The Hurricane Subsides

Ms Hazel McCallion, who transformed our city – Mississauga – a suburb of Toronto from a largely rural community into a bustling metropolis during her 36-year tenure as mayor, died at the ripe age of 101 on January 29, 2023.

Nicknamed Hurricane Hazel due to her unique political style, she served 12 terms as the Mayor of Mississauga from 1978 to 2014.

Hazel was born in Port Daniel, Que., on February 14, 1921. Her family owned a fishing and canning company. She attended business secretarial school in Quebec City and Montreal after high school. She joined the Canadian Kellogg company and transferred to Toronto. She remained with the company for 19 years. In 1967 she decided to leave the corporate world and devote her career to politics.

In 1945, she met her husband Sam, and the couple married six years later. The McCallions then settled in Streetsville (now part of Mississauga,), where Hazel’s political career began. Sam passed away in 1997. Hazel’s in-laws on her marriage to Sam gifted a piece of land in the village of Streetsville,where she lived at the time of her death

Hazel McCallion was the Greater Toronto Airports Authority board of directors at the time of her death. She was first appointed to the board in 2017. McCallion also sat as a chancellor of Sheridan College and a special advisor to the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus.

McCallion the Mayor of Mississauga, I saw her the first time when she gave the graduation address to the students when our daughter Nidhi graduated from high school in 2009. She came driving her Chevrolet Malibu car bearing the licence plate MAYOR1. The graduation address was inspiring, motivating and made the listeners think. She peppered her address with wit and humour and made everyone laugh too. Immediately after delivering the address, she dashed off to the next high school in the city to address that school’s graduates. This proved that her nickname of Hurricane Hazel suited her to the tee.

Hazel McCallion, has won every mayoral election contested in Mississauga since 1978. She is the longest serving mayor in Canada and has kept the city debt-free since her first term of office. McCallion began her political career in 1968 on the Streetsville municipality which she served as Chairman of the Planning Board, and then Mayor of Streetsville. In 1974, Streesville got incorporated into the City of Mississauga.

In her first mayoral election in 1978 she narrowly defeated the incumbent mayor. In 1979 she came into world news when a public health and safety crisis occurred during the 1979 Mississauga train derailment. A train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a heavily populated area of Mississauga. A large explosion and fire ensued as hazardous chemicals spilled. McCallion, along with the Police and other governmental authorities, oversaw an orderly and peaceful evacuation of the entire city of 200,000 residents. Despite having sprained her ankle, she continued to hold press conferences and update briefings. There were no deaths or serious injuries during the week-long emergency.

Her reputation has hinged on her financial acumen and political pragmatism, with her no-nonsense style endearing her to constituents and alienating some opponents. In 1991 she became the first mayor to submit their city’s budget to public scrutiny.

Mayor McCallion is well known for her love of hockey. She played for a professional women’s team while attending school in Montreal. One of her friends and a hockey commentator Don Cherry, who joked during her 87th birthday that while 98 per cent of the city voted for her, he was looking for the remaining 2 per cent that didn’t. She never campaigned for the elections, she never put up posters, she never delivered any elections speeches, but she always got over 90% of the votes.

Her principles were grounded in the belief that a city should be run like a business; thus, she encouraged the business model of governance. Her family’s business background, her education, and her prior career in a corporation prepared her to approach government with this model.

Hazel’s Hope, a campaign to fund health care for children afflicted with AIDS and HIV in southern Africa is her charity initiative. Hazel became the poster girl for longevity and good health for Trillium Health Centre. On her 90th birthday, Dr. Barbara Clive, a geriatrician, marvelled at Hazel’s good health: “At 90 her gait is perfect, her speech is totally sharp and she has the drive to still run this city. She’s the poster child for seniors.”

On her 100th birthday she said “My mom or dad couldn’t afford to send me to college or university. So I had to do it without that additional education. It’s the people you meet along the way, there’s always people to help you along the way if you’re willing to accept the help.”

In December 2014, Mayor McCallion stepped-down and people of the city remain ever grateful to her. What an amazing woman, who has given her life to our great city. What an inspiration for all women and for those of a certain age, that they aren’t done yet and can still live happy very productive active lives. To the generations coming up behind, to work hard and make a name for oneself and make a difference.

After delivering her annual State of the City speech, her last as mayor on September 23, 2014, Mayor McCallion had some advice for anyone who wanted to fill her coveted seat in Mississauga: “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. You have got to be honest with people. You can’t make promises when you haven’t got a hope to fulfill them.”

RIP Hazel. Thank you Hazel for all your hard work, commitment and dedication and to prove that age is only a number – even past hundred.

Mail Order Brides

Recently there was an article on social media about Indian expats in Europe still seeking an arranged marriage.  The irony is that it was written by a professional matchmaker of Indian origin based in Europe. 

Arranged marriages among the next gen in our family in India is on the decline.  The youth want to select their mates on their own rather than opt for an arranged marriage.  It could well be that the children are allowed free choice.  Our generation was not allowed this freedom, more out of social and economic considerations. “Who can love whom and by how much was written in the love laws a long time ago,” lamented Arundhati Roy in the God of Small Things. But mercifully by and large the next generation has chosen to break  all abhorrent caste and religious barriers.

Similar is the case in North America, among people of Indian descent.  Most of those who import brides/ grooms or Mail Order Brides/ Grooms – they have not been capable of finding their partners – or they were never allowed to do so.  This mostly happens to children who immigrated in their high-school or later.  For them it is difficult to merge into the North American system of dating.

On migration, the parents are unaware of the social realities of North America.  Like us, many came with imported cultural and social values.  This did not allow for flexibility in parenting and the eldest child generally took the brunt.  By the time the next one reached high school, the strings were loosened, the parents by then a little more flexible.

One of our nieces who migrated while she was in high school is now a surgeon in the US. When her parents thought that she was marriageable, they generously asked her to look for a partner.  She was furious and retorted “You never allowed me to date!  Why? you did not even allow me to return home late! Now you want me to bring a boy home!  Is it feasible?” She settled for an arranged marriage, but her younger sister married her long-time fiancé. In our case, we had migrated when our children were very young and perhaps, we as parents had more time to accept and merge into the new value system. Our daughter Nidhi married her fiancé and our son Nikhil lives with his fiancé.

Many who go in for mail order brides/ grooms are often dependent on their parents economically.  This leaves them no choice other than to follow parental diktats. The situation is often pathetic in such cases. Caught between the nuances of different cultural values, often these marriages end up unhappy. This observation is personal and there is no empirical data to evaluate which system results in happier marriages.   

Nowadays there is a proliferation in the Indian digital marriage market sponsored by various matrimony sites. In the traditional value system the task is now outsourced to these companies.  It does not come cheap.  To this imbroglio, throw in the religious and caste angle coupled with the tenets of astronomy, and we have the comical evolution of a traditional system into the digital age.

About 23 percent of the Canadians who marry overseas from India every year and file international spousal sponsorships have their applications rejected. This has prompted applicants to complain that Canadian visa officers are suspicious of all Indian marriages – even genuine ones.  It’s a crime for a foreign national to marry a Canadian citizen or permanent resident only to gain entry to Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is often not convinced that the relationship is genuine and was entered into for honest reasons.  It is difficult to evaluate the genuineness of these cases, with each spouse telling different versions of events and at times even questioning the genuineness of supporting documents issued by many government institutions. In short, be doubly sure when you marry an overseas citizen.

Remember Dr Balamurali Ambatti, who made it into the Guinness Book of Records for becoming the world’s youngest MD in 1995.  His achievements then were widely celebrated by Indian parents.  Balmurali graduated from Baltimore City College at age 11, graduated from New York University and joined medical school at 14. At age 17, he received his MD from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Hyderabad police arrested Balmurali Ambati and three members of his family on a complaint filed by Balamurali’s wife that she was harassed by them for not paying a promised dowry.  She said that the family had locked her in a room of her New York City apartment and allowed her to return to India with them on a visit only after she signed a document agreeing to a divorce.

You can visualise the reasons for the episode!!!

Sergeant Roy and Lieutenant Bobak

At the Canadian War Museum, thousands of people have seen a painting of a Black Canadian woman in a military uniform, standing behind a canteen counter, with crossed arms and a stern face. Most Canadians neither know the woman in the painting nor the artist.   It is one of the most famous canvases to come from the brush of Molly Lamb Bobak, Canada’s first female war artist. 

The painting is of Sergeant Eva May Roy and it remains in storage at the Canadian War Museum. She is one of many Black women who served in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II and is among the people whose stories are largely missing not only from public record but from public conscience as well.

Roy was a trailblazer, who served overseas at a time when it was rare to see a Canadian military woman working in Europe.  After the war broke out, Roy left her job as a presser in a laundry to become a machine operator and fuse assembler at the General Engineering Co. munitions plant in Scarborough, Ontario.

Roy enlisted in 1944 and joined the CWAC, a new division created just three years earlier. CWAC had 50,000 women in its ranks during World War II in support roles ranging from cooking to decoding. Roy trained as a cook and served in military canteens in Canada, the United Kingdom and Holland.

Many people associated with Roy say that the stern image presented by her portrait is somewhat misleading. She had an outgoing personality, was enthusiastic about the army and loved to sing.

After returning to Canada in January 1946, Roy worked as a government postal clerk in Toronto. Almost a decade later, when CWAC launched another recruiting campaign, Roy re-enlisted, served from 1955 to 1965 and attained the rank of sergeant.  She died in 1990.  

