A Befitting War Memorial and Museum

Having visited many cenotaphs and monuments across Canada and also the War Museum at Ottawa in memory of Canadians who served around the world in the cause of peace and freedom, I was always baffled that my motherland India has only a handful of them.  Surely the Indians have a colourful military history, spanning over many centuries, covering the entire globe.  The Indian soldiers made up the majority numbers in World War I & II, but there is only the India Gate built in memory of these valiant soldiers who did the ultimate sacrifice in World War I and their names are etched on it.  There is no museum anywhere in India to celebrate the sacrifices of the soldiers and to document the military history of the land.

On 22 March 2017, I had the opportunity to visit the newly opened Punjab State War Heroes’ Memorial & Museum during my trip to the holy city of Amritsar.  It surely stands out as the very first such monument of India.  It celebrates the history of Punjab, the ten Gurus, the Sikh Kingdom, Indians in both World Wars and all the post independent military actions.

The museum is at it nascent stage, but surely takes the visitor through the ages.  The area has been aesthetically done up with its surroundings and the imposing high ‘Sword’ – it could well be the tallest such structure in the world, standing high at about 45 meters.  I was surely impressed by a line from the smart young tour guides who all said a catch line “The sword is weapon with its sharp edge facing towards Pakistan, depicting not war, but peace and prosperity”.  This spirit is what is being celebrated here – “Not war, but peace and prosperity.”

The guns, tanks, fighter aircraft, a model of India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and also two captured Pakistani tanks as war trophies; all add colour and decor to the seven acre monument.  The base of the sword with its four roaring lions and the various military equipment are all surely a delight for the ‘selfie’ mavericks.

The first gallery in the museum housed the history of the ten Guru of Sikhism and their contribution in spreading the message of love and peace.  The history of the Holy Book ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ from the first compilation of the Adi Granth to its current compiled version and the contributors of the Holy Book is very well brought out here.  It was surely a great learning for me.

The second hall depicted the military history of Punjab, mainly from the time of Maharaja Ranjith Singh.  The other galleries were dedicated to the wars fought by India post independence.  The display and layout is very impressive, especially the use of modern technology projection system to bring to life the real-near war scenario of the time depicted.  Obviously, being at a nascent stage with a hurried inauguration has left a few gaps and I am sure that the team working on the museum will do the needful to bring better authenticity to the displays.  Surely, in its present state it can stand in line with the many war museums I have visited in North America and Europe.  It not only depicts the military history of Punjab, but is also ensures that it celebrates the Indian military history and bestows it the due place and recognition.  In future, I am sure that it will emerge as a centre for research and excellence in India and for the entire world.

The 7D Theatre running a show with the latest technology to tingle patriotism through all our senses, depicting India’s military history is the icing on the cake.  Having experienced a similar show at the Niagara, depicting the history of the Falls, I am sure this too will stun any visitor.  There is a bit of fine tuning required to exploit the 7D system to its hilt.

What needs to be done now?  Here are certain suggestions:-

The display rooms, especially post independent wars, could well be covered with camouflage nets to give the visitor a war ambience.  The walkways may be redesigned to depict communication trenches as seen in the Runn of Kutch, Rajasthan deserts, plains of Punjab, hills of J&K, the Eastern states, high altitudes and Siachen Glacier.  The base can be of glass and below it can be the soil of the area being depicted.  Playing of war music and songs of the relevant times will surely add to the ambience.

A gallery may be added to depict the life of our soldiers in Siachen Glacier and the high altitudes.

The museum could also arrange with the formations in Punjab to hold static equipment displays as well as a few manoeuvres, especially on weekends and holidays when the footfall would be at its peak.  The area behind the museum can be well employed for this, especially for the tracked vehicles.  This will surely go a long way in civil-military liaison and bringing our armed forces closer to the people.

Creation of an amphitheatre, keeping in mind the future plans for a light & sound show will reap rich dividends.  The theatre could also stage re-enactments and plays of various aspects being displayed in the galleries.  The same is being done in many locations in North America employing volunteer and professional artists with pyro-techniques during high footfall times and days.  The schools and colleges can be encouraged to stage their shows too.  The professional and amateur artists in and around the museum area can be contracted to come out with their versions.  This will surely boost their cultural talents and at the same time provide them with employment.

