count of sexual assault in connection with an alleged incident in 1988. Since Fortin’s trial began in September, he has defended himself in court while wearing his uniform and ten medals across his chest.
The order came after complaints by some sexual trauma survivors that they were offended by a highly decorated military commander’s decision to wear his uniform and medals to his ongoing sexual assault trial. They described Fortin’s decision to wear his uniform with medals as an act of intimidation that would have a silencing effect on survivors as well as on the judge.
Let us turn the clock back to 1985. As a young Lieutenant then, I had to escort a Major, a Vir Chakra winner of the 1971 Indo-Pak War, to Additional Sessions Court at Delhi. The Major was standing trial for the murder of his wife’s paramour.
The Major’s wife was residing with her paramour with whom she had apparently decided to get married to. It was claimed by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) who investigated the case that the Major devised a booby trap bomb which he put into a package and left it at the foot of the staircase leading to the home of the paramour. The paramour is said to have opened the parcel and the resultant explosion killed him instantly.
The Major wore his Army uniform with full medals without the belt to the court. On entering the court, he took his position in the dock. As the Judge entered the court, the Major saluted the Judge. Three soldiers with weapons as guard and I as the escort sat behind him.
The Additional Sessions Court found the Major guilty of murdering her wife’s paramour and he was sentenced to life. The judgement was later overturned by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India, who acquitted the Major of the crime. The higher courts observed that ‘it appeared that the case was totally dependent on circumstantial evidence and held that the CBI has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused.’
It is pertinent to note that in most countries the civilian judicial system prosecutes offences involving Armed Forces members for murder, manslaughter, culpable homicide, rape, and sexual assault. Such cases are generally not tried by Court martial
Was there anything wrong in that the Major, an accused in a murder trial, while attending the court, was wearing his uniform with all his medals?
At that time, I thought it was more of a dishonour to the Indian Army. The uniform is a powerful symbol of the institution and wearing it could make a witness deposing against him feel a bit intimidated as though he/she was deposing against the Indian Army as an organisation. The Judge could also be swayed by the sight of a soldier in uniform as sentiments other than that of a judge and an accused may come into the equation. More than anything else the accused being in uniform somehow seems to suggest that he has organisational support irrespective of his purported criminal offence. Also, there is no doubt that the sight of the accused in uniform reflects poorly on the organisation.
Undoubtedly all these aspects must have been considered in totality in the case of the Canadian General accused in a sexual assault case. The Canadian Armed forces have indeed brought about a very sensible change of rule.
I believe that all other Armed Forces across the globe need to follow suit and not allow the Armed Forces Members to attend court in uniform when indicted as an accused, especially in a murder or a sexual assault case. In some cases, the offence in question such as culpable homicide not amounting to murder may have happened during performance of duty and the individual may have organisational support. It’s a debatable issue whether the uniform should be permitted in such cases, especially if the organisation feels a moral obligation to defend the individual.
The word dock has a bit of history. Beginning in the late 1500s, English courts had separate enclosures for defendants in criminal cases. Since defendants were not allowed to pass through the bar in that era, these boxes called docks were introduced to distinguish the defendant from the other people in the gallery. In those days, dock was a slang for a cage for animals and in the English courts, the defendants were kept caged.
St Gregorios Orthodox Church of Toronto observed Remembrance Sunday on November 13, 2022. Rev Fr Thomas P John offered special prayers after the Holy Liturgy.
Fr John had requested the parishioners to respectfully wear a Poppy at church for the Holy Mass. For those who did not have one, it was made available at the church entrance to pick up and wear. A donation box was provided for donations to the Canadian Legion. Activity books for kids were also provided.
The Syrian Orthodox Christians believe that St Thomas, Apostle of Christ, came to Kerala in 52 AD and converted local Hindus and some Jews to Christianity. A point to note that the Cochin Jews (also known as Malabar Jews or Yehudey Kochin,) are the oldest group of Jews in India, with roots that are claimed to date back to the time of King Solomon (970 – 931 BCE). St Thomas did not impose any changes to the pattern of worship, rituals, and traditions of the locals.
Portuguese colonisation of Kerala in the 16th Century with their concept of ‘the cross preceding the sword‘ resulted their aggressive efforts to bring the Malayali Syrian Christians, and others under the Catholic umbrella. Those Malayali Syrian Christians who refused to convert had to flee the coastal areas controlled by Portuguese to the hills in the interior. As a result of this and other reasons, they today are further divided into Marthoma, Jacobite and Orthodox factions. Later, British colonisation brought in the Protestant faith to the shores of Kerala.