Molly Lamb Bobak (1920–2014) was the first Canadian woman war artist. In 1942 Bobak joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) and was appointed Official War Artist with the rank of Lieutenant in 1945.  She served overseas in London where she painted women on military training as well as dynamic scenes of marches and parades.

Upon her return from London, Molly married fellow war artist Bruno Bobak. For her role in the Second World War and many other accomplishments she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1973 and presented with the Order of Canada in 1995.

Wearing Military Uniform to Canadian Courts

The Canadian Armed forces have now ordered that all military personnel will be allowed to wear their uniforms to civilian criminal court only if they are testifying on behalf of the forces or the Crown in a military capacity.

The move comes in the wake of the case proceedings of Major General Dany Fortin, the former head of Canada’s vaccine task force, who was charged with one count of sexual assault in connection with an alleged incident in 1988. Since Fortin’s trial began in September, he has defended himself in court while wearing his uniform and ten medals across his chest.

The order came after complaints by some sexual trauma survivors that they were offended by a highly decorated military commander’s decision to wear his uniform and medals to his ongoing sexual assault trial.  They described Fortin’s decision to wear his uniform with medals as an act of intimidation that would have a silencing effect on survivors as well as on the judge.

Let us turn the clock back to 1985.  As a young Lieutenant then, I had to escort a Major, a Vir Chakra winner of the 1971 Indo-Pak War, to Additional Sessions Court at Delhi.  The Major was standing trial for the murder of his wife’s paramour. 

The Major’s wife was residing with her paramour with whom she had apparently decided to get married to. It was claimed by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) who investigated the case that the Major devised a booby trap bomb which he put into a package  and left it at the foot of the staircase leading to the home of the paramour.  The paramour is said to have opened the parcel and the resultant explosion killed him instantly.

The Major wore his Army uniform with full medals without the belt to the court.  On entering the court, he took his position in the dock.  As the Judge entered the court, the Major saluted the Judge. Three soldiers with weapons as guard and I as the escort sat behind him.

The Additional Sessions Court found the Major guilty of murdering her wife’s paramour and he was sentenced to life. The judgement was later overturned by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India, who acquitted the Major of the crime.   The higher courts observed that ‘it appeared that the case was totally dependent on circumstantial evidence and held that the CBI has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused.’

It is pertinent to note that in most countries the civilian judicial system prosecutes offences involving Armed Forces members for murder, manslaughter, culpable homicide, rape, and sexual assault.  Such cases are generally not tried by Court martial

Was there anything wrong in that the Major, an accused in a murder trial, while attending the court, was wearing his uniform with all his medals? 

At that time, I thought it was more of a dishonour to the Indian Army.  The uniform is a powerful symbol of the institution and wearing it could make a witness deposing against him feel a bit intimidated as though he/she was deposing against  the Indian Army as an organisation. The Judge could also be swayed by the sight of a soldier in uniform as sentiments other than that of a judge and an accused may come into the equation.  More than anything else the accused being in uniform somehow seems to suggest that he has organisational support irrespective of his purported criminal offence. Also, there is no doubt that the sight of the accused in uniform reflects poorly on the organisation.

 Undoubtedly all these aspects must have been considered in totality in the case of the Canadian General accused in   a sexual assault case. The Canadian Armed forces have indeed brought about a very sensible change of rule.

I believe that all other Armed Forces across the globe need to follow suit and not allow the Armed Forces Members to attend court in uniform when indicted as an accused, especially in a murder or a sexual assault case. In some cases, the offence in question such as culpable homicide not amounting to murder may have happened during performance of duty and the individual may have organisational support. It’s a debatable issue whether the uniform should be permitted in such cases, especially if the organisation feels a moral obligation to defend the individual.

The word dock has a bit of history.  Beginning in the late 1500s, English courts had separate enclosures for defendants in criminal cases. Since defendants were not allowed to pass through the bar in that era, these boxes called docks were introduced to distinguish the defendant from the other people in the gallery.  In those days, dock was a slang for a cage for animals and in the English courts, the defendants were kept caged.

Remembrance Day Holy Mass

St Gregorios Orthodox Church of Toronto observed Remembrance Sunday on November 13, 2022.  Rev Fr Thomas P John offered special prayers after the Holy Liturgy.

Fr John had requested the parishioners to respectfully wear a Poppy at church for the Holy Mass. For those who did not have one, it was made available at the church entrance to pick up and wear. A donation box was provided for donations to the Canadian Legion. Activity books for kids were also provided.

The Syrian Orthodox Christians believe that St Thomas, Apostle of Christ, came to Kerala in 52 AD and converted local Hindus and some Jews to Christianity.  A point to note that the Cochin Jews (also known as Malabar Jews or Yehudey Kochin,) are the oldest group of Jews in India, with roots that are claimed to date back to the time of King Solomon (970 – 931 BCE).  St Thomas did not impose any changes to the pattern of worship, rituals, and traditions of the locals. 

Portuguese colonisation of Kerala in the 16th Century with their concept of ‘the cross preceding the sword‘ resulted their aggressive efforts to bring the   Malayali Syrian Christians, and others  under the Catholic umbrella.  Those Malayali Syrian Christians who refused to convert had to flee the coastal areas controlled by Portuguese to the hills in the interior. As a result of this and other reasons, they today are further divided into Marthoma, Jacobite and Orthodox factions.  Later, British colonisation brought in the Protestant faith to the shores of Kerala.

The word Syrian in ‘Syrian Christians’ has nothing to do with ethnicity. It purely denotes the religious affiliation to the Orthodox Church of Antioch, then part of Syria and the Syriac, the liturgical language used as against Rome and Latin.

The Syriac language is a dialect of Aramaic spoken today in the Mesopotamian Plateau between Syria and Iraq, was once used widely throughout the Middle East. The Gospels were translated into Syriac early on, and Syriac studies today help document the historical relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This is believed to be closest to the dialect Jesus spoke during his ministry.

It is interesting to look at the history of Syrian Christians in Canada. With the arrival of a sizable number of Syrian Orthodox Christians to Canada from Kerala in the 1960s, Toronto became the focal point for the formation of the first Orthodox Syrian Christian Parish in Canada. The first Holy Qurbana (Mass) was offered on Christmas Day in 1969.  Today, the Church conducts Sunday Holy Mass in Malayalam and English.

What is the significance of Remembrance Day? It falls on November 11 and Canadians remember the men and women who served and continue to serve the country during times of war, conflict, and peace. It coincides with the Armistice Day which marks the date when armies stopped fighting World War I on November 11 in 1918. We observe this day to remember those who gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.  On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they had fought so hard to achieve. Canadians wear the Red Poppy for a week to remember the sacrifices of the soldiers.

Fr John conducted the Holy Mass wearing the Poppy on his Kappa – the ecclesiastical outer vestment wore over all other garments.  The Acolytes also wore the poppy on their Albs (long white vestment worn over their garments during the ministry.)  An Acolyte is a person assisting the leader in a religious service or procession.

Prior to the special prayers, Fr John exalted the congregation that we all must remember the soldiers, peacekeepers, those who served on the front lines, those who volunteered, those who waited anxiously at home, for those who hoped that things would get better, and those who could not stand by and wait.

He asked each one to remember them and if we did not, the sacrifice of those one hundred thousand lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for their country.

Fr John then led the prayer by giving thanks to all those who believed that the world could be a better place. He in his prayers remembered those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, trusting that others could and would carry the torch.  He also gave thanks for those who were once enemies and who have become friends and allies.

He concluded his prayers with a reminder to all that we often take for granted, our values and institutions, our freedom to participate in cultural and political events, and our right to live under a government of our choice, were all attained at a huge human cost. Those who fought the wars and many who laid down their lives and lost their limbs, went in the belief that the values and beliefs enjoyed by humanity were being threatened. They truly believed that without freedom there can be no enduring peace and without peace no enduring freedom.

He also urged all the members to follow such Canadian customs and traditions like Remembrance Day and amalgamate with the mainstream Canadian society. 

This must be the first time any Syrian Orthodox Church in Canada conducted a special prayer to observe Remembrance Day.  St Gregorios Orthodox Church in the past 20 years had not done so. 

My compliments and sincere thanks to Fr John and all the office bearers, acolytes and all the parishioners who participated in the prayers for remembering the soldiers.   

Post Script:- This post may suggest to some that the author is a very religious person or even some one with a Christian supremacy theory. Far from the truth. I realise that no religion is better or worse than any other. All religions began with man’s effort to bring in some value system as a guide to humanity. However as Karl Marx said, religion did evolve into “opium of the masses.” The clergy, gurus and politicians used it as a tool to exploit people and serve vested interests. So whether we are believers, atheists or agnostics, what is important is that we cherish and try to live by human values that we have set for ourselves. I am able to do this with a great level of satisfaction. Then there is this notion of one being deeply spiritual without being religious. I try this concept with hardly any success.

A Remembrance Day to Remember

On November 01, every year Canadians take down the Halloween decorations and replace them with Christmas decorations, thus marking the beginning of the Holiday Season.  On the first Sunday of November (which falls on November 06 this year) the clocks are turned one hour back at 2 AM for Daylight Saving Time (DST.)

For the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Canada, the month of November is well known for its cold and gloomy weather, but this year it is warm – more like the middle of September.  The daytime temperatures have been in the 20s – a record  high. Normally November temperatures remain in single digits. 

