Indian media is filled with headlines of Aryan Khan’s (son of Bollywood Star Sharukh Khan) arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India on a cruise ship on October 3, 2021. Many media houses are celebrating the event with all pomp and glory throwing in bits and pieces of Masala (spice) – some even went berserk – especially those active on the social-media.
Can you justify such media glare and media trial?
Sashi Tharoor summed it up very well through his tweet “I am no fan of recreational drugs and haven’t ever tried any, but I am repelled by the ghoulish epicaricacy displayed by those now witch-hunting Sharukh Khan on his son’s arrest. Have some empathy, folks. The public glare is bad enough; no need to gleefully rub a 23yr old’s face in it.”
I needed a dictionary to understand his tweet – ghoulish (ugly and unpleasant, or frightening) epicaricacy (deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others.) That is Tharoorian English for you!!
I too am not a fan of recreational drugs and never tried it. The smell of marijuana smoke puts me off – though I have been a cigarette smoker for over four decades. But the way the NCB, Indian media and the judiciary have conducted themselves in dealing with the case – I am no fan of that too. It is absurd – may be I have lived in Canada for 18 years where a similar case would have been dealt with differently.
This prompted me to delve into the Canadian laws on Cannabis. In our Province of Ontario, one must be 19 and older to buy, use, possess and grow recreational Cannabis. This is the same as the minimum age for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario. The law stipulates that one can smoke and vape Cannabis in private residences, many outdoor public places (sidewalks and parks,) designated smoking guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns, etc.
After the law was implemented in October 2019, I found a drastic decrease in the odor of Marijuana smoke while on my walks, especially at park corners. It appeared that it was Cool no more.
The law also permits a person to possess a maximum of 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried cannabis in public at any time. I also realised that I can grow four Cannabis plants at our home for recreational purpose.
My mind raced back to 1980’s – a Television interview of a Tribal Chieftain from Kerala, India. In the early 1970’s when Mrs Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, she visited the tribal area accompanied by Mr K Karunakaran, then Home Minister of Kerala State. The Tribal Chieftain was fortunate to have had an audience with Mrs Gandhi. She asked him as to what she could do for the welfare of his people and the Chieftain did not ask for a school, not a hospital and not a proper road to his land – he did not ask for drinking water facilities and not for electricity – but he promptly asked “Our people should be allowed to grow two Cannabis plants per household.”
Mrs Gandhi smiled and Mr Karunakaran nodded. The Chieftain claimed that thereafter the Police and the State Excise Department accepted it as an unwritten law and never ever bothered them.
Recently there has been many reports on the media about suicides by young university students and young adults. Some media houses, and some social media activists have gone on an overdrive to report such incidents with all its fury.
Evidence suggests that the media can influence societal attitudes and beliefs to various social issues. This influence is especially strong for mental health issues, particularly suicide. Canadian newspaper coverage of the popular fictional Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, wherein the lead character dies by suicide in the final episode, generally adhered to core best practice media recommendations, and sensitively discussed suicide from various angles, prompting productive discussion and dialogue about youth suicide. These findings suggest that the media can be an ally in promoting dialogue and raising awareness of important public health issues such as suicide.
J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga all figure among celebrities who have contemplated suicide but found help and stepped back from the brink. U.S. study found a 10 percent increase in suicide mortality after the 2014 death of Robin Williams, American actor and comedian, which was partially attributed to inappropriate media coverage. Similar increases in suicide mortality were witnessed in Canada and Australia after the death of this well-known celebrity.
This phenomenon is known as ‘suicide contagion’ or ‘copycat suicide.’ Research has found that media coverage with details as to how a person died by suicide, may prompt someone vulnerable to identify with the individual and copy actions described in media coverage.
Greater the coverage of a suicide story higher the chances of finding a copycat.
WHO statistics indicate that more than 700 000 people die world over by suicide every year. Furthermore, for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts on families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies. 77% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.
While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.
In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTQ2S+) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at every level – school, university, community, family – to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. World Health Organisation’s (WHO)’s approach to suicide prevention, recommends:-
limit access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
foster socio-emotional life skills in adolescents;
early identify, assess, manage and follow up anyone who is affected by suicidal behaviours.,
interact with the media for responsible reporting of suicide;
Is there a need to regulate such reporting?
In Canada, Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) provides suicide prevention and support to the people of Canada. The have laid down best practices and recommendations geared to media and other organisations with suggested guidelines and practices on how to report and comment on suicide activities, whether in the media, social media sites or internal communiques. They recommend:-
Health reporters, not crime reporters, are best positioned to cover suicides.
Reports should generally avoid details of suicide methods, especially when unusual or novel methods are involved.
Emergency resource links should be included in all articles that deal with suicide.
Specific for social-media:
Providing information and resources to people who make suicide-related queries or posts;
Including panic buttons that allow for rapid access to crisis services/hotlines;
Providing mechanisms for users to report if they are concerned about someone with the possibility for rapid intervention; and
Moderating forums that frequently include suicide-related postings and making sure to remove inappropriate posts.
Ongoing collaboration between journalists and mental health professionals, acknowledging scientific evidence and the autonomy of journalists;
All journalism schools include teaching of how to report responsibly and respectfully on the topic of suicide, including attention to issues related to ethics and social justice;
Media training for mental health professionals who are likely to be called on to comment on suicide in the press; and
Education for policy-makers and other prominent figures who may be asked to comment publicly on the topic of suicide.
The Austrian journalists recently altered the way they reported about suicide. Studies of that experience showed that after the changes, there was a significant reduction in suicide deaths across the country. Since then many other countries have put out recommendations.
A new fraud has been unearthed in Kerala, India regarding sale of antiquity. Monson, a self claimed antique dealer, was recently arrested in Kerala, India for cheating and forgery. He boasted of high-profile connections in Kerala, which included political leaders, senior police officers and celebrities. Monson tricked investors into believing that he got over 26 million Rupees from selling antiques to royal families in the Middle East. He boasted that his collection included the staff of Moses, two out of the 30 silver coins taken by Judas and the throne of Tipu Sultan.
His home in Kochi, where the fake antiques and artifacts were kept, used to be allegedly frequented by senior police officers. One of the pictures doing the rounds is of former DGP Behera and ADGP Abraham during one such visit. Behera is seen sitting on a throne from Monson’s collection. He is flanked by the ADGP holding a sword.
Shawn Greenalg defrauded both the British Museum and Christie’s in 2003 with an ancient Egyptian statue of the granddaughter of King Tutankhamen, as 3,300 years old. The Bolton Museum purchased the piece that same year, but shortly after it went on display in 2004 it was discovered to be a fake. It turned out to have been be made by Shawn Greenalgh in his parents’ shed. Greenalgh and his parents made and sold forgeries for more than 17 years, earning more than a million dollars running their scheme.
Among the most famous antiquity frauds in the world is the Shroud of Turin, considered one of the holy relics by Catholics, who believe the cloth was Jesus’ burial shroud and bears the image of his face. A carbon-dating testing of 1988 revealed that the fibers in the linen cloth were not from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.
In September 2020, New York Police arrested Erdal Dere and Faisal Khan who compromised that integrity, and defrauded buyers and brokers of the antiquities they sold, by fabricating the provenance of those antiquities, and concealing their true history.
There are many high profile cases of antiquity frauds reported from all over the world. If the British Museum and Christie’s could be defrauded, anyone else could also be. In this case it was the senior Police officers of Kerala who were made to believe the authenticity of the fake antiques. If the police could be defrauded so easily, where do the common-folk go?