The word Syrian in ‘Syrian Christians’ has nothing to do with ethnicity. It purely denotes the religious affiliation to the Orthodox Church of Antioch, then part of Syria and the Syriac, the liturgical language used as against Rome and Latin.
The Syriac language is a dialect of Aramaic spoken today in the Mesopotamian Plateau between Syria and Iraq, was once used widely throughout the Middle East. The Gospels were translated into Syriac early on, and Syriac studies today help document the historical relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This is believed to be closest to the dialect Jesus spoke during his ministry.
It is interesting to look at the history of Syrian Christians in Canada. With the arrival of a sizable number of Syrian Orthodox Christians to Canada from Kerala in the 1960s, Toronto became the focal point for the formation of the first Orthodox Syrian Christian Parish in Canada. The first Holy Qurbana (Mass) was offered on Christmas Day in 1969. Today, the Church conducts Sunday Holy Mass in Malayalam and English.
What is the significance of Remembrance Day? It falls on November 11 and Canadians remember the men and women who served and continue to serve the country during times of war, conflict, and peace. It coincides with the Armistice Day which marks the date when armies stopped fighting World War I on November 11 in 1918. We observe this day to remember those who gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace. On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they had fought so hard to achieve. Canadians wear the Red Poppy for a week to remember the sacrifices of the soldiers.
Fr John conducted the Holy Mass wearing the Poppy on his Kappa – the ecclesiastical outer vestment wore over all other garments. The Acolytes also wore the poppy on their Albs (long white vestment worn over their garments during the ministry.) An Acolyte is a person assisting the leader in a religious service or procession.
Prior to the special prayers, Fr John exalted the congregation that we all must remember the soldiers, peacekeepers, those who served on the front lines, those who volunteered, those who waited anxiously at home, for those who hoped that things would get better, and those who could not stand by and wait.
He asked each one to remember them and if we did not, the sacrifice of those one hundred thousand lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for their country.
Fr John then led the prayer by giving thanks to all those who believed that the world could be a better place. He in his prayers remembered those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, trusting that others could and would carry the torch. He also gave thanks for those who were once enemies and who have become friends and allies.
He concluded his prayers with a reminder to all that we often take for granted, our values and institutions, our freedom to participate in cultural and political events, and our right to live under a government of our choice, were all attained at a huge human cost. Those who fought the wars and many who laid down their lives and lost their limbs, went in the belief that the values and beliefs enjoyed by humanity were being threatened. They truly believed that without freedom there can be no enduring peace and without peace no enduring freedom.
He also urged all the members to follow such Canadian customs and traditions like Remembrance Day and amalgamate with the mainstream Canadian society.
This must be the first time any Syrian Orthodox Church in Canada conducted a special prayer to observe Remembrance Day. St Gregorios Orthodox Church in the past 20 years had not done so.
My compliments and sincere thanks to Fr John and all the office bearers, acolytes and all the parishioners who participated in the prayers for remembering the soldiers.
Post Script:- This post may suggest to some that the author is a very religious person or even some one with a Christian supremacy theory. Far from the truth. I realise that no religion is better or worse than any other. All religions began with man’s effort to bring in some value system as a guide to humanity. However as Karl Marx said, religion did evolve into “opium of the masses.” The clergy, gurus and politicians used it as a tool to exploit people and serve vested interests. So whether we are believers, atheists or agnostics, what is important is that we cherish and try to live by human values that we have set for ourselves. I am able to do this with a great level of satisfaction. Then there is this notion of one being deeply spiritual without being religious. I try this concept with hardly any success.
On November 01, every year Canadians take down the Halloween decorations and replace them with Christmas decorations, thus marking the beginning of the Holiday Season. On the first Sunday of November (which falls on November 06 this year) the clocks are turned one hour back at 2 AM for Daylight Saving Time (DST.)
For the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Canada, the month of November is well known for its cold and gloomy weather, but this year it is warm – more like the middle of September. The daytime temperatures have been in the 20s – a record high. Normally November temperatures remain in single digits.