The warm November weekend prompted us to take a long drive through the outskirts of our city Mississauga on November 05, 2022, Saturday.  After enjoying the beauty of the fall colours, at the end of our drive we reached a Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop Drive-Through.  There was a long queue of cars on the Drive-Through with customers waiting to pick up their morning cup of coffee. For Canadians, especially on a warm weekend, a cup of coffee from Tim Horton’s is inescapable.

As we inched forward, we saw a lady in a car approaching the Drive-Through from the opposite direction.  The three cars ahead of us did not permit her to get into the queue.  As I approached her car, I stopped and waved at her asking her to join the queue.  She got into the queue, and we followed her in the Drive-Through to the ordering station.

Tim Hortons Inc, commonly referred to by Canadians as Tim’s or Timmies, is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant chain. They serve coffee, doughnuts, and other fast-food items. In 1964, Tim Horton, a National Hockey League legend, opened his first store in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Today, it is Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain, with over 5000 restaurants in 15 countries.

Double Double, a Canadian classic coffee brewed at all Tim Hortons restaurants is coffee with two shots of cream and two shots of sugar. It gives the right creaminess and sweetness to the coffee and is the most common coffee ordered at the Tim Hortons. The two magic words ‘Double-Double,’ from being a vernacular expression, is now part of the regular vocabulary and included in the Canadian Oxford dictionary.

We ordered two cups of coffee and pulled up to the window where an Associate was waiting with the coffee we ordered.  He handed me the two cups of coffee and as I flashed my credit card to pay, he said “The customer before you  has paid for your order.”

A bit surprised and bewildered, I asked “But why?  Tim Horton’s only provides free coffee on the Remembrance Day – November 11 – to Veterans and Canadian Armed Forces Members.

This is the Remembrance Week.  May be that you are a Veteran and she wanted to show her appreciation,” justified the Associate who did not know what had transpired.

Marina opined “Could be. Our car has a Veteran Plate.”

I couldn’t help but reflect. “One stranger showed a bit of kindness to another and the other showed her appreciation in return“. Small things in life sometimes give you loads of happiness.

What Caused the Suspension Bridge to Break?

A suspension bridge on Machchhu river in Gujarat’s Morbi town collapsed on October 30, 2022, leaving more than 130 people dead. The 230-meter bridge, built during British rule in the 19th century was touted by the state’s tourism website as an artistic and technological marvel. It had been closed for renovation for six months and was reopened for the public a week before the tragedy.

As per media reports, about 200 people were estimated to have been on the bridge when it collapsed. A 36-second video clip shared by the Morbi District Administration shows a large crowd of young men shaking the bridge from side to side few moments before it collapsed.

Did the bridge collapse due to overcrowding or overloading?

Such a possibility is remote!  Most bridges collapses world wide occurred while the bridges were under construction. Then what led to the collapse of this bridge?

Let us examine this tragedy in the light of similar ones.

In 1831, when a brigade of soldiers marched in step across England’s Broughton Suspension Bridge, a similar incident occurred. The marching steps of the soldiers happened to resonate with the natural frequency and the bridge broke apart, throwing dozens of men into the water. After this, the British Army issued orders that soldiers while crossing a suspension bridge must ‘break step‘ and not march in unison.

When soldiers march in unison across a suspension bridge, they apply a vibration at the frequency of their steps. If their frequency is closely match the bridge’s frequency, soldiers’ rhythmic marching will amplify the natural frequency of the bridge. If the mechanical resonance is strong enough, the bridge can vibrate until it collapses due to the movement.

Here is a simple experiment to understand mechanical resonance. Tie three pendulums of different lengths and two of the same length (B & D) to a rubber hose. Now swing one of the two pendulums of equal lengths and after a few minutes, all the other pendulums will begin to swing with the other pendulum of equal length swinging as much as the other. This is due to result of resonance as the frequency of the two pendulums with equal lengths are same and hence they resonate.

On October 04, 2022, at least 30 students were injured in an unfortunate incident after a hanging bridge fell in Assam’s Karimganj district. The horrific incident took place when 100 girls and boys of Cheragi Vidyapith High School were crossing it with all of them falling into the river.

In this case the students could have the tendency to fall in step due to drill classes and morning assembly at school. While walking, children tend to flock together and fall in step not to step on the neighbour’s foot.

Ground Resonance is one of the hazardous conditions of helicopter operations every pilot is taught.  It has not been solved and continues to be a big concern for anyone who flies a helicopter. It is an out-of-balance condition in the rotor system of a helicopter on the ground that rapidly increases in frequency until the helicopter shakes itself apart. When it happens, seconds is all it takes to break apart the copter into many pieces.

In May 1999, two girls were drowned and 15 others injured when a suspension bridge across a river collapsed in Panathur, Kasargod in Kerala. The incident occurred when a group of people taking part in a funeral procession entered the suspension bridge, the bridge tilted and collapsed – again due to mechanical resonance l.

In a similar incident in February 2014, eight people died and more than 30 were injured when a suspension bridge collapsed over a dry stream in the North-Western province of Lai Chau in Vietnam. The accident happened as a group of residents walked across the bridge to bring the coffin of a local official to a graveyard.

What could have triggered the mechanical resonance in these two cases? The villagers participating in the two funerals were surely never drilled down by any Sergeant Majors. 

I believe that anyone while on a funeral procession walks slowly and is often accompanied by the drums or hymns being sung at a melancholic pace. The funeral participants tend to bunch together, mainly due to their sadness. These factors could have forced the funeral participants to march in step, without their knowledge. Another reason of marching in step could be that one does not want to step on another’s foot and the best way to avoid is to walk in step with the person in front. In both the cases, the coffin was carried by the coffin bearers with their hands. This needed the coffin bearers to walk in step.

Mechanical resonance may have been a contributing factor in the recent Morbi bridge collapse. Only a detailed investigation can bring out the actual cause.

You must have heard of singers breaking glass with their voice. They produce a frequency that resonates with the frequency of the glass. Glass wine goblets are especially resonant because of their hollow tubular shape, which is why they make a pleasant ringing sound when clinked. When the singer’s frequency resonates with glass’ natural frequency, it causes the glass to vibrate in resonance and if she sings loud enough, the glass will vibrate itself to smithereens.

Another example of mechanical resonance was the destruction of Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington in 1940. Even though the bridge was designed to withstand winds of up to 200 kmph, on that fateful day the wind speed recorded was mere 60 kmph. A mechanical resonance resulted due to the wind at that speed hitting the bridge perpendicularly. Continued winds increased the vibrations until the waves grew so large and violent that they broke the bridge.

The good old soldiers’ orders about crossing a suspension bridge must come into force immediately to save lives in future.

Illumi

Its Illumination Mississauga (Illumi) – opened with more than 20 million brilliant lights in 13 magical universes on a 600,000 square foot site, the equivalent of 10 football fields.
As darkness fell on 22 October 2022, we with our grandson James drove to the Illumi location, about 15 minutes from our home. Having purchased our tickets online, there was no waiting at the ticket counter. We entered the Jack-o-Lantern area – Halloween is around the corner and Canadian homes are decorated with carved pumpkins to form Jack-o-Lantern. More than 50% of the pumpkin grown in Canada gets converted into Jack-o-Lanterns.

We were welcomed by the Tree of lights – 47 meters high – as tall as the Statue of Liberty! Made of 44,000 interactive luminous spheres. It is visible from kilometer around and is the hallmark of Illumi. Its unparalleled display of brilliance of multimedia sound and light show.
The Crazy Boulevard depicts a Hollywood movie set with extravagant Boulevards and a make-believe neighbourhood.

Various architectural wonders of the world were depicted with dancing lights.
A scene from a Western movie depicted in recognition of Hollywood in entertaining humanity over the years.
A dozen of huge Cinderella’s glass sandals were a great attraction.

Illumi recognised the Canadian sports-persons and various sporting events Canadians excel.

How can the Canadians forget the Fall. Trees in various shades red and yellow, made out of lights was a true representation of the season outside.

The Fall got to be followed by the severe Canadian Winter – with Snowman and skating. Gigantic glowing crystals form an icy world, a sparkling ice castle and a pathway lined with snowmen leads you to memories of frosty Canadian winters.
This section was aptly named The Happiest Farm.

Reminisced about my childhood – the brood of hens and the majestic rooster Amma reared.

Children enjoyed the pigs and the piglets more than anything else.

At the Europea Place was the Merry-Go-Round Square and James hopped on to a white horse on the magical carousel.

Welcome to the animal kingdom. The area welcomed visitors with melodious Bollywood songs.

Majestic pachyderms stood with elegance and grace.

Zebras and the geese in contrasting colours attracted kids.

Red and white waterbirds
James atop a cheetah.
Giraffes and snakes co-existed peacefully.

The Land of The Scarlet Spiders where hundreds of gargantuan red tarantulas attracted both adults and children alike at the Illumi. The monstrous matriarch and her progeny of 250 arachnid predators are sure to give you goosebumps.

The Infinite Poles was all about the Poles – The North and the South. Icy regions of the Arctic and the Antarctic are represented the icy world with lights where penguins, whales and igloos coexist in an endless forest of stalagmites.

The Magic Lanterns sections was a walk-through among traditional arches surrounded by huge bright flowers, bamboo shoots and pandas to discover the stately soldiers and cavalry of the emperors. We strolled into the pagoda and admired the school of koi fish guarded by a fabulous imperial dragon.