It prompted me to research into the rules and regulations laid down by the Government of India vide The Antiquities And Art Treasures Act of 1972. The act defines antiquity as:-
Any coin, sculpture, painting, epigraph or other work of art or craftsmanship;
Any article, object or thing detached from a building or cave;
Any article, object or thing illustrative of science, art, crafts, literature, religion, customs, morals or politics in bygone ages;
Any article, object or thing of historical interest;
Any article, object or thing declared by the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, to be an antiquity for the purposes of this Act, which has been in existence for not less than one hundred years;
Any manuscript, record or other document which is of scientific, historical, literary or aesthetic value and which has been in existence for not less than seventy-five years.
The act stipulates that it no person shall, himself or by any other person on his behalf, carry on the business of selling or offering to sell any antiquity without a valid licence from the Archeological Survey of India.
The acts specifies that every person who owns, controls or is in possession of any antiquity shall register such antiquity. Whenever any person transfers the ownership, control or possession of any antiquity, such transfer must be intimated to the registering officer.
There is no dearth of rules, but if the people responsible to implement them are not aware of the rules, where does the poor rule hide?
Unseen characters have been used since the beginning of theatre with the ancient Greek tragedians, such as Laius in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Jason’s bride in Euripides’ Medea. Rosaline in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is another classical example of an unseen character.
In the Malayalam movie Paka which was showcased in the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival, there is a Granny whose disgruntled mutterings are pivotal to the movie all through. Only her toes are shown, with her lying on her bed. Her two grandsons live with her until one of her sons, uncle of the two grandsons, returns from jail.
In the Tamil movie ‘Ethir Neechal,’ directed by K Balachander, the Coughing Grandfather only his cough is heard all through the movie. The Grandfather is never shown. The other movie I watched where a body part of a main character is shown is in Inspector Gadget, a 1983 animated film where the villain Dr Claw’s right hand is shown all through the film.
Like the Dr Claw, the Granny of Paka is arrogant, malicious, ruthless, sinister, short-tempered and sadistic. The Granny is the one injecting venom of revenge into her grandsons. She does not want to change and does not even want any light or fresh air entering her room. She chastises her grandson who tries to open the window of her room. After her death, the grandson opens the very same window to let in light and fresh air into the room.
The other movie I remember where a main character’s legs were shown was in Charlie’s Angels, where the villain and the master mind’s legs are shown at the very end. In Paka, the Granny’s toes are only shown all through.
I wanted to meet Nithin Lukose, the director and script writer of the movie after the premier show, but Nithin couldn’t make it to Toronto due to the pandemic protocols.
Mariakutty, aged 83 years. who enacted the role of the Granny mesmerised the viewers with her voice alone. She happens to the Grandmother of the Director Nithin. The story is loosely based on the stories the Granny narrated to a young Nithin. In fact Mariakutty relived her life in the movie, through her voice.
Filmmaker Nithin Lukose’s debut directorial venture Paka (River of Blood) premiered at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and I was fortunate enough to watch it – thanks to our friend Mr Suresh Nellikode.
Paka is a tale of a river where the spilled blood of two warring families flow – akin to the rivers and streams in many Indian villages, where hatred, jealousy, bitterness and blood flowed with the water. At times the waters carried a corpse or a severed limb. The warring factions can be well described as the Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharata, where there is no winner. Interlace it with a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ like romance between two lovers from the warring sides, it’s a complete story to narrate.
Paka is set in Wayanad, Kerala, is a gripping and fast paced story of revenge which gets inherited over three generations. The irony is that the acidity of revenge increases with each passing generation. The modern generation, the educated and worldly aware one, appears most acidic.
The movie ends with one side discarding all the weapons of revenge in the very same river and the other side diving deeper into vengeance, hatred and revenge.
Though natural sounds have been used all through the movie, the score composed by Faizal Ahmed adds value to the climax. Camera work of Srikant Kabothu brings out the natural beauty of the hilly terrain and the tropical forests of Wayanad. Arunima Shanker’s editing is crisp and it ensures a fast pace for the movie. The only flaw is in non-synchronisation of sounds of the band and chenda melam (ensemble of drums) during the church festival.
The cast needs a special mention as most actors were common people from the villages of Wayanad, who faced the camera for the first time. Basil Paulose and Vinitha Koshy have done a great job as the lead pair and the debutantes Athul John as Paachi, Jose Kizhakkan as Kocheppu, Joseph Manikkal as Varkey have exceeded expectations of raw newcomers.
The film has short and crisp dialogues and comes with English subtitles. This will facilitate better understanding of the movie by all.
The word Paka in Russian is an informal way to say goodbye. Russians often say paka paka meaning bye bye!. The very same word Paka in Malayalam denotes hatred. Paka is a village in southeastern Estonia. In Japanese Paka means a hooded jacket. The Maoris of New Zealand use the word to denote a white man. In Swahili, Paka means a cat and in the computing world its an acronym for Password Authenticated Key Agreement. What a contronym!!! A dichotomy among languages!
Kudos Nithin Lukose for an excellent movie. Paka deserves its selection for the TIFF this year and is a must watch for all.
The above is a statue of homecoming of a sailor to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Navy, and was unveiled on 04 May 2010 at Victoria, capital of British Columbia.
We all love seeing the images and videos of a surprise homecoming on YouTube, especially of US/ Canadian soldiers. Our eyes fill with tears when we watch those videos featuring service members being welcomed home by their loved ones. A picture of a dad in uniform holding his baby for the very first time, how can you not be emotional? Yet only those of us who have actually been on the other side of the camera know that while homecomings are fabulous in their own right, they can also present some unique, and often many surprising challenges.
For all those watching those soldiers’ homecoming videos, it will raise your feeling of patriotism and respect for those in uniform, who sacrifice a lot and how these soldiers and their families miss each other.
Have you ever tried to fathom the stress of these soldiers and their families?
It was more like a deep-sea divers’ decompression chamber when I suddenly appeared in front of our home’s porch, a journey which had commenced 72 hours earlier from a bunker at 12,000 feet above sea level in Kashmir or Sikkim, ending at Kottayam, merely 10 feet above sea level. It took me time to accept that I was safely home, to be with my loved ones, breathing that air I breathed in my childhood.
It took some time to accept the new reality, that I was not in an intense and life-threatening combat zone, but in the protective nest of my mother. It did cause its own share of stress, anxiety, and fear – both to my family members and to me.
The extent of my stress was related to the dangers I faced while deployed, the length of time I was away from home, and was worsened if I had lost any soldiers or any of them were injured – both due to enemy action or due to vagaries of weather. The other fear was of being unaware of the changes in family dynamics, the neighbours, close relatives and so on. Being unaware of the increase or decrease of animals and fowls at home too added to the stress.
It was always a sigh of relief for the entire family, especially my mother as she always heaved a long sigh of relief and rushed to thank God for bringing her son home safely. Her first sentence often was “Why did you write home that you will be home next week? I always knew you will come before.” All these while our father kept a stoic silence to break it to say, “Welcome home.”
It all commenced when I joined Sainik (Military) School, Amaravathi Nagar in Tamil Nadu. Travel home on vacation was a one day ordeal owing to poor rail/ road connectivity of India in 1970’s. I wrote a letter home a fortnight before about my impending travel plans and reached home safely as we friends travelled in a group. While in grade 8, my eldest brother said, “Never write the correct date of your arrival; always give a date a few days or a week later as Amma gets very stressed, thinking that you are on a train, you may miss a connection, you may not get good food and so on.”
I followed his advice sincerely till my last homecoming from Canada. I never gave the exact date of my arrival and in many cases never informed anyone about my travel plans.