The warm November weekend prompted us to take a long drive through the outskirts of our city Mississauga on November 05, 2022, Saturday. After enjoying the beauty of the fall colours, at the end of our drive we reached a Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop Drive-Through. There was a long queue of cars on the Drive-Through with customers waiting to pick up their morning cup of coffee. For Canadians, especially on a warm weekend, a cup of coffee from Tim Horton’s is inescapable.
As we inched forward, we saw a lady in a car approaching the Drive-Through from the opposite direction. The three cars ahead of us did not permit her to get into the queue. As I approached her car, I stopped and waved at her asking her to join the queue. She got into the queue, and we followed her in the Drive-Through to the ordering station.
Tim Hortons Inc, commonly referred to by Canadians as Tim’s or Timmies, is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant chain. They serve coffee, doughnuts, and other fast-food items. In 1964, Tim Horton, a National Hockey League legend, opened his first store in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Today, it is Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain, with over 5000 restaurants in 15 countries.
Double Double, a Canadian classic coffee brewed at all Tim Hortons restaurants is coffee with two shots of cream and two shots of sugar. It gives the right creaminess and sweetness to the coffee and is the most common coffee ordered at the Tim Hortons. The two magic words ‘Double-Double,’ from being a vernacular expression, is now part of the regular vocabulary and included in the Canadian Oxford dictionary.
We ordered two cups of coffee and pulled up to the window where an Associate was waiting with the coffee we ordered. He handed me the two cups of coffee and as I flashed my credit card to pay, he said “The customer before you has paid for your order.”
A bit surprised and bewildered, I asked “But why? Tim Horton’s only provides free coffee on the Remembrance Day – November 11 – to Veterans and Canadian Armed Forces Members.”
“This is the Remembrance Week. May be that you are a Veteran and she wanted to show her appreciation,” justified the Associate who did not know what had transpired.
Marina opined “Could be. Our car has a Veteran Plate.”
I couldn’t help but reflect. “One stranger showed a bit of kindness to another and the other showed her appreciation in return“. Small things in life sometimes give you loads of happiness.
A suspension bridge on Machchhu river in Gujarat’s Morbi town collapsed on October 30, 2022, leaving more than 130 people dead. The 230-meter bridge, built during British rule in the 19th century was touted by the state’s tourism website as an artistic and technological marvel. It had been closed for renovation for six months and was reopened for the public a week before the tragedy.
As per media reports, about 200 people were estimated to have been on the bridge when it collapsed. A 36-second video clip shared by the Morbi District Administration shows a large crowd of young men shaking the bridge from side to side few moments before it collapsed.
Did the bridge collapse due to overcrowding or overloading?
Such a possibility is remote! Most bridges collapses world wide occurred while the bridges were under construction. Then what led to the collapse of this bridge?
Let us examine this tragedy in the light of similar ones.
In 1831, when a brigade of soldiers marched in step across England’s Broughton Suspension Bridge, a similar incident occurred. The marching steps of the soldiers happened to resonate with the natural frequency and the bridge broke apart, throwing dozens of men into the water. After this, the British Army issued orders that soldiers while crossing a suspension bridge must ‘break step‘ and not march in unison.
When soldiers march in unison across a suspension bridge, they apply a vibration at the frequency of their steps. If their frequency is closely match the bridge’s frequency, soldiers’ rhythmic marching will amplify the natural frequency of the bridge. If the mechanical resonance is strong enough, the bridge can vibrate until it collapses due to the movement.
Here is a simple experiment to understand mechanical resonance. Tie three pendulums of different lengths and two of the same length (B & D) to a rubber hose. Now swing one of the two pendulums of equal lengths and after a few minutes, all the other pendulums will begin to swing with the other pendulum of equal length swinging as much as the other. This is due to result of resonance as the frequency of the two pendulums with equal lengths are same and hence they resonate.
On October 04, 2022, at least 30 students were injured in an unfortunate incident after a hanging bridge fell in Assam’s Karimganj district. The horrific incident took place when 100 girls and boys of Cheragi Vidyapith High School were crossing it with all of them falling into the river.
In this case the students could have the tendency to fall in step due to drill classes and morning assembly at school. While walking, children tend to flock together and fall in step not to step on the neighbour’s foot.
In May 1999, two girls were drowned and 15 others injured when a suspension bridge across a river collapsed in Panathur, Kasargod in Kerala. The incident occurred when a group of people taking part in a funeral procession entered the suspension bridge, the bridge tilted and collapsed – again due to mechanical resonance l.
