Are You Prepared to Meet an Emergency for 72 Hours?

Introduction

State of Kerala, India, was battered by the rains, causing havoc, displacing humans, and above all causing irreparable damage to the environment.  Having been involved with rescue missions in such natural disaster while serving with the Indian Army for over two decades and also with the experience gained in Canada for the past 15 years, I thought it appropriate to work out a survival plan for all.  If you are adequately prepared to face a range of emergencies, anytime, anywhere; you have a great chance of survival, God and nature willing.

Aim

The aim of this paper is to lay down a few steps that will help you take care of yourself and your loved ones during an emergency.

Know Where You Live

A country like India, where the terrain, climate, culture and social conditions differ drastically every square kilometer, knowing the risks in your region can help you better prepare.  It may be heavy rains and floods in Kerala; ; in the East; water logging in Mumbai, blizzards and avalanches in J&K and Sikkim; tsunamis and cyclones in coastal regions; earthquakes in the Himalayan regions – the list is endless.  Along with natural disasters, there are other types of risks, such as long power outages and industrial or transportation accidents, etc.   It could even be spread of a life threatening epidemic raging like the Nipah Virus epidemic which Kerala recently witnessed.

Plan for an Emergency

Every household needs an emergency plan to suit their location and area.  It will surely help you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. It is surely worth the effort.   The plan once made must be discussed with every family member and clear instructions as what each member is expected to execute must be clearly defined.

Keep this document in an easy-to-find, easy-to-remember place (with your emergency kit).  Photocopy this plan and keep it in your car and/or at work, and a copy close to your phone.  If you completed your plan online, keep an electronic version on your computer and also store it in a cloud and must also be saved on everyone’s cell-phones.

Love Thy Neighbours

Please take your neighbours also into consideration while working out your emergency plan – they are always your first responders in case of any emergency and you are also expected to reciprocate.

Neighbourhood Safety Plan

Work with your neighbours or the Resident Welfare Associations (RWA)  to identify people who may need extra help during an emergency.  Like in the Army, you may also assign ‘buddies’.  Assets like doctors and health professionals, military veterans, retired police and administrative officials, and above all the youth group – they are all assets of your neighbourhood.  Ensure that you include them in your neighbourhood plan and allocate duties and responsibilities to them.

Revisiting the Plan

Please revisit your plan and also your neighbourhood plan at least once a year.  That should be the time you must restock your kit(, change the batteries, food and bottled water.  Any breaks like Onam holidays, Pooja holidays or any weekend is the most suitable time when most members are available.  Write yourself a reminder to update your emergency plan one year from now.

Household Plan

  • Emergency Exits. Draw up a floor plan of your home that shows all possible exits from each room.  Plan a main exit route and an alternate exit route from each room.  If you live in an apartment, plan to use the stairs instead of the elevators.  Identify an evacuation route from your neighbourhood in case you need to leave in a hurry and always plan for more than one option.
  • Meeting PlacesRandevu (RV). Identify safe places where everyone should meet if you cannot go home or you need to evacuate. Specify a meeting place near home or outside immediate neighbourhood.

Make Copies of Important Documents.

Make copies of birth and marriage certificates, passports, licences, wills, land deeds and insurance. Take photos of family members in case a lost persons record is created. Keep them in a safe place, both inside and outside your home. You might want to put them in a safety deposit box or give them to friends and family who live out of town.

Workplace

Learn about the emergency evacuation plans in place and what you will need to do. You may want to have some basic supplies at work, such as water and food that do not  spoil, in case you need to stay put for a while.   Check  with your employer about workplace emergency plans, including fire alarms, emergency exits, meeting points, and designated safety personnel or floor wardens.

Children

Ask your children’s school or daycare about their emergency policies. Find out how they will contact families during an emergency.  Find out what type of authorisation the school or daycare requires to release your children to a designated person if you can’t pick them up.   Make sure the school or daycare has updated contact information for parents, caregivers and designated persons.

Plan for pets

In case of an evacuation, remember that pets are not allowed in some public shelters or hotels. In case of an evacuation, prepare to take your pets with you to the home of a relative or friend, or take steps to identify pet-friendly hotels or pet boarding facilities in your area and further away from home.