There is a need to collect and display war/ military artefacts and displaying them at appropriate places.  This may include medals, uniforms, Field Service Marching Order, First Field Dressings, shell dressings, boxes and bags, enamel plates and mugs, water bottles, flasks, crockery and cutlery – the list is endless.  It would also be worthwhile to collect war/ field literature in terms of letters, journals, diaries, note books etc used by the soldiers.  For the collection of these artefacts, there got to be a media campaign through newspapers, radio and TV.  It would be worthwhile to rope in the students too by the Education department sending circulars through schools and colleges.  Once collected, these priceless artefacts must be restored, preserved, catalogued and displayed.  This will surely be of immense help to future research scholars and will go a long way in preserving our military heritage.

Even though at its nascent stage, the landscaping of the area needs to be taken up on a war footing.  The horticulture department needs to step in with their expertise.  Water conservation with drip irrigation and such methods may be employed.  It would be prudent to create a nursery and a small green-house to ensure that the annual and seasonal plants would bloom in the area all through the year.  Surely a must for such a monument.

The sore point in many such Indian institutions is the sanitation and hygiene.  The washrooms need a thorough ‘working out.’  The janitorial staff got to clean it regularly on hourly basis the least and may be more frequently during rainy season and high footfall times.  Provision of clean and cold drinking water where the visitor is expected to spend at least one hour is mandatory.

With the dedication of the team behind the monument, one is sure that in the very near future this monument will be a world beater.  It will surely be a torchbearer for other states and the centre to follow.  This will stand out as a classical monument to remember the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our great nation and the contributions of the daughters and sons of a great land Punjab.

 

March Break or ‘Breaking’ March

The schools in Ontario, Canada closed down for the March Break also known as Spring Break after Friday’s classes on March 10, 2017.  The schools will reopen only on March 20.  On Saturday/Sunday (March 11/12 night at 2 AM, the clocks are moved forward by a hour to cater for Daylight Saving Time (DST).

The Spring Breaks dates back to the 1930s when a New York swimming coach, looking for a warmer place to train his team moved them to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, in the 1930s. Spring Break was made popular in the 1960s with the release of the movie ‘Where the Boys Are’  about a group of college students enjoying their Spring Break at the very same location.

In Canada, Spring Break is one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, when cross-border traffic volume increase manifold with parents and children moving to the US, obviously a warmer area, to spend the holydays.  The airports are jam-packed that weekend.  Many Canadians also use the break to escape the bitter winter cold for warmer climates like Hawaii and Mexico, leaving resorts and hotels fully booked.

Despite having the warmest February in Toronto’s history last month, it appears that March is more than making up for the reduced snowfall.  On Monday March 13, with the snowstorm, about a foot of snow is expected to blanket the area according to Environment Canada.  The storm is also expected to bring gusty winds resulting in potentially dangerous driving conditions and blowing snow. The above image shows our home at about 2 PM on 13 March.

The city has issued an extreme cold weather warning and the crews are out with their salters and snow plows to clear the snow to keep the traffic going.  Surely, it is bit of a disappointment for the children as most outdoor activities, other than snow-skiing ,is likely to be closed.  Parents are surely worried, especially those who intended to be on the roads, driving their children to various Canadian Spring Break locations. 

With the Spring Break comes the DST.  It adds one hour to standard time with the purpose of making better use of daylight and conserving energy.  Even though the Sun will rise and set as before, the clocks will show the time one hour later than the day before.  The first to use DST was Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada In July, 1908.  Other cities and provinces followed suit by introducing DST bylaws.

The first country to introduce DST was Germany during World War I on April 30, 1916, when clocks were turned ahead one hour.  This was to minimize the use of artificial lighting in order to conserve fuel.  UK followed it up and many other countries, including France also did the same. Many countries reverted back to standard time after World War I and World War II marked the return of  DST in  Europe.