In 2015, I flew into Kochi Airport and took a taxi home. While in the taxi, I called my eldest brother and he said, “How far away from home are you?” “Will be home in 45 minutes,” I replied.
My brother announced “Reji will be home in 45 minutes. Get lunch ready for him.”
My mother totally surprised and thrilled exclaimed “Which Reji? Our Reji, I spoke to him in Canada yesterday. How can he be home in 45 minutes?”
After lunch, I asked my brother as to how he made out that I have landed at Kochi and was on my way home, even before I could say anything. “It was because of the blaring traffic horns. I know that in Canada you can never hear it. So I guessed you were in a taxi home.”
Our nephew is a Captain serving with the Corps of Engineers, had returned home after a gruelling six month long Young Officers’ Course at Pune. On culmination of the course, he with his friends vacationed in Goa for a week. On reaching home, he rang me up to say “Now I realised why you never disclosed your travel plans. There were many calls from my mother and she wanted me to come home immediately.“
My eldest brother, now the head of the family, advised his nephew, “Never write the correct date of your arrival; always give a date a few days or a week later.”
On July 29, a notification on my cellphone read ‘Today is the World ORS Day.’ When there is a Left Handers’ Day (August 13,) a Sandwich Day (November 3,) a Puppy Day (March 23,) and also a Nothing Day (January 16;) I wasn’t surprised to find an ORS day!
ORS Day is observed each year on July 29 to emphasise the importance of ORS as an affordable and highly impactful healthcare method to treat dehydration and diarrhea. This year too it was celebrated, but without much fanfare, throughout the world. I have failed to find the significance of the date – July 29 – connecting to ORS. Hence I decided to dwell a bit deep.
For more than 25 years WHO and UNICEF have recommended a single formulation of glucose-based ORS to treat or prevent dehydration from diarrhoea and cholera for all ages. ORS has been used worldwide and has contributed substantially to the dramatic global reduction in mortality from diarrhoeal diseases.
ORS is an oral powder–containing mixture of glucose, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium citrate. After dissolving in requisite volume of water, it is used for the prevention and treatment of dehydration, especially due to diarrhea.
ORS and zinc are recommended by the WHO and UNICEF to be used collectively to ensure the effective treatment of diarrhea. ORS replaces the essential fluids and salts lost through diarrhea. Zinc decreases the duration and severity of an episode and reduces the risk of recurrence in the immediate short term.
Captain Robert Allan Phillips (1906–1976) of the US Navy in 1946 first successfully tried oral glucose saline on two cholera patients. As a Navy Lieutenant at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research during World War II, Phillips developed a field method for the rapid assessment of fluid loss in wounded servicemen. Captain Phillips embarked on cholera studies during the 1947 Egyptian cholera epidemic and developed highly effectives methods of intravenous rehydration. Later he developed a of glucose-based oral rehydration therapy.
The typical Indian Jugaad (जुगाड़) by Dr Dilip Mahalanabis – a paediatrician and a clinical scientist working with Johns Hopkins University Center for Medical Research and Training (JHCMRT) – who treated multitudes of Bangladeshi refugees who were suffering from diarrhea with rehydration salt sachets or ORS. He has not received any recognition, either from the international community or from the Indian government.
Oxford Dictionary defines Jugaad as ‘A flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way.’ In effect, there is no real word in English that captures the essence of the real Jugaad.
In 1971, an estimated 10 million refugees crossed the border from East Pakistan into India as per UNHCR. This was the largest single displacement of refugees in the second half of the 20th century. The refugees were severely malnourished, especially the children and the Indian government took all efforts to take care of the refugees, despite meager support from the international community.
After walking long distances on foot to escape from the ruthless atrocities of the Pakistan Army, this starved and frightened mass of people sought refuge in India. A cholera outbreak in the refugee camps badly affected the already exhausted and starved refugees. The monsoon was in full fury, and for the refugees living in tents and other make shift arrangements, it was hell. It is estimated that about 30% of the refugees died from cholera and diarrhea.
This called for a huge amount of intravenous fluids and coupled with problems of transport and lack of trained personnel for their administration, effective treatment was near impossible. Dr Mahalanabis suggested use of oral fluids as the only recourse in this situation. He recommended an electrolyte solution with glucose which could prevent fatal dehydration.
The ORS recipe he used consisted of 22 gm glucose, 3.5 gm table salt and 2.5 gm baking soda per liter of water. This is the simplest formula, containing the minimum number of ingredients, that saved the day for many refugees and they lived to narrate the horrors they faced.
He organised two teams for cholera therapy including oral rehydration. Both teams worked along the border between India and Bangladesh. He established a treatment centre at the sub-divisional hospital in Bongaon with 16 beds. He organised a continuous shuttle of vehicles on the 80 km run from Calcutta to Bongaon, carrying personnel, medication, food and supplies to the centre. The reserves of intravenous saline-lactate solution stocked originally for cholera research soon depleted. He had to now used Juggad to make ORS.
To make the ORS, glucose-and salt packets were prepared in Calcutta; first in the JHCMRT library room. Each of the three components of the mixture were carefully weighed by separate technicians and poured into a small polyethylene bag in an assembly-line fashion. Another technician inserted a descriptive label with instructions for dissolving in water; then he sealed one end of the bag with a hot iron. In the field, the dry powder was added to clean drinking water and dispensed from drums directly into the patients’ cups. The cost was calculated to be 11 Indian paise, (about 1.5 US cents) then per liter of fluid.
Later in 1978 during the cholera epidemic in Manipur, ORS was extensively used, especially in children with diarrhea and cholera. The WHO in 1978 launched the global diarrhea diseases control program with ORS. In 1979 WHO approved ORS.
Today, ORS is included in WHO’s Essential Medicines List, and Priority Medicines for mothers and children. ORS is also listed as a lifesaving commodity identified and targeted for scale-up and access by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.
India faced a dire financial situation after the 1971 Indo-Pak war and taking care of the refugees. To shore up some money, the Government of India applied Jugaad and imposed the Refugee Relief Tax (RRT) throughout the country that came into force on November 15, 1971. It meant a separate five paisa stamp to be affixed on all postal articles to show payment of the tax.
The post offices immediately applied Jugaad and came up with hand-stamps marked ‘Refugee Relief Tax Prepaid in Cash’ on all postal stationery. On December 1, 1971 the new five paisa stamp, showing an image of a refugee family fleeing persecution was released. RRT was repealed in effect from April 1, 1973.
India’s Supreme Court on August 18, 2021, allowed women candidates to appear for NDA entrance exam scheduled on September 5, saying debarring them amounted to gender discrimination.
There has been a raging debate over the judgement among the Veterans community, with many voicing against the court ruling. Some passed some scathing attacks on women while some came out with interesting memes and jokes.
Some questioned the physical abilities of Lady Cadets. One theorised that the larger number of cases of stress fractures among Lady Cadets in comparison to their male counterparts was attributed to the difference in bone structure of women that the female hips are not meant to take the same stress as males because they have widened pelvis to enable child bearing.
With all these inputs, I decided to study the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), the military college of the Canadian Armed Forces and, since 1959, a degree-granting university training military officers. Like the NDA, the RMC mission is to educate, train and develop Officer Cadets for leadership careers of effective service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army.
RMC opened its doors for the Lady Cadets in 1980. The program introducing female cadets has worked well, mainly because the move was carefully planned, integrating both men and women. Lady Cadets are required to maintain the same exacting standards as Gentleman Cadets. They run the same obstacle course – a mandatory ordeal for which first-year recruits earn the right to wear the RMC uniform. They also compete in mixed inter-squadron sports.