The horses reminded me of our equestrian classes at the National Defence Academy. A herd of 200 sparkling stallions, inspired by Cavalia’s white show-horses, a colossal herd, constructed from thousands of dazzling lights, showcased the gracefulness of Cavalia’s equine stars. Cavalia has made a name for themselves over the last decade and a half. Since 2003, they’ve been touring the world with their eponymous acrobatic and equestrian show.

Cavalia is a Canadian entertainment company that specialises in creating, producing and marketing large-scale live shows and events. A family business founded by Normand Latourelle, has its expertise in high technology, multimedia and special effects that create a magical, unique, never-before-seen experiences.

Illumi – A Dazzling World of Lights is Cavalia’s latest creation: a magical and captivating nocturnal journey created with thousands of monumental light sculptures.

Back to School

Back-to-School period usually starts and ends in August before the school year starts in Canada, United States, and Europe. In Australia and New Zealand – being in the Southern Hemisphere, this occurs in February, after their summer break.

In merchandising, Back-to-School is the period in which students and their parents purchase school supplies and clothes for the coming school year.  At many Canadian Malls, Back-to-School sales are held for school supplies, children and young adults’ clothing, office supplies, back-packs, laptop computers and so on. 

Labour Day, which falls on the first Monday of September, a holiday in Canada and the US, marks the end of Back-to-School shopping. Labour Day also marks the unofficial end of summer, though Fall (Autumn) begins only on September 22 – Fall Equinox. The day after Labour Day – first Tuesday of September – marks the beginning of a new school year.

Back-to-School shopping tradition caught on in North America as women flocked to colleges and universities in the early twentieth century.  These young women were trend setters for new fashions. Many clothing stores started special lines to cater to college going women. Every September, college these women shopped for their clothing needs and the stores obliged by setting up discounted sales. 

Every student is excited about the new academic year they are entering.  The first day of school is one of the most important day in the academic year as they show off their latest clothing and discussing as to what about their escapades during the summer holidays. Gossips too are as important.

There is an inherent discomfort at the bottom of the stomach of each student on the first day at school. About 2.5% of school children suffer from acute fear of going to school and this fear is called Didaskaleinophobia– derived from Greek Didasko meaning to teach and Phobos meaning fear. Equivalent Latin term is Scholionophobia.

Am I competing with Mr Tharoor?? No way!!!

It is a North American tradition to gift an apple to the teacher by the students on the first day of school when school opened in September as it coincided with the ripening of apples in North America. This tradition of gifting apples to teachers dates to the 16th century when parents in Denmark and Sweden often gifted teachers with baskets of apples and other food to help compensate for their low wages. Tradition of bringing apples to teachers carried on even after schools were modernised.

In the 1920s, apple polishing was used as a slang for trying to curry favour to the teacher. Bing Crosby and Connie Boswell sang in 1939:-

 “An apple for the teacher that seems the thing to do because I want to learn about romance from you.

An apple for the teacher to show I’m meek and mild If you insist on saying that I’m just a problem child.

An apple for the teacher will always do the trick when you don’t know your lesson in arithmetic.

We have other words that mean the same thing. We also call this type of person a kiss-up, toady or boot-licker. Another popular one is teacher’s pet.

It is an apple-polisher’s dream to become the teacher’s pet – much to the anger of fellow classmates.”

Nothing much has changed to this day. We were all mortally scared on our first day of school. Our stomachs were churning. We all went through it and so did our children. Now it is the turn of our grandchildren.

The only change is that today Apple denotes not the fruit for the young generations.

On assuming command of our Regiment in June 2002, I gifted an umbrella to all school going children of our Regiment when the schools opened. Please Click Here to read about it. At that time, I was unaware of the Back-to-School traditions.

In 2003, I ordered our Religious Teacher [Regimental Chaplin- a Hindu Pundit] to prepare a packet for each school going children of the Regiment with necessary school supplies and gift the same to the children. Our Religious Teacher was a bit reluctant initially, having never heard of such a practice during his two decades of military service. On completion of the assigned task, he reported, “Sir, this is the apt method to spend the Mandir Fund. It will inspire all our children to put in their best at school.”

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II (21 Apr 1926 – 08 Sep 2022)

While driving through the town, I found a man outside his home, bringing the Canadian Flag to half mast. I checked the news feed and learnt that Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state, dead at 96.

The British Monarch remains the constitutional head of state of Canada and the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, no matter who holds the role. Hence, the succession from the Queen to her eldest son Charles is automatic.

After Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne on 6 Feb 1952, fifteen Canadian Prime Ministers have been in office. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest for any British monarch and the second longest recorded for any monarch of a sovereign country. (Longest reigning monarch was Louis XIV of France, who reigned from 14th May 1643 until 1st September 1715 —72 years and 110 days.)

In the past four decades since I learnt about her, she matured into her senior years with josh and cheer.  Her dress sense and choice of colours befitted her royal status and it always stood out.  Who will ever miss her signature Launer handbag she always carried?  She reportedly owned more than 200 of them!

The contents of her handbag was no different from what normal women carry with them. It mostly contained a mirror, lipstick, mint lozenges, and her reading glasses.

It is said that the Queen used her handbags to signal to her staff to help her wriggle out of difficult situations. If she shifted the handbag on her left arm (where she normally carried it) to her right arm, it indicated that it was time to wrap up.  If she placed her handbag on the floor, it signaled to her staff that she needed to be saved from an uncomfortable conversation.  If she placed her handbag on the dinner table, it meant  that she wanted to end the event in the next five minutes.

Prince Charles was appointed Field Marshal of the British Army, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy and Marshal of the Royal Air Force in June 2012. His appointment to the honorary five-star ranks recognised his support for the Queen as Commander-in-Chief.

In Canada’s system of government, the power to govern is vested in the Crown but is entrusted to the government to exercise on behalf and in the interest of the people. The Crown reminds the government of the day that the source of the power to govern rests elsewhere and that it is only given to them for a limited duration.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a befitting tribute to Canada’s longest-reigning Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, calling her a person of ‘wisdom, compassion and warmth.’

The Crown in Canada was first established by the kings of France in the sixteenth century. Organised as a royal province of France, both French and British kings and queens have reigned over Canada since 1534. Under Canada’s sovereigns, the country has evolved from a French colony to an independent nation.

From 2009, Prince Charles holds the rank of Lieutenant-General in the Canadian Army & Air Force and Vice-Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy.  The Queen and other members of the Canadian Royal Family hold honorary positions in various branches and regiments embodying the historical relationship of the Crown with the Canadian armed forces.

From 2015, in New Zealand, like in UK, he is the Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Charles’s official coronation won’t take place immediately following a period of mourning for the Queen.  A coronation is not necessary to become king—Edward VIII reigned as King without ever being crowned.  After Queen Elizabeth’s accession on February 6, 1952, her coronation took place on June 2, 1953, over a year later.

Charles, whose regal name is King Charles III, is set to travel to London with Camilla, who is now the Queen Consort, to oversee the preparations for the funeral

The Guardian in 2017 reported that in the event of the Queen’s death, her funeral would take place nine days after her passing. Hence, it might be held on Saturday September 17. The funeral ceremony will commence at 9 AM, when Big Ben will chime with a muffled hammer. The funeral cortege will arrive at the at Westminster Abbey where she will be laid to rest.

(Images Courtesy Pixabay.com)

Ever Been Penniless?

Have you ever been in a situation when you were penniless? Without a dime in your pocket! Without a credit card with you!

If it was not for those humans who understood your situation and helped you, you will never understand the value of a good neighbour. Such ordinary citizens make you feel that the world is worth living.  You too must have faced similar situations. You too must have turned into a good Samaritan.

About a decade ago, Mississauga Transit, Toronto Transit and all other city transits in Canada accepted cash.  The passenger had to put the correct change for the ticket value into the fare box placed adjacent to the driver.  Today, they do not accept cash.   They work on Presto Card.

After the cash was deposited, the driver issued a Transfer Ticket in case the passenger had to undertake further bus journey.  The Transfer Ticket was valid for two hours from the time of issue. Nowadays, the Presto Card keeps track of all transfers.

On that afternoon, I had an appointment with our family physician and our son Nikhil had to be at the city’s swimming pool where he worked as a lifeguard, to attend a reorientation training. I asked Nikhil to drop me off at the physician’s office and take the car and drive to the swimming pool.  I was to ride the transit bus for my return trip.

As I stepped into the bus and searched for my wallet, I realised that I had left it at home. There I was – standing penniless and embarrassed.  The driver, a young lady, smiled at me. She must have realised my dilemma. Is it that she had come across similar situations earlier?

I apologetically said “Sorry! I do not have my wallet on me.”

Not a problem. Come in,” she said with a smiling face and handed me the Transfer Ticket.

Thank you. I can walk home from the stop where you will drop me,” I thanked her.

Recently while driving to work to audit one of the pharmacies of our company, I drove into the drive-through outlet of Tim Hortons and ordered my favourite Medium Coffee Double-Double.

Tim Hortons Inc., commonly referred to by Canadians as Tim’s or Timmies, is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant chain. They serve coffee, doughnuts, and other fast-food items. In 1964, Tim Horton, a National Hockey League Legend, opened his first store in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Today, it is Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain, with over 5000 restaurants in 15 countries.

Double Double, a Canadian classic coffee brewed at all Tim Hortons restaurants is coffee with two shots of cream and two shots of sugar. It gives the right creaminess and sweetness to the coffee and is the most common coffee ordered at the Tim Hortons. The two magic words ‘Double-Double,’ from being a vernacular expression is now part of a bonafide vocabulary in the Canadian Oxford dictionary.