In the US, ‘Fast Time’ as it was called then, was first introduced in 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson to support the war effort during World War I. From 1945 to 1966 there were no uniform rules for DST in the US and it caused widespread confusion especially for trains, buses, and the broadcasting industry. As a result, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was enacted which stipulated that DST would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October.

The US Congress extended DST to a period of ten months in 1974 hoping to save energy following the 1973 oil embargo. The trial period showed that DST saved the energy equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil each day, but DST still proved to be controversial.  It was then reduced it to eight months in 1975 as many complained that the dark winter mornings endangered the lives of children going to school.

After the energy crisis, the DST schedule in the US was revised several times from 1987 to 2006. The current DST was introduced in 2007 beginning the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November. DST is now in force in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over a billion people every year. The beginning and end dates vary from one country to another. In 1996, the European Union (EU) standardized an EU-wide DST schedule, beginning  last Sunday in March and ending  last Sunday in October.

It is believed that DST showed a decrease in road accidents by ensuring that the  roads are naturally lit during the peak traffic hours.  Studies also show that there is an increase in both heart attacks and road accidents on the days after clocks are set forward one hour in the spring.

Canada’s War Museum

war museum

The first time we visited Ottawa, the Canadian capital, was in 2009, five years after landing in Canada. Being a soldier, I was very much impressed with the Canadian War Museum, especially as to how it serves to remind us of the sacrifices of soldiers across the globe and also sensitises us about the immense calamity any war can have on the civilisation. In 2014, Guillaume Le Floch, the French exchange student came to stay with us and we all visited the capital city and obviously we visited the War Museum once again.

Canadian War Museum was established 1880 in Ottawa to pay tributes to the men and women who endured the tests of war. Today the museum stands as a gratitude for the service and sacrifice of Canadians soldiers. The new, modern building, commissioned in 2005 on its 125th anniversary and the sixtieth anniversary of the end of WWII., emerges from the ground and rises progressively higher at its eastern end, closest to Parliament Hill. Its textured concrete walls and roof are somewhat reminiscent of a bunker, while a partially grass-covered roof is consistent with the Museum’s theme of regeneration and its environmental friendly design.

The museum also provides an evolving searchable catalogue of its collections. Types of artifacts found in the database include archaeological specimens, aboriginal arts and artifacts, folk art, furniture, war art, military objects, glass, porcelain, textiles and much more. This catalogue now contains more than 240,000 objects and is growing to include more than a million artifacts held with the museum.

Much of the Museum’s public exhibition space is devoted to its Canadian Experience Galleries. These displays underline the profound effect that war has had on Canada’s development and the significant role Canadians have played in international conflicts. Their content is a rich mixture of some 2,500 objects from war art to armoured vehicles, as well as scores of audio-visual displays and many hands-on activities.

The first gallery introduces the concept of war and its relevance to Canadians and Canada. Visitors explore the Canadian experience of conflict from aboriginal warfare and post European contact and the Northwest Resistance of 1885.

The second gallery covers the South African War (1899-1902) or, as it is also known, the Boer War, where more than 7,000 Canadians, including 12 women nurses participated. This war marked Canada’s first official dispatch of troops to an overseas war. This gallery also houses exhibits from the First World War. During World War I, Canada was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, with its own foreign affairs. In 1910, the then Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier declared that “when Britain is at war, Canada is at war. There is no distinction.” Some 619,000 Canadians, about 7% of the population, had enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force for service overseas.

The third gallery explores Canada’s fight against dictatorships overseas during the Second World War. The gallery introduces the visitor to the oppressive and aggressive dictatorships of the 1930s, and the mounting pressure for a strong response from the rest of the world. Britain’s declaration of war did not automatically commit Canada, as had been the case in World War I. The government and people were united in support of Britain and France. After Parliament debated the matter, Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King promised that only volunteers would serve overseas.  In the beginning Canada was unprepared for such a large scale war.  The regular army of 4500 men, augmented by 51,000 partly-trained reservists were deployed and was surely a modest beginning. The Second World War fundamentally changed Canada. Canada experienced industrial transformation and a booming economy during the war. New technologies and manufacturing principles produced enormous quantities of military supplies. By 1942, there was full employment as hundreds of thousands of Canadian men and women found work in war industries. As a result of its enormous military contribution during the war, Canada also became recognized as an important and assertive international actor, increasingly pursuing its own path in foreign policy.