2.4km Run – The Aerobic Component. This portion consists of running 3 laps of an 800m course in the fastest time possible.
Push-ups – The Upper Body Muscle Endurance Component. During the test the candidates are required to perform their maximum push-up repetitions. There is no time limit and the push-up execution must comply with the Canadian Armed Forces push-up protocol
Agility Run – The Speed Component. This test consists of sprinting 6 x 9 m by weaving around four obstacles (chairs) without touching any of them. Two trials are permitted and the best result is compiled.
Sit-ups – The Mid-core Muscle Endurance Component. This test consists of a two minute evaluation during which the candidates must perform their maximum repetitions of sit-ups according to Canadian Forces protocol.
Standing Long Jump – The Leg Power Component. The candidates are required to jump from both feet without hopping. Two trials are permitted and the best result is compiled.
RMC Physical Performance Test (RMC PPT.) As part of the program, the students are being physically assessed two times a year. The completed evaluation is being scored out of 500 points where each item is worth a maximum of 100 points. A minimum of 250 points is required to successfully complete the RMC PPT. Five physical fitness components are evaluated through different testing items: the 2.4km Run, push-ups, agility run, sit-ups and a standing long jump.
Standing Long Jump
Fitness for Operational Requirements of CAF Employment (FORCE) Evaluation
The FORCE Evaluation is a reflection of the CAF minimal physical employment standard related to common defence and security duties known as the Universality of Service principle, which stipulates that “CAF members are liable to perform general military duties and common defence and security duties, not just the duties of their military occupation or occupational specification.
FORCE was developed by experts who looked at more than 400 tasks performed by CAF personnel in all environments over the past 20 years. Using the data collected from CAF personnel, subject matter experts, laboratory and field measurements, the research team developed a revised fitness component of the minimum operational standard required based on the following six common tasks:
Escape to cover.
Pickets and wire carry.
Picking and digging.
Some trades within the CAF require higher levels of fitness or operational readiness, but the minimum standards for the FORCE Evaluation are meant to reflect the baseline CAF physical employment standard that everyone must meet.
The FORCE Evaluation is designed to capture the movement patterns, energy systems, and muscle groups recruited in the performance of the Common Military Task Fitness Evaluation (CMTFE).
The FORCE evaluation comprises of three sections, which are as follows:
A health appraisal questionnaire where the candidates complete a health appraisal evaluation and the evaluator records vitals (heart rate and blood pressure).
An operational fitness evaluation. Four job related simulations are evaluated during the FORCE evaluation.
An exercise prescription where the evaluator provides the candidates with a program detailing the activity frequency, duration, intensity and rate of progression.
The FORCE Evaluation consists of four test components, each designed to measure different physical capabilities:
Sandbag Lift: 30 consecutive lifts of a 20 kg sandbag above a height of 91.5 cm, alternating between left and right sandbags separated by 1.25 m. Standard: 3 min 30 sec Intermittent
Loaded Shuttles: Using the 20 m lines, complete ten shuttles (1 shuttle = 20 m there, 20 m back), alternating between a loaded shuttle with a 20 kg sandbag and an unloaded shuttle, for a total of 400 m. Standard: 5 min 21 sec 20-metre
Rushes: Starting from prone, complete two shuttle sprints (1 shuttle = 20 m there, 20 m back) dropping to a prone position every 10m, for a total of 80 m. Standard: 51 sec
Sandbag Drag: Carry one 20 kg sandbag and pull four on the floor over 20 m without stopping. Standard: Complete without stopping
If a member has not met the minimum fitness standards, a re-test can be attempted three months later.
Isn’t it high time the Indian Armed Forces take a re-look at the Physical Standards requirements for its cadets and recruits, considering women making their entry at all levels?
It may be pertinent for those in power and the Veterans to read “The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College’s First Female Cadet Speaks Out” by Kate Armstrong, one of 32 women to first enter RMC in 1980 and graduate four years later. Her memoir captures the dominating, misogynistic world of one of Ontario’s most patriarchal institutions and her experience challenging it.
In the Netherlands, Germany and eastern Europe the myth is that the storks nesting on the roof of a household were believed to bring good luck — and the possibility of new birth — to the family living below.
Marina broke the news of her pregnancy to our daughter, “There is a little baby growing in my belly and we will have a baby in March.”
“How did the baby get into your belly and how old is the baby now?” asked inquisitive five year old Nidhi.
“The God placed the baby in my belly and is three months old,” replied Marina.
“I did not see the God in our home, but Dad came home four months back from his military post in Sikkim. Whatever it is, I want a sister and not a brother as boys are bullies,” said an innocent Nidhi.
How to break the news of a sibling’s arrival to a child?
Young children are not geared to handle a lot of information about conception and child birth. Hence, breaking such a news got to be straight and simple and be ready to answer the questions that may follow. Never pre-empt the child with your explanations, wait for the child’s questions. If the child is not asking any questions, then it is not n his/her mind. If the child asks more questions, then by all means go into more detail.
A good method is to make your explanation into a story on the lines that Mom and Dad make a baby, the baby grows inside Mom’s belly, and the baby comes out when fully developed after ten months. Always ask a few probing questions to determine your child’s level of understanding of pregnancy is all about. This will help you to choose your words. You can begin with the fusion of the sperm and an egg in the way fruit grows from a seed. You can also explain as to how the child develops, its movements, how it feeds, how it sleeps, etc. If your child is school-going, you can ask a few questions to find out what they already know about where babies come from and then follow their lead. Ensure that you use accurate anatomical language like womb or uterus instead of belly, etc.
Here comes the importance of using accurate anatomical terms for our body parts, especially the private parts.
Most of us grew up with funny sounding names for our private parts – tuckus, tush, peepee, peekki and son on. Our parents do it for the sake of propriety and also they wanted to save themselves from embarrassment. Imagine a kid screaming in a busy shopping mall “My penis hurts!” or “My vagina is itching!!”
It is neither an embarrassment nor a stigma. It becomes so only if you visualise it to be so. The proper names for their genitals – penis, testicles, vagina, vulva are taught in Canada in Grade 1 as per the new sexual health education curriculum. By giving alternative names for our private body parts, we are doing a lot of disservice to our kids. It has to begin at home and our kids should not be surprised at school. A study found that kids who easily understood to the terms were the ones who used the proper names for their body parts at home with their parents.
It helps children develop a healthy, more positive body image, instead of feeling that their genitals are something shameful or bad. It also facilitates the children to understand their bodies better and will prompt them to ask questions about sexual development. Teaching kids the proper terms for their body parts enhances their awareness of their body, positive body image, self-esteem and confidence.
Kids who are comfortable talking about their bodies are more likely to be able to disclose when something worrisome or uncomfortable is happening to them. They can explain confidently to the doctors about their problems like itching or pain in their private parts. They can also inform their parents when someone touched them inappropriately.
Child-sex predators are less likely to pick confident, informed kids who obviously talk openly with their parents about their bodies, and who are aware that other people touching their private parts must be stopped and any attempt reported to the parents immediately.
A study found that even though kids in pre-school learn the proper names for their body parts, only kids with parents who used the right terms caught on. So, do not leave this important task to the teachers. You can begin using proper terminology when changing diapers, bathing the child, or at any other time that the subject might come up.
Sex education must begin at home and it has to be age-appropriate. You may seek the assistance of your pediatrician. Many of us are uncomfortable with the use of anatomically correct terminology; hence it is important to practice before you talk with your kids. If they sense that you are uncomfortable, it will never sink in. Every question from your child about his or her body must be answered as appropriate to the child’s age, as accurately and honestly as possible. Never make it a big deal!!!