After placing my order for coffee at the ordering station, I pulled up to pick-up window.  That was when I relised that I neither had my wallet nor there was a penny in any of the car’s cervices. I was literally Penniless.

I sheepishly said to the girl at the window, “Sorry!  I neither have my wallet nor a penny on me.

She smiled at me and said “That’s OK.  You can have your coffee.”

I cannot take it as I have no money to pay.  You can give it to the next customer,” I said.

Our company’s motto is ‘Always Fresh. Always Tim Hortons.’  If you do not pick it up, we got to drain it out,” she said.

I picked up the coffee and drove ahead.

Two weeks later, I pulled into the parking lot of the same restaurant and walked in and ordered my coffee.  “Two weeks ago, I did not pay for my coffee.  I want to pay for it now,” I said.

We cannot accept it now as our accounts are closed everydayIf you insist, you can donate the money for the Tim Hortons Camp Day,” the girl at the counter said.

Since 1974, Tim Hortons have worked with more than 300,000 young people, using camp experiences to develop social and emotional skills and learning and innovation skills. These camps aim to equip the youth with the skills and opportunities needed to thrive, pursue their education, find meaningful jobs, enrich their communities, and lead fulfilling lives.  Tims Camps programmes run year-round in the community, at school and at seven camps across North America.

I thanked the girl at the counter and Tim Hortons in my mind as I placed a $2 coin in the Camp Day donation box.

I substantiated my belief that these ordinary citizens make the world worth living.

On returning home, I activated Google Pay on my cellphone.

Reasonable Reasons

We attended the Junior Command Course at Mhow, India in 1993 and after the course went to our home at Kottayam, Kerala for a month’s vacation. In those days, we travelled on vacation by train and the journey took over 48 hours and two train changes at the most awkward hours of night.  You can imagine my plight with Marina and our two-year daughter Nidhi in tow, with paraphernalia of assorted baggage – in all sizes and shapes.

We reached home and my next ordeal was to get a return reservation from Kottayam to Delhi and onward to Jammu.  During summers, the seats in the trains from Kerala to anywhere in the country were lapped up the moment the reservation counters opened on the exact 60th day before the date of journey.  The only option for me was to contact our Member of Parliament, Mr Suresh Kurup, who always obliged with his emergency quota.  Mr. Kurup is well known for his soft corner and respect for all soldiers.

Armed with the allotment of Emergency Quota and my Warrant (Military form authorising travel by Indian Railways,) I reached Kottayam railway station.  At the reservation counter the booking clerk refused to book the seats – Why?  Our Regimental clerk had committed a grave sin!! He spelt KoTTayam with one T.

I contacted the Station Master and the Reservation Supervisor.  All expressed both sympathy and empathy a soldier deserved, but the cardinal sin of spelling KoTTayam with only one T, they could not condone.

While at Sainik School Amaravathinagar, Thamizh Nadu, our nearest railway station (NRS) was Udumalaipettai – with one P and two Ts. In Thamizh and Hindi, it has two Ps, but in English only one – Any reasonable reasons?

 The town was known amongst the locals as (உடுமலை) Udumalai and all the buses boards read so.  The British called it Udumalpet and that too caught on, but no one ever used Udumalipettai, other than the Indian Railways and some Military clerk sitting in the remote border, preparing a warrant for a soldier from Udumalpet – counting the Ps and Ts.

When we filled our application for the National Defence Academy (NDA,) our teachers insisted that we spelt Udumalaipettai with the correct number of Ps and Ts as the Indian Railways insisted.

To return to the Regiment on time, the only option to me was to buy two tickets and claim the cost later from the Comptroller Defence Accounts (CDA.) I requested the Reservation Supervisor to block the seats until I either got a fresh warrant or bought the tickets by paying cash. He agreed saying that he got to finalise the reservation chart two days before the date of journey.  

I shot off a letter to our Adjutant, narrating my agony.  Major Ranjan Deb (now a Veteran Colonel,) an Aviator with an uncanny sense of humour was in chair and he despatched a soldier to Kottayam with a fresh warrant with two Ts for KoTTayam. Unfortunately, the soldier could reach Kottayam a day prior to my journey and by that time, I had to buy the tickets by paying cash.

On reaching the Regiment stationed in Jammu & Kashmir, I sent the forms for claiming the cost of the tickets to CDA, explaining the reasons as to why I had to buy the railway tickets by paying cash.  The reasons I stated appeared beyond reasonable doubt to the powers at the CDA, but how can they allow such a claim without raising any objection?  It will go against the ethos of the Accounts Department anywhere in India. 

My claim was approved in principle, but the CDA raised a query “How did the Officer and his wife make the onward journey from Jammu Tawi to Kottayam?”

Beyond reasonable doubt, Major Ranjan Deb promptly replied “By walking.”  In a week’s time my bank account was credited with full reimbursement for the cost of tickets.

Now let us fast forward to 2016.  Our family is in Canada – Marina, Nidhi, Nikhil and myself – all Canadian citizens. 

Nikhil decided to travel to Kolkata to serve in Mother Teresa’s Ashram for a month.  I said to him “If you find time, visit Veteran Colonel Ranjan Deb, our Regimental Officer who lives in Barrackpore.”  I had narrated many incidents about Colonel Deb, especially when he was our Battery Commander with 75 Medium Regiment (Basantar River.) 

On a Wednesday, when Nikhil had a day off from Mother Theresa’s Ashram, he took a cab to Barrackpore.  Colonel Deb and Nikhil spend a day together and at the end of it Colonel Deb remarked “Reji, I spent a few hours with Nikhil. I was amazed at his all-round development at his age. No Indian student will be able to match up with Nikhil’s thought process. His education in Canada stands out distinctly. I am 63 and he is 19 years of age. I did not get bored for even a second of the six hrs we were together. Healthy engrossing discussion.

This is what is called Regimental spirit.  A kid, not born – why – not even planned while we served together, comes all the way from Canada to meet us – a Veteran Colonel and his wife.  What else can we ask for in life?  What other recognition do we need? He made our day!!”

Nightie

In Kerala, the nightie is everywhere with most working-class women in Kerala owning at least one.

Illustration by Avni Karthik. Age 10

How did Nighty, a boxy garment which doesn’t give any shape to the body, which does not enhance the body’s contours, which does not bring out the women’s curves became so popular?  Nighties’ predecessors – maxis and kaftans – did make their appearance in early seventies – mostly in movies.  It did not gain popularity among the masses.

Nightie came to Kerala with the Gulf boom of the 80’s, like many other fashion and material onsets.  It was a sure content of the suitcases of any Mallu returning from the Gulf.  He carried at least one for every female family member and relative.  It could well be the first invasion of the Western culture into Kerala.  Unlike the Western Nightie, it wasn’t a negligee worn by women to bed at night.

Nightie is universal – fits all size or age. It does not divide women on either caste or religious lines in its use. Nightie became popular also because of the humid weather of Kerala with relative humidity mostly over 70% all through the year – day or night.  It is a shapeless floor-sweeping garment made of thick cloth, with frills at all imaginable and unimaginable places, decorated with puffed sleeves.

To establish in the Indian society, the poor Nightie too endeared many a battle.  In 2013, a Chennai school asked the parents to stop students from wearing nighties for the morning school run.  In 2014, a women’s group in Gothivli village near Mumbai tried to impose a fine of Rs 500 on residents wearing nighties outside their homes, describing the garment as indecent. In both cases, the nightie won the battle.

In 2018, Thokalapalli, a village in coastal Andhra Pradesh, barred women from wearing nightie during the daytime. They ruled that women could wear nighties only at night and any violations will attract a fine of Rs 2000 and anybody who helped in bringing such violator to book would be rewarded with Rs 1000.

Kerala women preferred the nightie over the traditional Chatta-Mundu, lungi-blouse and saree as it is easy to wear, easy to wash and it never failed in its duty and never ended up in a wardrobe malfunction.

Draping a Thorthu over the upper torso depicted modesty for the modest and cultured, but Kerala women – smart as they are, discarded the Thorthu long ago.  A nightie can well be seen in Kerala as a sign of female liberation as well as a social leveller.

Today the Nightie is a national phenomenon with different names.  Nightie in Kerala, Gowns in Mumbai, Housecoats in Goa, and kaftan for the rich. The Nightie has gained international recognition with The New York Times running a story on the outfit under the headline Wear Your Nightie Out.

In the soldiers’ family quarters, the nightie made its presence felt. To begin with, it was introduced by the wives of the South Indian Class (SIC) soldiers especially the Mallus. It caught on and others followed suit. While on rounds of the Regimental Family Quarters, one could see the invasion of the nightie, irrespective of caste or creed!!!

Our mother discarded her saree for the Nightie when her grandchildren came into this world.  She very reluctantly wore the nightie as she had to run after the children, feed them and play with them.  At the end of the day she said “I never realised it was so comfortable.

In 2006, our mother came to Canada and lived with us for six months.  For her journey from Kochi to Toronto, she wore the saree.  Marina and children accompanied her and throughout the journey, it was very inconvenient and uncomfortable for her to visit the washroom in the aircraft.

On landing in Canada, I asked Marina to take her to the Shopping Mall and buy her two pairs of pants & top and skirt & top.  Our mother, stubborn that she was, said “Do you think I will ever wear it??”