The fourth gallery showcases The Cold War, Peacekeeping, and Recent Conflicts, 1945 to the present.  Canada became a respected international player through its commitments to Western defence and peacekeeping. The first Peacekeeping force consisted of Canadians to resolve the 1956 Suez Crisis.  Lester B. Pearson, the then Foreign Minister, who later became prime minister of Canada, won a Nobel Peace Prize for using the world’s first, large-scale United Nations peacekeeping force to de-escalate the situation. Since then, there was hardly a peacekeeping mission till date that did not have Canadian participation.

The LeBreton Gallery houses the Military Technology collection and is a diverse collection of vehicles, artillery and other large artifacts that tell the personal stories of war, from the eighteenth century to the present.

The Memorial Hall located in the Museum’s spacious foyer, is a space for quiet remembrance and personal contemplation. The concrete walls, grooved with large, offset rectangles, are reminiscent of the rows of white grave markers in Allied war cemeteries. The lone artifact is the headstone from the grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier from the First World War, a simple bench the only furniture. Sunlight through the Hall’s only window directly illuminates the headstone every Remembrance Day, 11 November, at precisely 11 am, the moment the Great War ended in 1918.

The Regeneration Hall is a narrow, soaring hall with angled walls and a narrow triangular window that frames the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. There is the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower that houses seven Books of Remembrance which record the names of the men and women who have given their lives in military service to Canada. (Please click to read my earlier blog). The hall is a representation of hope for a better future. High narrow windows spell out in the dots and dashes in Morse Code which stands for “Lest We Forget” and “N’oublions jamais”.

The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour explores Canada’s long history of honouring individuals; how Canadians have remembered and commemorated their military past. Through personal stories, photographs, art and artifacts, this gallery shares the earliest forms of honouring through burial, painting or dance, to the erection of national monuments.

The Military History Research Centre has a comfortable main reading room. An Archives Reading Room is also available for researchers accessing archival documents, photographs and rare books. The staff is always available to assist you with research, answer any questions, and assist in accessing the collections.

“Spitfire Dance”, a dramatic musical entertainment in two acts, is staged by the War Museum. The musical is accompanied by World War II era songs, and it tells the stories of pioneer female aviators of the Royal Canadian Air Force, their courage, their daring and their frustrations. It is a memorial for all those women who dared compete in that most male of establishments of the time – aviation.

Every nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that none can ever repay. The only way they can is to remember them, cherish them and honour their sacrifice. I conclude with the first four lines from Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in September 1914.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Voice Modulation

Margaret Thatcher

Voice modulation is very important, especially to make any presentation or a speech impressive. The best method to achieve it is to undergo a bit of voice training and the easiest way is to attend a few lessons on vocal music, either Western, Hindustani or Carnatic. Our daughter Nidhi had undergone training in all the three and our son Nikhil was reluctant to do so. His clichéd excuse was that vocal music is not that ‘manly’ . His ideas about vocal music training changed after we watched the movie ‘The Iron Lady’, a biographical movie about Ms Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of UK.

Ms Thatcher realised that her voice was a bit ‘screechy’ and was deemed a problem when she first wanted to run for Parliament election. Women’s voices, especially shouting at the top of their voices in any parliament, has always been accused for being too shrill. The movie shows her undergoing vocal training to reduce the shrillness of her voice to her optimum pitch and improve the projection of her voice. Improvement in both of these areas removed much of her shrillness and gave her voice a better projection and thus better impact.

Bingo! after the movie Nikhil enrolled for the vocal music lesson and did about a dozen classes. His voice modulation improved tremendously and after a few months he asked me as to how I knew that vocal music training would help. I said “fools learn from their mistakes, wise ones learn from others’ mistakes and idiots will never learn. Your dad was a fool and you need to be wiser”.