Special Health Needs

  • Support Network. Establish a personal support network of friends, relatives, health-care providers, co-workers and neighbours who understand your special needs and also of your family members’.
  • Prepare a Health List. Make a list of all your health/ medical needs.  Keep a copy of this information in your emergency kit, and give a copy to your personal support network.   The list must include:-
    • Accommodation needs
    • Insurance information
    • Allergies
    • Medical conditions
    • Emergency contacts
    • Medication
    • Family medical history
    • Recent vaccinations
    • Health screenings
    • Surgeries
  • Grab&Go Medical Bag. Talk to your doctor about preparing a grab-and-go bag, if possible, with a two-week supply of medication and medical supplies. Include prescriptions and medical documents. Remember that pharmacies may be closed for some time, even after an emergency is over.

Out-of-Town Contact

Choose an out-of-town contact who lives far enough away that he or she is unlikely to be affected by the same event. If you have recently moved to a new area, make arrangements through friends, cultural associations or community organisations.  Arrange for each family member to call, e-mail or text the same out-of-town contact person in case of an emergency.

Home Safety

  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector, smoke alarm, fire extinguisher and well-stocked first aid kit. If you live in an apartment, or if you are staying in a hotel, know where the fire alarms and at least two emergency exits are located.
  • Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on every level of your home, including one in your kitchen. Everyone in your home should know where to find the fire extinguishers. All capable adults and older children should know how to use it. See manufacturer’s instructions regarding the lifetime of your fire extinguisher.
  • Older children and adults should know how to turn off your home’s water, electricity and gas. Make large, easy-to-see signs for water and gas shut-offs as well as for the electrical panel.
  • Teach children how and when to dial emergency numbers as well as how to call the designated out-of-town contact.
  • Limit phone calls to urgent messages only. Keep calls short to free up the lines for others.
  • When notifying emergency services of your location, provide the exact street or civic address and nearest intersection.

When an Emergency Strikes

  • Follow your emergency plan.
  • Get your emergency kit.
  • Make sure you are safe before assisting others.
  • Listen to the radio or television for information from authorities. Local officials may advise you to stay where you are. Follow their instructions.
  • Stay put until all is safe or until you are ordered to evacuate.

Evacuation Orders

  • Authorities will not ask you to leave your home unless they have reason to believe that you may be in danger.
  • If you are ordered to evacuate, take your emergency kit, your wallet, personal identification for each family member and copies of essential family documents with you. Bring a cellular phone and spare battery or a power bank or charger with you, if you have one. Use travel routes specified by local authorities.
  • If you have time, call or e-mail your out-of-town contact. Tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Once you are safe, let them know. Tell them if any family members have become separated.
  • If possible, leave a note telling others when you left and where you are. Shut off water and electricity if officials tell you to do so.
  • Take pets with you.
  • Lock your home.
  • If you go to an evacuation centre, register your personal information at the registration desk. Do not return home until authorities advise that it is safe to do so.

Preparing an Emergency Kit

  • In an emergency, you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.
  • You may have some of the items already, such as food, water and a battery-operated or crank flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organised and easy to find.
  • Make sure your kit is easy to carry and everyone in the household knows where it is.
  • Keep it in a backpack, duffle bag or suitcase with wheels, in an easy-to-reach, accessible place, such as your front-hall closet.
  • If you have many people in your household, your emergency kit could get heavy. It’s a good idea to separate some of these supplies in backpacks. That way, your kit will be more portable and each person can personalise his or her own grab-and-go emergency kit.

Basic Emergency Kit

  • Water – at least two litres of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
  • Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year)
  • Manual can-opener
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries). Replace batteries once a year.
  • Crank, battery-powered radio (and extra batteries).
  • Granb&Go medical bag.
  • First aid kit
  • Extra keys to your car and house
  • Some cash in smaller currencies. Automated bank machines and their networks may not work during an emergency. You may have difficulty using debit or credit cards.
  • A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • Recommended additional items
    • Two additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
    • Candles and matches or lighter
    • Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
    • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
    • Toiletries
    • Utensils
    • Garbage bags
    • Water purifying tablets
    • Basic tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask, pocket knife)
    • A whistle (to draw prompt attention)
    • If you think your water is contaminated, check with your municipality or local authorities for details. When in doubt, do not drink water you suspect may be contaminated.