After a week of acclimatisation, we planned a trip to Montreal – about eight hours of drive from Toronto.  Now I said “Amma, if you want to come along, you must discard the saree as it will be very convenient, else you will look like a sore thumb in the crowd.

With a lot of reluctance, she wore the pants & top.  After two hours of driving, we stopped at the restaurant for a coffee break.  Nidhi took Amma to the washroom and on returning to our table she said “I never realised it was so comfortable.”

I accompanied Amma on her return journey.  For the entire flight duration of travel from Kochi airport to home, she wore her skirt & top.  My brothers, sisters-in-law and grandchildren were all flabbergasted to see the Granny in a Western outfit.  One of the grandchildren remarked, “Until now Granny was All-India.  Now she is International.”

Gender Neutral Bathrooms

Recently at the Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, I walked into a bathroom, and I felt a bit uncomfortable, a bit embarrassed.  Something was out of sync.  It was a gender-neutral bathroom.  A young girl and a boy walking out eased my apprehensions a bit.  Reading a board, explaining the need for a gender-neutral bathroom calmed my nerves.

Have you ever thought about why bathrooms are gendered? Or what it would be like if you could not use gendered bathrooms?

Many trans-folks face harassment and are told that they were in the wrong facility, ridiculed, told to leave, verbally threatened, or gawked at and some were sexually assaulted for going to a gender segregated bathroom. This is an important aspect that limits day-to-day activities of trans-folks. Many avoid using public bathrooms, which can result in health conditions ranging from urinary tract infections to kidney problems.

This bathroom at the Yorkdale Mall looked akin to what it could have been in a sci-fi movie – with colourful lighting and modern sanitary fittings.  For a man used to ‘Men Only‘ bathroom, the main difference was the absence of a pee-pot. This bathroom has ten stalls with a commode. It was one of the best public bathrooms I ever walked into,

The mall has several gender-segregated bathrooms dedicated to serve men who prefer to relieve themselves in the company of other men and women-only washrooms for women who prefer to wait in a long line for their fellow woman to finish using the toilet and looking in the bathroom mirror disapprovingly.

How come that gender-neutral bathrooms aren’t that common around the world, even in developed and progressive nations? Gloria Steinem, American feminist journalist and social political activist said, “A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”

The core of this issue is transphobia coupled with social/ religious myths. Having gender-segregated washrooms have not deterred a predator in their tracks so also the peeping Toms.

Single-stall, accessible washrooms are a viable solution for businesses, schools, and municipalities. These bathrooms can be accessible to differently abled and marked as gender neutral, as was the case at the Yorkdale Mall.

It’s that the men do not want to lose access to private male-only spaces. It’s an inherent fear that integrating women into men’s bathroom space will result in a loss, not of privacy for women but of the privileged status of men-only spaces. It’s no different in the militaries world over.

A US Army study concluded that there is a severe discomfort among men sharing toilet and team spaces with women. There is an increased women’s willingness to use such men-only spaces. There is an urgent need to address the underlying logic of sexism, not only in male-dominated professions but in all walks of life.

Just as inaccessible bathrooms act as a barrier for differently-abled people, segregated bathrooms are a barrier to trans-folks. To truly make society inclusive for trans-folks, gender-neutral bathrooms need to become a priority in all public spaces.

Toronto Police and members of the public can now use a gender-neutral bathroom at the service’s headquarters. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) have installed gender-neutral bathrooms.  The Toronto District School Board and many other school boards in Ontario have rolled out similar washrooms in schools across the province.

These gender-neutral bathrooms has not only helped trans-folks, but also other customers who have conflicts over which bathroom to utilise due to the following circumstances – at least one or more with which many of us can identify with:

  • Dads with daughters.
  • Moms with sons.
  • Parents with differently-abled children.
  • Adults with aging parents who may be mentally/physically differently-abled.

It is a big step forward for welcoming trans-folks into greater society and fostering acceptance.  There is no need to distinguish between men and women bathrooms at all. The minds of the people must grow and not fall prey to theories that ‘Because God said so,’ ‘It’s unnatural,’ ‘It’s just wrong’ etc.

Aren’t the bathrooms at our homes Gender-Neutral??

Images courtesy Google

Peony 2022

Peony ows its name to Paeon, the Greek mythological physician to the gods, who extracted a milky liquid from the root of a plant to cure Pluto. Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine wanted to kill Paeon out of jealousy. Zeus, the Greek god of the sky saved him by turning him into a Peony.

Another myth links the name Peony to a nymph named Paeonia whose beauty attracted the attention of Apollo, the Greek Olympian deity. Out of spite, Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, turned her into a Peony. This legend is likely what led to the flower’s meaning of poor luck in the Victorian age.

Chinese often refer to Peony as the ‘King of flowers.’ They were the national flower prior to 1929, when they were replaced by the plum tree. The Chinese name for the peony is ‘Sho Yu’ meaning ‘most beautiful.’

In the Eastern world, peonies were mainly used for their medicinal properties to relieve pain associated with childbirth.
Marco Polo described Peonies, when he first saw them, as: ‘Roses as big as cabbages,’ as the bowl-shaped Peony flowers can reach up to 10 inches in diameter.
Their stems are not strong enough to support the heavy blossoms, hence they need support.  Peony cages are placed in spring around the plant as they grow.
They are also the 12th anniversary flower – because the peony symbolises honour, fortune, and a happy relationship. It is the state flower of Indiana.

Peonies come in every color except for blue. The Peony features five or more large outer petals called guard petals. At the centre of the Peony are the yellow stamens or modified stamens.
Peonies are regarded as a symbol of good fortune and a happy marriage. That is why you find them in all the marriage bouquets in North America. Pink: is the most romantic form of Peony.
Pink, and white, are the most popular colours.
Deep Red is most prized in China and Japan and has the strongest ties to honour and respect and also wealth and prosperity.
White or Very Pale Pink symbolise bashfulness, ideal gift for those times when you’ve said or done something wrong and want to apologise.
Yellow Peony symbolises a of new beginning or a fresh start. An ideal gift as a housewarming gift, or to wish someone luck as they begin a new job.

Peonies of three types grow in our garden- Tree Peonies, Herbaceous Peonies and Itoh peonies.
Herbaceous peonies (also known as bush peonies) with long narrow thick green leaves, they die to the ground in Winter. They re-emerge in Spring when the snow melts.

Tree peonies are characterised by their woody stems. They defoliate in Fall, but the woody stems stay intact above the ground. They tend to bloom earlier and with larger flowers than the bush peony. Thus, they are in competition with the Tulips which are on their way out.
Itoh or Intersectional peonies are a cross between the herbaceous peony and the tree peony.  These crosses have produced new, exciting colours.  The plants have the lovely leaf form of the tree peonies but die to the ground in the Winter.  Since they are recent introductions and are still in short supply, they command a high price.
Itoh or Intersectional peonies are a cross between the herbaceous (or bush) peony and the tree peony. These crosses have produced new, exciting colours. The plants have the lovely leaf form of the tree peonies but die to the ground in the Winter. Since they are recent introductions and are still in short supply, they command a high price.

Itoh Peonies derive its name from Japanese horticulturist, Dr Toichi Itoh, who successfully created seven peony hybrids from a tree peony bred with a herbaceous peony. Dr Itoh passed away before seeing his creations bloom. Years later, American horticulturist Louis Smirnow bought some of these original Itoh peonies from Dr Itoh’s widow and continued Itoh’s work.

Irony is that these large beautiful flowers last only a week or ten days.

Senior Citizens with Children in Foreign Lands

A newspaper column contained woes of senior citizens in India, who are living alone with their children abroad on in some distant land.  It threw up a very pertinent question – ‘Should the (Indian) parent be selfish enough to refuse funding or discourage their children from settling abroad?

Some Indian parents assume that it is the responsibility of the children to take care of the parents in their old age. 

Parents brought up their children, hardly giving any developmental space to the child.  They used the children like sounding boards where they tried out all those they could not do.  It ended up with Engineers and Doctors without any consideration for the interest and passion of the child.  The parents tried to live that ideal life (which they themselves could not) through their children.

Parents ended up paying large sums of money for admission of their children and for their grandchildren from LKG onward.  The money was paid to the school, mostly owned by various religious institutions or god-men.  No receipt was given for this money, thus creating Holy Black Money, all in the name of God.  Praise the Lord!!  Halleluiah!!!

The same was repeated at every stage of education up to graduation or post graduation or even PhD.  Its all-Dad’s Money.

In developed countries (USA, Canada, etc,) students fund their university education.  If the same is followed in India, not more than 40% students are likely to pursue graduation.  They bunk classes, have at least two subjects as supplementary per semester (as they did not qualify the semester exams) – all because its Dad’s Money.  If it is the children’s money like here in Canada, they will make every penny count.

In Canada, any supplementary will not entail promotion to next semester unlike in India where in the tenth semester they may be clearing their first semester supplementary.  The bigger catch is that the bank financing the education will not release the next tranche unless they know that the student is likely to graduate.  I suggested to many of my friends to ask their children to take student loan even if the parent could afford to pay.  In Canada, grades, marks, assessments, progress reports are confidential and are never disclosed to parents, hence difficult to keep track of the child’s progress.  In case the child is on student loan, the bank will keep track.  

Parents of Indian origin in Canada still carry their Love for their children and end up funding their children education.  Result is the same as in India.