For me, my first sex education teacher was my Amma and to read more about it, Please Click Here.
These are two well illustrated books I recommend for parents and grandparents. The books will help you answer young children’s delightful, thoughtful, and often non-stop questions about their own bodies and about how girls’ and boys’ bodies are the same and are different—questions that are seemingly simple, but often not easy to answer.
Teach the kids to do all chores at home – you will be a proud parent because you will gift a son or a daughter who can do the dishes, cut the veggies and clean toilets to your future daughter/ son-in-law.
You must have come across a kid tearing a shop upside-down for being refused a toy; a kid holding the parents to ransom for some gizmo in the electronic shop; threatening the parents with dire consequence for not buying a motorcycle; screaming their guts out as the child could not get a window seat on an airplane or bus; and so on. These are entitled kids, and they grow into entitled adults. That kid in his entire life did no chores at home other than disturbing the cushions on the couch.
An entitled kid expects food on the table; to be provided with snacks and drinks at their beck and call; the choice of food to be more like a restaurant menu; someone else or the household help will make their beds, clean up their mess, not follow any time schedules – even to eat or sleep.
Most of us did not enjoy doing chores around our homes. I certainly did not. We were in a Sainik (Military) School from age nine and we had no choice, but to do everything – making our beds, polishing our shoes, keeping the dorms and the area around clean – the list was endless. We all grew up totally unentitled.
When should kids start taking on household chores?
The latest study says as early as two years old. They should begin with age-appropriate tasks, under parental or senior sibling’s observation – clearing up toys, arranging their books, wearing clothes, etc. A child is not born with all the skills to do all of these chores right away, so a little guidance and encouragement is necessary. This will ensure that your child grows unentitled and will not develop into an entitled adult. No parents want to raise entitled kids.
A family and a home is not a private limited company of the parents, but is a public company where the parents and children, all have equal stakes. Along with the stakes comes duties and responsibilities. It is mandatory for the parents to ensure that they do their bit and also that the children do theirs. Making children do chores at home and making them participate in all family activities is the responsibility of parents. Let your kids feel like they are part of this family team and they have to pitch in! Doing chores together help kids feel connected to the family.
Chores teach kids to take care of themselves and do basic activities like clean, cook and maintain the space around them, etc. Giving kids simple responsibilities around the home will inculcate self-reliance and responsibility. It also gives a small much needed breather to the parents. Kids are not born perfectionist; hence expect them to whine and take too long to complete the task. It will never be up to your expectations, but they will soon be there with a little encouragement and guidance from you. Many a times, you will end up doing it all over, take it that it’s the best training your kid can get. Ultimately, isn’t it so much easier to do it ourselves! Remember – Everything begins at home.
Children will never learn these by mere observation – They got to do it themselves. Parents have to show the way and also explain to them how to do it. They must also thank them for their effort and also tell them as to how their participation in the chore helped the household. It will teach the child the importance of helping others
Have you ever written a note to the school teacher explaining a reason for the kid not completing an assignment like the dog chewed on the completed work, the hard-disk of the computer got accidentally formatted, the laptop computer crashed? You have robbed your child of an opportunity to be responsible and advocate for themselves at school. It’s a sure way of setting them up for failure, which none of us want. We want to see them scaling greater heights, turn into valuable citizens and proud members of the society. That needs a lot of hard work – both from the parent and the child. It isn’t that easy.
When we do things for them all the time, it hinders their development and keeps them from succeeding on their own. It ends up as a message to our children that we don’t believe in their abilities. If you develop your child to be an entitled teen/ adult, they will expect their spouse, their roommate, or you to do everything for them. If your kid hasn’t consistently done chores, it’s never too late to start, particularly if you’re really open with them about why you’re making the change and what your new expectations are.
Experts also recommend linking a new chore with a future behaviour — telling a teen that they’re learning how to help with dinner so they can make meals when they go to college, or when they’re cooking for their partner or spouse later.
Kids are never happy for being reminded about their chores. Even parents are never too happy doing things around the house. They are very likely to nag when asked to do a chore. It should never be used as a tool to discipline the kids. You must be flexible and allow the child to chose what chore they want to do.
Reward your kids when they do their chores and appreciate them for their efforts. Ensure that the rearwards you’re comfortable with. Plan the reward in advance and always be consistent.
Prepare the Child for the Path – not the Path for the Child.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it the “greatest mobilisation effort Canada has seen since the Second World War.”
Thousands of Canadians, with a wide variety of experiences and expertise, have volunteered their time to help track COVID-19 cases across the country. The voluntary task force members were assembled by the federal government in late May and early June of last year. The task force then began to evaluate the scientific, technical and logistical merits of potential vaccine suppliers. Volunteers were called on to help with three key areas: case tracking and contact tracing, assessing health system surge capacity, and case data collection and reporting.
The next task for the volunteer force was vaccination. St John Ambulance was the leading organisation delivering training to those who signed up as volunteers . The only criteria is that the volunteer be between the age of 18 and 69, have at least two or more A-levels or equivalent, be at low risk of Covid-19 and be prepared to undergo a reference check. In October, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended the Government introduce a new national protocol to allow non-medics to administer the Covid vaccine. Then, thousands of volunteers with no medical background were also trained to administer the vaccine. The law facilitated more healthcare workers – such as paramedics, physiotherapists or student doctors and nurses, to vaccinate.
The volunteers were assigned the task of:
Supporting patients before or after their vaccination.
Dealing with any medical emergencies.
React to any immediate adverse reactions.
Major General Dany Fortin, with nearly 30 years of military experience is responsible to oversee the herculean logistical effort to ensure vaccines reach across the country and into the arms of millions of Canadians. General Dany is one of the best operationally-experienced leaders. Canadians could not have asked for somebody better; somebody who understands the leadership challenges, the planning challenges and the logistics challenges. The effort has been underway for some months now, where they have been working out what they predict will be the supply line bottlenecks and difficulties. Previous US President Donald Trump appointed four-star Army General Gustave F Perna to be the chief operations officer for that country’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ in May.
On 20 April, I was scheduled for my vaccination at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) campus at 11:15. I was advised to reach there only ten minutes before the scheduled time. UTM joined forces with Trillium Health (our public health agency,) to open a mass vaccination clinic in the campus’s Recreation, Athletics & Wellness Centre on March 1. It’s expected that the clinic could ultimately vaccinate up to half a million people. UTM offered space and equipment, such as ultra-cold storage freezers, to support these critically important initiatives.
As I parked my car, there were volunteers – mostly university students, to guide us to the vaccination centre. We were then requested to answer a questionnaire on the Trillium Health website using our cellphone. Those not in possession of a cellphone were helped by the volunteers using their PDAs.
As we entered the centre, our temperature was recorded and there were about ten counters manned by volunteers who carried out necessary documentation in less than five minutes. After that we were ushered into the gymnasium where I was administered the vaccine by a sexagenarian lady volunteer.
After the vaccine was administered, I thanked her and said “I did not realise that you did it so fast and that too with no pain.”
“Over forty years of experience as a nurse, young man! Our children and grandchildren are proud that I volunteered for this,” she replied with a smile.
We were then ushered into a waiting area with chairs placed maintaining social-distancing norm. We had to wait for 30 minutes and at the end of it we were issued with our vaccination certificate bearing the Trillium logo of Ontario Ministry of Health
On social-media, a friend, an Indian, now settled in UK commented “For Indians the mode of transport is a status symbol. When my uncle became a S/Lt from a rating, the first thing he did was replace push bike for a scooter. In U.K. I have seen Lord Chancellor Hailsham and Prime Minister David Cameron riding bike to the Parliament.”