Emergency Vehicle Kit

Prepare a small kit and keep it in your vehicle to include:

  • Blanket
  • Candle in a deep can and matches
  • Extra clothing and shoes
  • First aid kit with seat-belt cutter
  • Flashlight (crank or battery-powered). Replace batteries once a year.
  • Food that won’t spoil (such as energy bars)
  • List of contact numbers
  • Radio (crank or battery-powered). Replace batteries once a year.
  • Small shovel
  • Warning light or road flares
  • Water
  • Whistle

Conclusion

An emergency may occur at any time and human being over centuries have faced many such ones.  In case you are adequately prepared, you are in a better position to face it and also help others to go through the ordeal.  Always remember “Preparedness is the calm before, during and after any storm.”

(Based on Government of Canada Emergency Preparedness Guide)

Rose Garden 2018

For centuries, roses have inspired love and brought beauty to those who have received them. In fact, the rose’s rich heritage dates back thousands of years.  People have been passionate about roses since the beginning of time.  We have over fifty bushes in our garden.


Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India,  was fond of Red rose. He always wore a Red rose on his jacket until his last breath.


It is said that the floors of Cleopatra’s palace were carpeted with delicate rose petals.  Shakespeare refers to roses more than 50 times throughout his writings. It is also New York’s state flower.


1,000 years old. That’s the age the world’s oldest living rose is thought to be. Today it continues to flourish on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral of Germany.


It was in seventeenth century that French explorer Samuel deChamplain brought the first cultivated roses to North America.  Roses are truly ageless. Recently, archaeologists discovered the fossilized remains of wild roses over 40 million years old.


The people of ancient Greece used roses on festive occasions to adorn themselves with garlands of roses, and splash themselves with rose-scented oil.  Napoleon’s wife Josephine so adored roses, she grew more than 250 varieties


The largest rose bloom ever bred was a pink rose measuring approximately 33 inches in diameter, bred by Nikita K. Rulhoksoffski from San Onofre, California.


Red roses are the traditional symbol for love, romance.  It reflects beauty and perfection.  Myth has it that Venus’ son Cupid accidentally shot arrows into the rose garden when a bee stung him, and it was the ‘sting’ of the arrows that caused the roses to grow thorns.  When Venus walked through the garden and pricked her foot on a thorn, it was the droplets of her blood which turned the roses red.


Pink Rose depict gentleness, grace, gladness, joy and sweetness.  It  can also convey happiness, gracefulness and admiration.


Bright, cheerful and joyful are what come to mind when thinking of a yellow rose. Giving yellow roses can tell someone the joy they bring you and the friendship you share.


White roses, the purist of colors, represent innocence, purity and charm. White roses are traditionally used in weddings and can represent new beginnings. We believe that white roses can also express remembrance and innocence.   Why white roses are so special is no mystery – it’s a myth. Perhaps it started with the Romans who believed white roses grew where the tears of Venus fell as she mourned the loss of her beloved Adonis.


Orange roses evoke energy, and enthusiasm, desire and excitement. Giving orange roses can symbolise your passionate romance and share your excitement of the relationship with your loved one.


Love at first sight or just an enchanting way to say, “I love you!” Lavender roses can offer a daily reminder of your love and eagerness to grow your relationship.


Peach-colored rose is gifted when are you grateful for someone or just want to show your appreciation.  It shows appreciation and gratitude or a different way to say “Thank You!”   They symbolise innocence and purity.


Cream roses are indicative of charm and thoughtfulness and goes well with pink ‘thank you’ roses.  Gifting a bunch of cream roses is an ideal way to show someone that you care – but without any romantic intentions.

” How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.”   Victor Hugo

” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  William Shakespeare

Peonies – A Symbol of Honour, Fortune, and a Happy Relationship


Peonies are outrageously beautiful in bloom, with lush foliage. They bloom from late May through  June in Toronto.  The flowers last only two weeks.