Indian parents buy swanky motorcycles for their teenage children on the pretext that it will save them time which they can spend fruitfully on their studies. Does it happen? Children are often seen racing and stunt driving on their motorcycles, with scant regards to the rules of the road. Wearing helmets is often to ward off police fines than saving one’s head. The children, if they must, should buy their motorcycle with their own money and not with the Dad’s money.

Now comes the greatest of the greatest landmark event – MARRIAGE.

Indian immigrant families consider it their right to select and to decide whom the children will (date and) eventually marry. They do not accept the fact that arranged marriages among Indians is on the wane. Some parents do not hesitate to send marriageable children home to seek a spouse in case there are few or no eligible candidates. Some parents even ‘import’ a Mail-Order Bride/ Groom from India.

Some parents do permit culturally exogamous dating and marriages and most children prefer selecting, dating, and eventually marrying someone of their own choosing, based on the North American criterion of romantic love. Parents complain that children’s refusal to accept an arranged marriage as a rejection of them and their culture and negatively reflect upon them as parents within the community and loss of face within the community.

Most wedding parties are attended by less than a hundred guests in North America, whereas it cannot be less than a thousand in India.  Again, it is all because of Dad’s Money.  In North America, the bride and the groom must arrange for their marriage expenses and sometimes parents chip in.

The amount of money the bride’s parents in India spend is well known including dowry and jewellery.  It may be to make up for the money spent on the groom’s education, may be to finance the groom’s higher education, may be to finance the education of the groom’s siblings – possibilities are endless. Legislation and enforcement can control this menace to a limited scale only. Despite enactment of the Anti-Dowry laws, ill gotten money still changes hands and the Gods also seem to be enjoying it.

Next comes housing.  Everyone seems to be building a house bigger than their neighbour’s. It is never based on family needs, but in many cases only as a status symbol to show-off one’s mostly ill-gotten wealth. In North America, old parents down-size and move to smaller homes, or to a gated community, or to an old age home once their children move out for education or jobs. In India it is always up-sizing, even when one is on his death bed. Only social awareness can eliminate this problem.

Here is the ultimate – to get even with the Gods who must forgive and remit all sins in getting this wealth.  Huge offerings are made in the God’s houses to please Him. Most of the offerings are of no use to humanity like golden crowns, golden crosses studded with diamonds, chariots, elephants and even one’s hair. It is not understood as to which God is going to be pleased with these offerings. In North America, most old people donate all their wealth or part of it to charities, which could help the humanity and may be the Gods will always be better pleased with them.

Many of the seniors in India are restricted to their homes – the children respect them too much to be send out for a haircut, for manicure or pedicure, for drinking coffee from the nearby coffee shop, buying vegetables, haggling with the vendors etc. We claim that the children are there to do these for them.

Wait a minute! They also have their feelings too and would love to feel the tomatoes they buy, haggle with vendors to save a few rupees, exchange a few gossips, look pretty and smart.

In most homes in India, the seniors have limited movement or accessibility. To say the least, many are swept under the carpet/ bed. Now days a home nurse is provided to take care of them. Some of our friends here in Canada want to admit their old parents to the available old-age homes. This involves paying a hefty amount as admission fees and monthly payments, which will surprise many. Even though one is ready to pay these, many fear for the social and family stigma that the son has pushed the old parents into an old-age home and is enjoying in Canada/America.

All these critics will never do anything to mitigate the problem of the seniors but will be the first ones to raise shackles of cultural and social values.

Tulips 2022

Tulips are wildflowers native to central Asia but didn’t really become popular until reaching the Netherlands.
The word ‘tulip’ comes from ‘tülbend,’ a Turkish pronunciation of the Persian word ‘dulband,’ which means turban. 

Tulips are known for their bold colors and beautiful shape, and most varieties are indeed almost perfectly symmetrical.

The blooms have three petals and three sepals, but since the sepals are almost the same size and shape as the petals, tulips appear to have six petals to a bulb.

Generally, tulips symbolise love in general, but there is a different meaning based on the color tulip.

For love and romance, red tulips are the way to go.

If you want to convey an apology, white tulips are the flowers that you seek.

Orange Tulips represent sense of compassion, understanding, and sympathy.

Pink tulips symbolise happiness and confidence.

Purple tulips are associated with royalty.

Yellow tulips are great for cheer and happiness.

Although there are no true black flowers that occur in nature, because of their deep purple petals that almost look black.

True Blue is one of the few colours with Black that has remained absent from tulip’s impressive colour palette.

Tulips come in many solid colors, but there are striped ones, too.

The scientists discovered that the coloring was caused by a virus spread by aphids.

The flower is the symbol of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. A variety of tulip was named after Dr James Parkinson, the doctor for which the degenerative disease is named.

Currently tulips are the third most popular flower in the world, with roses coming in first and chrysanthemums coming in second. 

On Valentine’s Day the tulip is the second most gifted flower (after the rose) – obviously only Red.

Tulip blooms only last a week or two, and we await the tulips to bloom next year.

Old Age Security

An elderly couple who recently returned from the United States after visiting their daughter were allegedly murdered by their driver-cum-domestic aide with an accomplice and buried the bodies in their farmhouse. Police recovered jewellery and nine kg gold looted from them. It was a pre-planned murder. 

The culprits believed that the couple had money stashed at their house from a recent real estate transaction.

This case indicates the vulnerability of the elderly, especially those living alone with their children abroad or at distant places within the country. The same vulnerability exists for those who visit home from foreign or distant lands.

Here are some tips, tried and tested by our family.  It is mostly for the elderly travelling from Canada/ USA. You may accept some, modify some or may reject all.

  • Visits back home should be minimised.  Return home only if it is unavoidable.
  • Travel light. – only one hand carry bag.  It will save you a lot of time checking in/ out at the airport and will reduce the physical effort in lugging the baggage around.  In your handbag, keep a pair or two of your dress – rest you can buy after reaching home.
  • Always carry adequate medications – to last you a month longer than your stay.
  • Never carry any gift for any of your relatives or friends.  Whatever you give, no one is satisfied.  I ask them for items not available back home and only available in this part of the world and that is nix.
  • Many have ancestral property back home and may prove to be a millstone around the neck.  Money spent for maintenance of a home in the property – with relatives and contractors ready to fleece the foreigner – it will be economical to stay at any of the 5-Star resort/ hotel
  • Try and dispose off all property back home – Your children are least likely to claim it or even visit it.
  • Dispose off all gold and jewellery – the money realised will be of some use to you or your children.
  • Never give access to your home to anyone.  He may have been serving you for ages.
  •  Never brag or show-off or even discuss your economic status or lifestyle with anyone – even the closest relatives.  Walls too have ears.
  • Never give out your travel plans – especially your absence from home. Keep your travel plans Top-Secret.
  • Always travel by public transport – else call for an auto/ taxi a few minutes before you set out.  Never hire the same driver (even if you may pay more) and never set a travel pattern. Your times of walks, visit to a place of worship, etc must be staggered. 
  • Avoid travelling at night. In case you got to, then use public transport.
  • Never flash your money. There are many prying eyes around you.
  • Never over-tip the food-delivery person or at restaurants/ bars/ hotels. Do not follow the North American standard of 20% of the billed amount. No one is going to ask you “Was there anything wrong with the service?”
  • Avoid designer wear or flashy clothes – a clear give-away.
  • Check your diet.  Eat sensibly and be careful about the water you drink.  Avoid milk and milk products as much as possible.  Drink boiled water and hot beverages.  Black coffee/ tea is ideal with least chance of contamination.
  • Report arrival to local police even if it is not mandated.  You must also verify the personal particulars with the personal documents of your domestic help, driver, etc whom you employ. In many murder cases of elderly, the culprit has been either the driver or the domestic help.
  • Install a Burglar Alarm and CCTV Cameras.  Use Infra-Red Cameras with night vision.  Keep the house illuminated – both from inside and outside.

Physiologic changes of ageing, chronic illness, increased use of medications, and sensory or cognitive changes place the ageing population at increased risk for injury. On top of these, physical security must also be looked into.

Daffodils 2022

This year the weather played truant with temperatures reaching over 200 Celsius in March, followed by sub-zero temperatures and snow mid April. The plants did well to survive through the roller-coaster weather to bloom well.

We welcome Spring with the Daffodils blooming. They are the first flower to bloom in our garden with Hyacinths.

Hyacinths are spring-blooming bulbs with richly colored flowers and an incredible fragrance.

Daffodil – genus Narcissus, refer to the trumpet-shaped springtime blooms. Daffodil is the national flower of Wales.
Golden yellow daffodils are an iconic spring flower.  They also come in various combinations of white, pink and orange, with or without yellow, in intense and pastel shades

The Romans believed that the daffodil sap healed wounds, but daffodil sap contains sharp crystals to deter animals from eating the flower. This irritates the skin rather than healing.
Greek myth has it that nymph Echo fell in love with a Greek named Narcissus, who told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken. Nemesis, the God of Revenge, heard the sad story and lured Narcissus to a pool. He was so distracted by his handsome reflection that he fell in the pool and drowned. Afterwards he turned into the flower.
Daffodils symbolise friendship and new beginnings. They are one of the first signs of Spring and are also strongly associated with Easter because of this reason. 

In England they are also known as Lent Lilies.

In China, the daffodil symbolises good fortune and they are the official Chinese New Year symbol.
In Japan, the daffodil means joy and in France they are a sign of hope.

Smart Alec

On our very first day at the National Defence Academy, Captain Sajjan Singh Batti, our Divisional Officer addressed us on 12 January 1979.  One sentence of that address still hangs in my mind – “All those from the Military/ Sainik Schools, don’t presume that you are ‘Smart Alecs’ and know all the tricks of the trade.