Indians carry the very same attitude it to the North American shores too – all riding BMW/ Mercedes/ Audi. You will hardly find Indians driving any other brand – even if their salaries are meager.
One Sunday, at the Malayalam Syrian Orthodox Church in Canada, a man told me “Why are you driving on a Honda? You can easily afford a BMW!“
“I’m comfortable driving a Honda, Why invest so much in a BMW? The gasoline needed is the higher grade which is costlier and the cost of maintenance too is high,” I replied.
I was taken aback by his reply “If you want people to respect you in this church, then you must drive a BMW.“
Remember – Jesus went to the church riding a poor donkey!!! No one should have valued him then!!!!
I said “My ‘VETERAN’ license plate is much more valuable than your BMW. There is many BMWs in the parking lot. Show me another car with a Veteran plate.”
Kudos to Vikram, the author, for bringing out a wonderful book based on life lessons. The book is replete with life experiences and ‘interesting’ anecdotes- many where someone has gone an extra mile. The aspects covered deals with the hospitality industry, but is applicable to all professions and also in everyday life. The hotel industry, like any other profession, renders many an opportunity to go that extra mile and a good leader/ employee must seek it out. The leaders and employers have to grant that ‘extra’ to an employee who goes that extra mile to encourage others to follow. Empowering the employees will go a long way. In most organisations, red tape is the biggest hindrance to achieving the extra mile. It is all about maturing relationships and enjoying the trust of the customers and subordinates.
The history of hotel industry enunciated in the book is educative and informative. Consumers evolve and the industry got to be in sync, but the need for a good service culture will remain forever. Emotions and gastronomy will add value to the guests’ experience. There is never a second-chance in hospitality as there are no runners-up in a war.
It is all about kindness, compassion and empathy. Get out of your comfort zone, explore the world and recoup your energy. A guest is never a room number; so are your employees and subordinates. You need a thick skin dealing with complaints and worries and learn to say ‘No’ with a ‘Yes.’ One who manages crisis better will always succeed as you are sure to face many. Feedbacks are more important than compliments.
The author brings out many life lessons. Happiness is being positive. Plan your day well. Have a dream, set your aims and achieve your goals. Create a bucket list the earliest and keep ticking them off – Do these consistently – in small measures. Smile is the best weapon in your life.
Success and failures are integral to life. Failures provide you opportunities to become smarter. Branding is very important today and I have tested and tasted all the elements charted in the book. Life cycle of a hotel from inception applies well to all businesses. Why? Even true for a soldier.
The reader will appreciate and also identify easily with some well brought out instance like giving out perfumes to the hotel staff – a novel and a much required need in the Indian context. Changing the lobby mat with ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Evening’ – I never thought of. Wall panels to make selfies look great – need of the day.
Learning is a lifelong process. I ran away from studies to join the Army – neither did I stop running nor studying thereafter.
‘Leaders of the future will need to balance technology quotient and emotional quotient. This will be the Extra Quotient of the future.‘
The story of the triumphal entry appears in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19). On that day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt, one that had never been ridden before.
This day is celebrated by Christians world over as Palm Sunday. The Friday that follows is the ‘Good Friday‘ – the day Jesus was crucified and the Sunday, the Easter Sunday – marking the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Passion Week.
Jesus traveled to Jerusalem knowing that this journey would end in his sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all mankind. As Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, the people cut palm branches and waved them in the air, laid them out on the ground before Jesus. The palm branch represented goodness and victory and was symbolic of the final victory.
The crowds shouted, “Hosanna (save now) to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!Hosannain the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9, NIV)
The date of the first observance of Palm Sunday is uncertain. A detailed description of a palm processional celebration was recorded as early as the 4th century in Jerusalem. The ceremony was not introduced into the West until much later in the 9th century.
Many churches, distribute palm leaves to the congregation on Palm Sunday to commemorate the Triumphal Entry. The worshipers take home the venerated palm leaf and display it near a cross or crucifix, or place it in their Bible until the next year’s season of Lent. Some churches collect baskets to gather the old palm leaves to be burned for Ash Wednesday.
Why did he ride on a donkey?
Mathew 21 says ‘1. …Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” The disciples spread their cloaks on the donkey for Jesus to sit on.’
In those days in that land, horses were owed by the nobility and donkeys by the lower society – often animals of burden used by the potters, washer-men, load or water carriers, etc. No one owning a donkey would have had the courage to refuse or fight against the noble looking disciples. Irony of the narration in all the Gospels is that none speaks about returning the donkey to its owner.
Riding a donkey or a horse that has never been rode upon is a very difficult task. The animal did not have a saddle, hence the disciples removed their cloaks and spread it on the animal’s back to act as a saddle. Still it is a very difficult ride – Ask anyone who ever rode a bare-back horse!! When we were cadets at the National Defence Academy, during horse-riding classes, bare-back riding (without a saddle, but with a blanket,) was the most dreaded one.
Jesus’ purpose in riding into Jerusalem was to make public His claim to be their Messiah and King of Israel in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Matthew says that the King coming on the foal of a donkey was an exact fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
It is the story of the King who came as a lowly servant on a donkey, not a stallion, not in royal robes, but on the clothes of the poor and humble. Jesus Christ came not to conquer by force as earthly kings but by love, grace, mercy, and His own sacrifice for His people.
All the prophets before Jesus were military Generals and they all must have rode on a horse, dressed in complete nobility, carrying a sword. Here came Jesus, on lowly donkey, with neither any military ceremonial uniform nor a sword. He came with a smile on his face and heart pouring out with his Godly love.
Now compare Jesus triumphant entry with that of our Bishops – riding on a luxury sedan with a flag flying on their cars, dressed in all gold and finery!!!!!
Our family friend and travel partner, Jijo Sptephen, he is a nurse with a Long-Term-Care-Center, catering for senior citizens. It was chivalrous of Jijo that during the pandemic he did not miss a day’s work and has been a great motivator for the staff at the Care-Center. With his wit and humour, he has a knack of keeping every one in high spirits. We have experienced it many times during various trips together.
As he is in the front-line taking care of seniors, he was amongst the first few to receive the COVID19 vaccine in Canada. He called me up after vaccination and said that he is safe now and there are no side-effects as being propagated in the social media.
The literature handed over to him said ‘Some people may experience side effects from the vaccine, but they will likely be mild to moderate and resolve after a few days. Some of the symptoms are part of the body’s response to developing immunity.
Serious side effects after receiving the vaccine are rare. Should you develop any serious symptoms or symptoms that could be an allergic reaction, seek medical attention right away. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
Hives (bumps on the skin that are often very itchy.)
Swelling of the face, tongue or throat.
After his vaccination, he picked up his wife Annie from work. On reaching home, Jijo called me over the phone and said ”Reji, Please don’t get vaccinated for COVID!”
A bit surprised and assuming that he had had some sever side effects, I asked “Hope everything is fine?‘
“I,m fine, but you don’t get vaccinated before Marina,” he advised.
“Why so?” I enquired.
While they were driving home after Jijo picked up Annie, she asked Jijo to stop at the grocers to buy vegetables. After he parked the car, she handed him the shopping list and said “You go and buy everything as per this list. I’m staying in the car. You are protected against COVID19 as you are vaccinated!!!!”
Every morning after seeing off my wife to her pharmacy at 8:30, I drive to the Square 1 Mall, about 400 meter from our home. I drive to the mall only in the winter as the walkways are slippery
One morning Mr Mark, our neighbour inquired, “I always see you with a backpack. What do you carry in it?” Old habits die hard and you can never take the soldier out of me.