Here are excerpts of the Valedictory Address by Nikhil in Grade 8 (before vocal training) and Graduation Breakfast Address in Grade 12 (after vocal training)

Decades of research have established that musical training has profound impact on the development of the brain. Many language skills, from reading to speech perception and production, rely upon phonological awareness, the explicit knowledge of the components of speech and how they can be combined.   Phonological awareness, in turn, relies upon the ability to categorize speech sound which are distinguished by small differences in timing and frequency content. Audiovisual processing is seen to be much enhanced in musicians’ brains compared to their non-musician counterparts.  Musicians are more sensitive to subtle changes in both speech and music sounds.

When children start studying music before the age of seven, they develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ. These advantages benefit both the development of their mother tongue and the learning of foreign languages. During these crucial years, the brain is at its sensitive development phase, with 95% of the brain’s growth occurring now. Music training started during this period also boosts the brain’s ability to process subtle differences between sounds and assist in the pronunciation of languages – and this gift lasts for life.  It has been found that adults who had musical training in childhood still retain this ability to learn foreign languages quicker and more efficiently than adults who did not have early childhood music training.

How is music training going to develop one into a good speaker?

In order to get your ideas across well, captivate an audience, command or persuade your team to achieve a goal, it is important to modulate your voice to suit the occasion. In all these situations, your voice plays an important role in making a meaningful impact on your listeners.

Everyone would like to listen to a confident and inspiring voice. A good voice is one that is easy to listen to and it would command the attention of the listeners, influence and inspire them. A good voice is a great tool in communicating any messages clearly, whenever or wherever one is.

Most speakers, however good they are, shy away from listening to their own voices. One got to accept one’s voice, but also realise that there is always scope for training. The aim of such training should be to develop some simple vocal skills to help you sound more confident and interesting.

Speed of the delivery of the speech, mostly too fast, causes strain to the listeners and results in loosing focus. The speed of your delivery is mostly dictated by your nervousness; more nervous you are, faster you speak. This results in loosing track of your thoughts and makes you mumble a few words and often results in a monotonous and uninspiring speech. To control the speed of your delivery, pause for a second or two after your first sentence. This allows the audience time to adjust to your voice and take in what you have just said. A good way to practise getting used to pausing is to read out aloud a from a newspaper or a book. When you get to a full stop make sure that you pause two or three seconds before moving on to the next sentence.

Most audiences get put-off by a dull and uninspiring speaker with a monotonous voice, a voice that is too quiet or a voice that lacks emphasis. You need to speak with energy and enthusiasm if you want your audience to listen to every word. If the audience cannot hear you, they will switch off very quickly. To avoid this you do not have to shout but you need to project your voice by emphasising the key words in the sentences. This will help you to project energy and passion into your voice and your voice will sound stronger and more confident. Emphasising words also tends to lift the pitch in your voice so that it is no longer monotonous but more varied and interesting to listen to. Select any text, underline the key words and read it aloud to practice emphasising these key words.

An expert voice coach can help you to discover your true voice; develop your own vocal strengths and thus communicate with greater influence in all situations. This is where the basics of classical music comes in to help you modulate your voice.

It is not too late for anyone to undergo a few vocal music lessons. The least one can do is to ensure that the generations to come are put through some vocal music lessons.

Canadian Winters with Scary Freezing Rains

Freezing Rain

While beautiful to look at, freezing rain is one of the most hazardous types of winter precipitation. Accumulations of a tenth of an inch of freezing rain may not sound significant, but is more than enough to break a few branches on the trees, bring down power lines (and cause power outages), and cause sleet on road surfaces.

During the scary freezing rain, the entire area is paved in a sheet of ice at about minus ten degrees Celsius.  This is hazardous, especially  for the morning commuters, resulting in many accidents on the roads and highways.  The drivers of the cars parked in the open find it difficult to even open their car’s doors as they either slip on the glass surfaced floor or the doors are jammed by the freezing ice.  These drivers first have to scrape off the ice from the doors and windshields and then drive on glass like roads.