In a similar incident in February 2014, eight people died and more than 30 were injured when a suspension bridge collapsed over a dry stream in the North-Western province of Lai Chau in Vietnam. The accident happened as a group of residents walked across the bridge to bring the coffin of a local official to a graveyard.
What could have triggered the mechanical resonance in these two cases? The villagers participating in the two funerals were surely never drilled down by any Sergeant Majors.
I believe that anyone while on a funeral procession walks slowly and is often accompanied by the drums or hymns being sung at a melancholic pace. The funeral participants tend to bunch together, mainly due to their sadness. These factors could have forced the funeral participants to march in step, without their knowledge. Another reason of marching in step could be that one does not want to step on another’s foot and the best way to avoid is to walk in step with the person in front. In both the cases, the coffin was carried by the coffin bearers with their hands. This needed the coffin bearers to walk in step.
Mechanical resonance may have been a contributing factor in the recent Morbi bridge collapse. Only a detailed investigation can bring out the actual cause.
You must have heard of singers breaking glass with their voice. They produce a frequency that resonates with the frequency of the glass. Glass wine goblets are especially resonant because of their hollow tubular shape, which is why they make a pleasant ringing sound when clinked. When the singer’s frequency resonates with glass’ natural frequency, it causes the glass to vibrate in resonance and if she sings loud enough, the glass will vibrate itself to smithereens.
The good old soldiers’ orders about crossing a suspension bridge must come into force immediately to save lives in future.
Once in Sacramento, how can we miss a visit to Napa Valley, America’s most celebrated wine region. Napa is best known as a booming wine region, serving up some of the top vintages and some of the best wines in the world. The rolling hills and sunny skies make the region a picturesque spot for a quick getaway.
In Napa Valley, I was surprised by the giant Oak Trees – not by their sizes and not by the littleness of the small acorns that grew on them, but by the Oak Apples.
That’s what I knew about Mighty Oaks and Little Acorns until my visit to the Napa Valley. There were Big Oak Apples growing on the Mighty Oaks too.
An oak apple is not a fruit but a gall. Now what is a Gall?
Plant galls are abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues. They can be caused by various parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Oak apple galls are leaves that have developed into a thin sphere because wasps have laid eggs inside of the leaf.
As the egg hatches, chemicals and hormones released through fluid alter the leaf’s typical growth and the leaf develops into green round ball to create a secure tiny home for one wasp larva. In summer, the larva turns into a pupa, and then into an adult wasp. The adult wasp exits the gall by making a hole, and the galls turn brown and sometimes drop to the ground. Males and females mate, and females burrow into the ground to lay eggs and the cycle restarts again.
The mighty oak tree, the galls and the oak apple wasps teach us about the complexity of the natural world around us and demonstrate how native tree species support. There are hundreds of insects that produce galls, even within a single oak tree. Other insects use different species of plants to create galls. And many other organisms sometimes take advantage of a gall one larva has created and repurpose it for their own use.
On September 03, Kumar Bala aka Nandu surprised me with a visit to Sacramento. Kumar and I are from the same batch at Sainik School, Amaravathi Nagar, Thamizh Nadu. He is the Head of Life Sciences Strategy at Oracle with a focus on Medical Device and Pharma sectors. He lives in the Bay Area, about 90 minutes’ drive from Sacramento. We had lunch at Mylapore Restaurant at Folsom, about thirty minutes’ drive from Sacramento. The restaurant served the most authentic Dosa, Uthappam, Idli and other South Indian delicacies. It was indeed a great place to culminate our reunion and my California trip.
California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento is a tribute to the Iron Horses and the people who sacrificed to make it possible in connecting California to the rest of the nation. The museum features restored locomotives and cars, some dating back to 1862. First opened to the public in 1976, the Museum is visited by Over 500,000 annually.
The California State Railroad Museum serves its function is to collect, preserve, interpret, and display objects of artistic, cultural, or scientific significance for study and education of the public. Various restored engines, rolling stock, railroad artwork, and interactive exhibits are sure to delight both rail enthusiasts and first time visitors alike.
City of Sacramento derives its name from its location near the confluence of the American and Sacramento River. Thus, water and railroad transportation were vital to the development of the city. During the California Gold Rush (1848–1855,) Sacramento was connected to San Francisco by rail, road, pony mail and ships.
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.