“Two bottles of water, three energy bars, a packet of tissues, a bottle of moisturising lotion, a tube of hand cream, a cap, a pair of gloves, a neck warmer, a face mask and some cash,” I said, reminiscent of our cadet days when we had to rattle out the contents of the backpack of our Field Service Marching Order (FSMO.)
This morning as I stepped out of my room with my backpack, our son asked, “What do you do while walking ? Why don’t you get a pair of earphones? You can listen to either music or a podcast while you walk.” A wise idea! I thought and I immediately placed an online-order for a pair of earphones.
The Square 1 Mall opens at 6 am, not for shoppers, but for the cleaning staff and for the salespersons to set up their stores. The aisles are nearly empty where it is always warm at +25°C with music and it never rains or snows. The ground is even and level and there is no chance of slipping and falling. Morning walkers, mostly senior citizens use the facility.
Another attraction to walk in the mall are the washrooms at every turn, all spic and span, providing various options.
Square 1 Mall has two levels, the upper and the lower. Walking fast through the aisles at each level takes me about 15 minutes. I walk on the upper level for 15 minutes, come down to the lower level and walk for 15 minutes and repeat it.
What do I do while I walk for 60 minutes?
Thanks to Whatsapp, I use this time to call up my friends and relatives in India to exchange pleasantries. It is the most convenient time – between 6 and 7 pm in India.
While walking, I enjoy the window displays of various stores, especially fashion, attire, accessories, shoes and perfume stores. While great products and excellent customer service can keep customers coming back, visuals and branding are the elements that get people to walk into a store and the store’s window display plays a big part in this. It got to be fresh and attention-grabbing as possible, positioned at eye level to draw customers’ attention. The message got to be conveyed to a stroller in three seconds and it is not nearly enough time to read anything.
As this is the Holiday Season with the Christmas and the new Year around the corner, it is the time most stores in the mall do maximum business, notwithstanding the pandemic. Thus, all stores put up their best window displays and it keeps changing too. I look for the changes like the game where one got to identify ten differences in two similar images.
During the walk, I plan out various activities for the day, many based on instructions from Marina in the morning. It is all about grocery shopping or a visit to our family doctor, buying the correct cut of meat at the butcher’s, trying to figure out the ingredients of the marinade for the meat to be cooked that evening – the list is endless.
I often get calls from her after she reaches her pharmacy about an impending medication delivery with instructions regarding the time of delivery based on the patient’s availability at their home. Sometimes, it is a query about a report, an invoice or a payment. In fact I am the CEO, accountant and delivery boy of our company with Marina and I as partners.
These days it is all about Christmas with the mall and the stores all decked up with Christmas themes with red and green – the Christmas colours. I enjoy all the Christmas trees put up all around the mall.
Last week while walking I observed various advisory and warning signs put up in view of the pandemic. Many a thoughts flashed through my mind. Why can’t they be creative? Why do they have to make it on a drab grey background instead used the Christmas colours? Why can’t they base it on a Christmas theme with the Santa and his eight reindeer to depict social distancing?
A couple of days ago, I tried to measure my ‘lateraldeviation’ while I walked. In medical terms, it may be classified as gait dynamics. The first time I attempted it was as a cadet to measure my deviation from a straight line as I walked on a pitched dark night during various navigation exercises. I walked along the side lines of the soccer field and it was about a quarter meter to my right when I traversed 100 meters.
Here I walked along the line made by adjoining tiles on the aisle floor for 100 meters and it was still about a quarter meter to my right. Neither age nor my being in the Western hemisphere altered it. I should have measured it while vacationing in Peru in the Southern hemisphere. May be, it could be to my left. Anyhow I reserved it for my next trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Recently the social media was abuzz with the news of Indian soldiers’ pension being cut by 50% for those seeking voluntary retirement after 20 years of service. One suggested methodology is to follow the Canadian Armed Forces Pension scheme. Canadian Armed Forces Pay scales are second only to the Australian.
It is a well established fact that the Armed Forces have a steep pyramidcal structure – more at the officers level – and also at the soldiers level. The need is to have a young and large base – Lieutenants, Captains and Majors for officers and Privates for soldiers.
Canadian Armed Forces offers 50% pension on completion of 10 years of service. Officers who continue further are only put through command and staff courses and they rise up to command battalions/ regiments. This results in:-
Those wishing to retire after 10 years of service are generally about 35 years old and many even get married and raise their families on retirement.
The 50% pension assures them a constant income and facilitate them to embark on a new career.
The pyramidical structure of the Forces is considerably reduced.
Those wishing to serve beyond 10 years receive their pension on a sliding scale to be 100% with 20 years of service.
Among those invalidated out or those who sought voluntary retirement due to medical disabilities, about 40 per cent were for mental health, about half of those were diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Most Indian Army soldiers and officers do suffer from PTSD due to intense combat situations they face – Canadian Armed Forces hardly face any such situation. Luckily the military echelons never accepted the existence of PTSD in the Indian Army – hence no claimants for disability pension.
Canadian Veterans who qualify for disability benefits receive up to 75 per cent of the salary they were earning when they left the Forces. They are guaranteed benefits for 24 months initially, or until age 65 for those completely disabled, after which the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) kicks in.
The rise of mental health claims is often chalked up to Canada’s difficult 2002-11 combat mission in Afghanistan. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBCS) noted that the Afghanistan mission was far from the only source of mental health risks. Even at home in Canada, military service means moving often and spending time on duty far from family – a standard practise for most Indian soldiers.
Common disability among Canadian soldiers for Fiscal Year 2018–19 were:-
HEARING LOSS 6,139
ARTHROSIS OF KNEE 842
OSTEOARTHRITIS KNEE 781
DEPRESSIVE DISORDERS 721
LUMBAR DISC DISEASE 629
OSTEOARTHRITIS HIP 617
CERVICAL DISC DISEASE 578
FACET JOINT SYNDROME 50
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of a sound in one or both ears or in the head when it does not arise from a stimulus in the environment. A single indication or complaint of tinnitus is not sufficient for diagnostic purposes. The condition must be present for at least 6 months. Individuals who experience tinnitus have provided many different descriptions of what the tinnitus sounds like to them. Descriptions include high-pitched sound, ringing sound, whistle, squealing sound, hum, pulse-like sound, etc
There are two general types of Hearing Loss – sensorineural (sometimes called perceptive) and conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is hearing loss due to a defect in the cochlea or the auditory nerve whereby nerve impulses from the cochlea to the brain are attenuated. Conductive hearing loss means the partial or complete loss of hearing due to defective sound conduction of the external auditory canal or of the middle ear. A mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive. A hearing loss disability exists when there is a Decibel Sum Hearing Loss (DSHL) of 100 dB or greater at frequencies of 500,1000, 2000 and 3000 Hz in either ear, or 50 dB or more in both ears at 4000 Hz.
Most Indian Soldiers and Veterans will vouch that a great chunk of them are suffering from Tinnitus or Hearing Loss and also that most soldiers under their command suffered from it – especially those from the Armoured Corps, Regiment of Artillery, Aviation and also Mechanised Infantry.
Will the Indian Military hierarchy ever be willing to accept the existence of Tinnitus, Hearing Loss or PTSD?