The public transport is also affected as the drivers are extra cautious and driving slow on the icy roads.  It is compounded by many non-functioning traffic lights due to power outages.  The street cars (trams) are delayed due to ice forming on overhead power lines.  The trains are delayed, mostly due to failure of the signalling systems.  In effect, most people on a  freezing rain day reach their offices late.

Over a hundred flights are cancelled and many delayed due to the freezing rain.  The landing and taxiing surfaces have to be cleared of the ice regularly, causing major delays.  The de-icing activity has to be carried out on all aircrafts prior to take-off, contributing to further delay.

The problem of ice forming over the wings and tail of the aircrafts is a major concern as it adversely affects the performance of the aircraft, especially at take-off due to reduced lift. This ice has to be removed and the airports in Canada are equipped with deicers. These are vehicles that spray a mixture of a glycol and water, heated and sprayed under pressure, to remove ice and snow on the aircraft surfaces.

While it removes ice and snow, deicing fluid has a limited ability to prevent further ice from forming. During snow fall or freezing rain, anti-icing fluid is applied after the deicing process is complete. This fluid is of a higher concentration of glycol than deicing fluid. It has a freezing point well below zero degrees Celsius and therefore is able to prevent the precipitation that falls on to it from freezing on the aircraft’s surface. Anti-icing fluid also has an additive that thickens it more than deicing fluid to help it stick to aircraft surfaces as it speeds down the runway during takeoff.

What causes the dreaded freezing rains?

FreezRain11

Freezing rain develops as falling snow encounters a layer of warm air deep enough for the snow to completely melt and become rain. As the rain continues to fall, it passes through a thin layer of cold air just above the surface and cools to a temperature below freezing point. However, the drops themselves do not freeze, but remain in liquid state due to a phenomena called supercooling.  When the supercooled drops strike the frozen ground (power lines, or tree branches), they instantly freeze, forming a thin film of ice.

The freezing rain drops on hitting a tree branch or a power line condenses around it as these objects are at a much lower temperature than the supercooled rain drops.  As they accumulate, the weight of the tree branch or the power line keeps increasing.  Once this weight crosses the strength of the material, it snaps and falls on the ground.  In case of a snow fall, the snowflakes even if they accumulate on trees and power lines, tend to slide off them due to their own weight.

The freezing rain leave streets under a layer of ice in the morning and results in the closure of many schools, colleges and universities.  The students are always very pleased with these ‘natural’ holidays.

Freezing Rain11111

Many customers experience power outages due to downed power lines or due to tree branches falling on power lines.  The crews of the power companies work overtime round the clock to ensure speedy restoration of power.

Police services and radio/TV channels warn motorists to slow down due to ice. It is expected of drivers to treat all lighted intersections without power as all-way stop signs.  That means any vehicle approaching a failed signal must come to a halt and the vehicle which halted first leaves first.  The emergency services always work at full efficiency to cater for many road accidents and to assist drivers who spin off the road.

Environment Canada gives sufficient warnings- generally a week – about the impending freezing rain.  Various TV and Radio News channels cover it in full details and warns the citizens to be careful and suggest preventive actions.  As soon as the rains stop, the salter trucks of the city spread salt on the roads and sidewalks to facilitate melting of the sleet that form on the surfaces.

How does salt act as an ice melter? All icy surfaces have a thin layer of water. When salt (Sodium Chloride – NaCl) applied to such surfaces, starts to dissolve. This ionises the salt into positively charged sodium and negatively charged chlorine ions. These ions, in turn, react with water molecules and form hydrated ions (charged ions joined to water molecules).

This process gives off heat, because hydrates are more stable than the individual ions. The emitted energy then melts microscopic parts of the ice surface. When an automobile drives over the ice, the pressure helps force the salt into the ice and more of this hydration occurs.

The ice-cream makers of the pre-refrigerator days employed the same principle (freezing point depression). The ice and salt mixture ensured that the temperature was well below the freezing mark (zero degrees C), even though the ice melted.  Dry Ice or solid carbon di oxide was also used as a more sophisticated alternative. That begs the question why is solid carbon-di-oxide (CO2)  called dry ice? This is because the solid carbon di oxide on being heated does not melt into liquid and instead changes directly into the gaseous state by a process called sublimation.