That was the first time I heard the phrase ‘Smart Alec.’  From the context I made out its meaning to be a person trying to outsmart the system and get away with it.

Recently I researched into the etymology of Smart Alec.

Oxford English Dictionary defines a Smart Alec as ‘a person who behaves as if they know everything and likes to show people this in an annoying way.’

If Oxford defines so, what does Cambridge define it as – ‘someone who tries to appear smart or who answers questions in a funny way that annoys other people.’

Mariam Webster Dictionary In my view gives a better definition ‘obnoxiously conceited and self-assertive person with pretensions to smartness or cleverness.’

One must have come across many Smart Alecs and one must have turned into a Smart Alec in some situation.  Generally Smart Alecs are known to be boastful, appear very friendly, giving out ‘expert advice’ on anything and everything under the sun.  When the Smart Alec becomes a quite person, scheming his plans, keeping his cards close to his chest, he becomes dangerous.

Did you know that Smart Alec was a real man – a New York pimp named Alexander Hoag, who operated in connivance with his prostitute wife Melinda?  The same is chronicled in ‘Studies in Slang’ by Missouri University professor Gerald Cohen.

In the 1840s, Alexander Hoag with his wife Melinda devised a ploy to hustle men Melinda enticed and brought to her apartment.  Melinda made her victim remove and hang his clothes. Alexander who hid behind a secret panel entered the room and disappeared with all the valuables in the victim’s dress pockets.

After some time, Alexander banged on the door, and Melinda made her customer believe that her husband had returned early from some trip and was at the door. The victim grabbed his clothes and bolted out of the room through the window.

When her customers complained to the New York Police, Alexander bought out two corrupt police officers with an agreement to split the booty.  The police soon discovered Alexander was cheating them out of their share by this new tactic and arrested Alexander and Melinda.

Investigators of New York Police were dumbfounded by the smartness of Alexander’s operations that they started referring to him as Smart Alec.  Then it became a police slang for a criminal who was too smart for his own good, or whose cockiness led to his arrest. Its first known printed use was in an 1862 Nevada newspaper article, used the term to refer to a ‘know-it-all’ convict.

The term ‘Smart Alec’ got prominence in the early 20th century but became part of everyday speech as a slang only around 1950.  A porn film Smart Aleck was released in 1951, justifying the slang’s origin to a pimp and a prostitute.

A Smart Alec has come out with an application for a smartwatch and aptly named it Smart Alec.  The application it claims will control the level of stress the wearer endures.
Smart Alec Workbooks are available for young children up to grade 5 in almost all subjects.  These workbooks are marketed as books developed by teachers in collaboration with administrators, designed to reinforce fundamental skills taught at each grade level.  A real Smart Alec at work!
What do you call a woman with the Smart Alec traits?
Call her Smart Alexa! Now you realise why Amazon christened its Smart Virtual Assistant as Alexa???

Book Review: The Old Man & She by Veteran Avinash Chikte

Can you fall in love at 60?  Why not?? We got to be in love at all stages of our life – with someone or the other, to make our existence meaningful.  At 60, it is more for companionship, after the children have flown to greater heights.

This is the essence of this book – The Old Man & She! – by Veteran Indian Air Force Officer Avinash Chikte.  We trained at the National Defence Academy and he was a year senior – 59th Course – E Squadron.

The book tells the story of Liz and Ravi – she’s 55 and he’s 60. The story confirms that love can begin at any age and stage and there is no place today for cultural or religious barriers.  The author has explored the tornadoes that go through the minds of people in a relationship – that too across religions, cultures, and race.  I have experienced it and I vouch for the authenticity of most situations well crafted in this book.

A good read, and a feel-good book for those who have an open mind, and are not moored by the chains of religion, caste, and race.

Here is the Author for you.

You can buy the book by clicking the link:

In India –  The Old Man & She! (Ebook) – Avinash Chikte

In other countries – https://books2read.com/theoldmanandshe

Spring Snowfall

Easter Monday, April18, 2022, 4 PM – we were in for a surprise – Snowfall after the onset of Spring with the Spring Equinox on 20 Mar 2022.  This date marks the astronomical first day of spring around the Northern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, March equinox (Spring Equinox or Vernal Equinox) is when the Sun crosses the Equator, heading North. This is Utttarayana as per Hindu Astronomy. After this date, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted more toward the Sun, resulting in increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures. 
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) dutifully announced the arrival of Spring on March 20 and I obediently put away the snow-blower and the snow shovels in the shed.  The weather is expected to be warmer during the final days of April, but a cooler pattern is expected for early May.
The snowfall predicted was for about eight inches, what came down may be a bit more.  Blame it on Climate Change or Global Warming!
It appears that Mother Nature too was tricked by the weather.  Daffodils have already sprouted and grown over eight inches tall. They will all thrive through this Spring-Snow-Storm and will flower in a fortnight.
It is a Canadian saying that ‘April rains bring in May flowers.’ Tulips in our garden are also getting buried under the snow.  What will April snow bring this May?
The Weeping Pussy Willow catkins flowered, and they will lose their pollens with the snow piling on them. Some of the flowers in the inside will survive this onslaught of snow. 
A tricky storm track and a delicate temperature gradient hovering around 2oC resulted in this unprecedented spring snowfall.  During this time of the year, the difference between a snowfall and a chilling rain is only a few degrees Celsius. 

Seek The Living Among The Dead

Today, we live in a world impacted by pandemic and natural disasters.  We are all going through a difficult phase of our lives.  Many are coping with complex personal environments and circumstances.  This is where we need spiritual support to fill that vacuum left by the absence of God in us. 

When the going gets tough, the tough get going” was the catch-line during our tough five week-long Commando training, considered amongst the toughest in the world, designed to push the trainees, testing our physical and mental toughness to an extreme.  Our training began at 2 AM with physical training, obstacle crossing, long marches up to 40 km, and ended at midnight with night navigation marches, raids, and ambushes – all while carrying our personal weapon – the rifle weighing over 5 kg and a 30 kg backpack.

This was where I needed someone to hold my hand, pat me at the back, encourage me to complete the tough tasks, push me from the back through those long endurance marches, etc.  Here my faith in Christ helped endure through it successfully.  I found our Saviour, the Resurrected Christ there when and where I needed Him.  Whatever physical and mental turbulence I was going through, He underwent many times more and emerged successful. 

Timothy 2:3 says, “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The bible does not offer you space to complain or crib.  St Paul was beaten, persecuted, betrayed, drowned, and thrown into a prison, still he never complained.  Paul endured his perils by holding to his faith and belief in Jesus Christ. Did Jesus Christ ever complain even while He was dying on the cross?

The essence of resurrection is contained in the verse Luke 24: 5 where the angels at the tomb said to the women who went to anoint Jesus’ body: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  It happens to be the first spoken word after the resurrection of Christ.

This question led the women to understand the reality of resurrection.  We must realise how pertinent it is in our daily lives. Resurrection celebrates the moment death was defeated and hope came alive.  If you are looking for Jesus among the dead, you will not find him, because he is not there.

We often end up failures, dissatisfaction, or burnout after the long and treacherous hours we put in.  Often our efforts do not bring us a sense of achievement and fulfilment.  This could be due to the lack of realisation as to how our effort may have helped others and not us. We place an unrealistic expectation on returns that will lead to frustration, anger, and disappointment. It is a way of seeking the living among the dead. Here we are not looking at the joy and happiness that our action has brought to someone else (living,) but we are more concerned about what we will receive in return (dead.)

We look for the dead weighing our success based on our achievements like bank balance, grades scored, promotions achieved, the brands of the clothes we wear, the car we drive and so on.  We keep looking for self-worth in our personal image and some end up finding relief in drug and alcohol abuse, leading to addiction (further death) not liberty or freedom or solution to one’s problems (mirage of living.)  For some, it leads to anxiety and fear, rather than joy and fulfilment of life.

Looking for the living among the dead also means looking for a spark or a ray of hope when everything around is grim and bleak.  While on a military mission, driving on a Himalayan mountain road at about 12,000 feet above sea level, the pickup truck with two soldiers ahead of me suddenly toppled to the side, because the road caved in.  The pickup with every tumble lost each of its wheels, finally rested on a tree at bout 1000 feet below. I ran out of the Jeep with my driver and two of my radio operators and we reached the vehicle to see the two soldiers badly injured, bleeding profusely.  Upon seeing the state of the vehicle and the tumbles it took, I did not expect any survivors.  Here I was ‘Looking for the living among the dead’ as hardly anyone survived such accidents in that area. We carried the two injured soldiers up the steep slope, evacuated them to the nearest first-aid post to be evacuated by the Army Helicopter and they survived.

Until today, I do not know how we rolled down that steep slope, brought those soldiers up the mountain.  Everything appeared to be a miracle, where the Resurrected Christ gave me the strength to execute the task.  It saved the lives of two soldiers, but for us who participated in it, it was all some bruises left on our body by the bamboo which grew on the mountain slope.  No one complained. We were all happy that we could save two lives.  That is what soldiering is all about – Risking one’s life to save others.

Whenever I passed on that road again, I felt the Resurrected Christ appearing before me.

This Easter, we must all look for our resurrected living Saviour, one who brings joy and life and hope, the one about whom the Prophet Isaiah said: “Those who hope in me will never be disappointed.”