While commanding the Regiment, I tasked our young officers to draft a letter in reply to a query from the higher Headquarters on deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones.) After two days I asked them about the status of the draft and one of them said “Sir, why don’t you please write it as you write much better than all of us.” I did not like it a wee bit, but my usual response I curtailed and I analysed the reason with them. I explained to them:-
“We all came through the Services Selection Board (SSB) where we were shown nine caricature images of which one could not make head and tail of. We all wrote nine convincing stories. The tenth was a blank and still we wrote a story. We were flashed a hundred words at the rate of two words every minute and were all wrote a hundred sentences. Had what we wrote not make sense or was not creative enough, none of us would be here. Where did we lose all those critical thinking, analytical power and creative thinking?”
A case study I projected to them. It was about a section capturing two militants in a hideout by an infantry section. The situation was posed to ten Gentleman Cadets (GC), ten Young Officers (YO) Course qualified officers, ten Junior Command (JC) Course qualified officers and ten Staff College qualified officers.
Ten GCs will come out with nine solutions of which eight will work. Ten YOs will come out with seven solutions of which five will work. Ten JC officers will come out with five solutions of which three will work. Ten Staff College qualified will come out with one solution which is sure to fail at its very first step.
It’s all because of the over structured training in the Army at various stages with the level of structuring increasing up the hierarchy.
It all commenced from the very first document most of us as YOs in our regiments would have created – a Court of Inquiry mostly to regularise an injury suffered by a soldier while playing. The task would be given by the Adjutant with a caveat “Refer to a previous Court of Inquiry and do the needful.” From there commences the procedure of looking back and copying forward.
A decade ago, a friend, a Brigadier at DSSC was tasked to suggest methodology to make tactical exercises more creative. My suggestion was based on the education here in Canada for Gifted Children who form 2% of students. Gifted Children unusually possess advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided. They are usually segregated at Grade 4 based on a written examination.
Gifted Children Programme is a carefully designed the self-contained program to meet the needs, characteristics and interests of gifted students. Self-contained classes for gifted students offer a space where the child can relate to their intellectual peer group.
The programme is run by teachers who have additional qualification for such special education. It aims to provide:
Learning content more relevant to their interests and abilities than in a regular class.
The opportunity to work with and learn from other children with similar or higher intellectual aptitude.
The ability to work with like-minded peers who also have creative and complex ways of thinking.
The ability to relate with others who have similar interests.
It was mutually agreed that the Gifted Children situation is similar to the student officers at DSSC. Based on the experience I gained working with both our children who were in Gifted Children programme, I suggested that for one tactical exercise let the students be given a blank map sheet with minimum inputs regarding force level, weapons, logistics etc and let the students commence by marking the International Boundary onward and create an exercise and also a solution. Here no ‘pinks’ will come handy as every time only the map sheet is changed and there is no pre-made solution. The instructors will have to work overtime to correct and assess each solution and one or two among all the exercises may be conducted for the course.
The idea was presented to the DSSC Commandant who asked the Brigadier to present the same to the entire faculty. At the end of the presentation, senior faculty members came out with a question “How will we assess the students?”
The ‘baby’ was thrown out of the window – with the bath, loofah and soap. It appeared that the aim of all military training is to assess and not to teach.
With the convergence of a full moon, a blue moon, daylight saving time and Saturday celebrations with the pandemic with high transmission rates, Halloween 2020 is bound to be remembered in Canada.
The word ‘Halloween’ means ‘hallowed evening’ or ‘holy evening.’ It is believed to be of Scottish Christian origin, dating back to mid Eighteenth Century. Halloween falls on 31 October, the evening prior to the Christian All Saints Day on 01 November.
Halloween came to North America with the influx of Scottish and Irish settlers by early Nineteenth Century. It was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the Twentieth Century it was being celebrated all over North America by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.
Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go out in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, “Trick or Treat?” The word ‘Trick’” refers to ‘threat’ to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no ‘treat’ is given.
Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario Province recommended against trick or treating door-to-door this Halloween for Toronto, Ottawa and also our city of Mississauga. Prime Minister Trudeau has declared that his three children will not venture out this Halloween for ‘Trick or Treat.‘
Most homes put up Halloween decorations as what one sees in the ‘Dracula’ movies with cobwebs, skeletons and various scary models. The most common is the ‘Jack-O-Lanterns’ which originated in Ireland where children carved out potatoes or turnips and lighted them from the inside with candles. In North America, pumpkins were cheaper and more readily available than turnips, thus carving them and making them in to Jack-O-Lanterns lit by a candle inside became a North American Halloween tradition.
It is said that over 60% of pumpkins grown in North America gets converted into Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween and end up as trash.
Whether Halloween is a devil’s holiday or not, the children really have a lot of fun and enjoy the evening going for ‘Trick or Treat’; the adults enjoy accompanying the children and also treating them at their homes. People of all ages do have a lot of fun ‘dressing up’ in the most grotesque way and they do not ever associate the devil with what they do.
31 October night happens to be a ‘Full-Moon Night’ and also a ‘Blue-Moon.‘ The idiom ‘once in a blue-moon‘ refers to a rare occurrence, but in fact it appears once every 2.7 years, because the lunar month – from new moon to new moon- is 29.53 days compared to 30 or 31 days of our calendar month. Hence February (with 28 or 29 days) can never witness a blue-moon. Last blue-moon occurred on March 31, 2018.
Now comes the Daylight Saving Time (DST) when we turn our clock by an hour on the first Sunday of November. This year, the day falls on 01 November. It reduces 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 earlier 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.
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.
The news is ripe with Indo-China border stand-off these days. How does Canada fare in border management?
Canada and the United States share the world’s longest undefended border, running along the 49th parallel from the west coast to Lake Superior and following natural boundaries for the remainder.
Denmark and Canada share maritime boundary in the Arctic and it runs in the middle of Nares strait through which runs Kennedy Channel. This 35 km wide strait separates Ellesmere Island from northern Greenland. The strait is home to two islands – Franklin and Crozier – which falls within the territorial waters of Denmark
The third and the contested island is within the territorial waters of both Canada and Greenland, an uninhabited barren rock of 1.3 Sq km, named after Hans Hendrik, an Arctic traveller. A theoretical borderline in the middle of the strait goes through the island. According to an international treaty, any island which is in 12 miles of mainland comes under the territory of that country which technically allows both Denmark and Canada a claim over the island.
The Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations in a landmark judgement of 1933 ruled the island to be a sovereign part of Denmark. The League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations after World War II and Canada claims that this decision became irrelevant with the demise of the League of Nations.
The dispute between Canada and Denmark re-emerged in 1973 when Denmark and Canada started demarcating their borders through negotiations. They agreed on all other disputes except Hans Island which was then decided to be resolved later.
The Whisky War commenced in 1984 when Canadians sailed to the island and erected the Red Maple Flag on the island and kept a famous Canadian whiskey as a symbolic expression.
In return, the Danish Minister of Greenland visited the island and replaced the Canadian flag with the Danish flag. He took the Canadian whisky and replaced it with world-famous Danish schnapps.
This Whisky War continued until 2015, with both the armies taking turns in unfurling their national flags and placing their famous whisky for the other.
Canada and Denmark, both NATO allies, agreed to resolve dispute citing the presence of the Russian Army in the Arctic region during the cold war. On 04 May 2008, an international group of scientists from Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the UK installed an automated weather station on Hans Island. On 23 May 2018, Canada and Denmark announced a Joint Task Force to settle the dispute over Hans Island. A committee of Arctic experts was constituted to resolve the dispute peacefully. One of the main resolutions, they are thinking of, is to declare the barren stone island into condominium.
A condominium does not mean that the two countries are going to build a high-rise apartment building on the island, but it means that the island will be co-owned and co-managed by both the countries . Thus the will have both Canadian and Danish flags on it.