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.


Peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  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 are native to China. They are highly valued there, and are often referred to as the “king of flowers”. They were the national flower prior to 1929, when they were replaced by the plum tree. Chinese name for the peony is ‘Sho Yu’ meaning “most beautiful”.


Peonies of three types grow in our garden- Tree Peonies, Herbaceous Peonies and Itoh peonies.


Herbaceous peonies (also known as bush peonies) die to the ground in Winter.  They re-emerge in March, or when the snow melts. Many find that they are deer resistant, but not always. Peonies are long lived, minimal care plants.


Tree peonies are called tree peonies for the woody stems that they have. Tree peonies have woody stems that defoliate in the fall, but the woody stems stay intact, above the ground. They tend to bloom earlier and with larger flowers than the bush peony.


Itoh or Intersectional peonies are a cross between the herbaceous (or bush) peony and the tree peony.  These crosses have produced new, exciting colors.  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 an herbaceous peony.  Dr. Itoh passed away before ever 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.


Peonies like full sun, and though they can manage with half a day, they bloom best in a sunny spot.  They come in every color except for blue. Pink, and white, are the most popular colours.  Peonies can live upto a hundred years.  In ancient times peonies were believed to relieve headaches and help with asthma.

 

Early Spring Tulips 2018


‘April rains bring in May flowers’ is a common saying in Canada. This year, tulips sprouted as the days warmed up in April, but we had two snowfalls thereafter. Many plants either died or did not grow properly, but we still boast of the best Tulip Garden in Town.


Tulips Originated in Persia and Turkey and were brought to Europe in the 16th century.


Cultivated varieties, referred to as ‘Dutch tulips,’ originated in the Netherlands.


They got their common name from the Turkish word for gauze (with which turbans were wrapped) – reflecting the turban-like appearance of a tulip in full bloom.


Yellow tulips symbolises cheerful thoughts.


The brightly colored, upright flowers may be single or double, and vary in shape from simple cups, bowls, and goblets to more complex forms.


Tulips typically bear cup-shaped flowers in almost every shade but true blue. They can be double or single, fringed or twisted, perfumed or non-scented.


Purple symbolises royalty.


The eleventh wedding anniversary flower is also tulip. It conveys forgiveness.
These are different shades of Red Tulips in our garden. Red tulips are most strongly associated with true love.


Tulips are spring flowers and it arrival signals the coming of a new season. Most tulips have six petals, but some can have many more.


Some of the Tulips are still blooming – may be due to the late setting in of spring.


Red tulips are the hue of choice to express that you are deeply in love. The color red evokes passion and romance.


They are gone in two weeks – and that’s the saddest part.

 

Gardening for Fun & Happiness


‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him,  God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’  (Genesis 1:27, 28)

God gave man the right to rule over everything on earth.  It must not translate into exploitation of nature, but being fruitful.  It is all about the power of creativity that God blessed us humans with.  It exhorts all humans to be part of creation and one of the best way to execute God’s command would be to tend to your garden.  It may be a few indoor pots, a small home-garden or your farm.

May 03 is Garden Meditation Day. This is a day to take some time out for yourself to relax and meditate or the least, visit a garden if you do not own one.  It is the time to get on to hands-on work, like digging in the garden, planting seeds, pruning plants and so on.  It can actually be a form of meditating.

Research has proved that that when we become involved in physical activities that involve creativity, planning, problem-solving, physical labour, it reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.  It can also be a good exercise for weight-loss.  The act of tending to your garden, planting saplings, de-weeding, will always make you feel better and also give you the power to be part of creation and being close to mother nature.

A mere look at your garden or plants can generate a lot of emotional changes which will surely have a positive effect on your blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension, and neural activity.  It will surely calm your nerves, soothe your emotions and provide lot of happiness.

Today, we have literally taken the God’s word of ‘ruling over the earth.’  Gardening is the best way to ‘go green’ and support mother nature.  A well kept garden, why even a few indoor plants will surely impact the quality of air at your home.  It helps keep the house warm in winters and cool in summers, thus reducing carbon imprint and also save a few bucks.

A vegetable garden in your backyard will provide you with fresh and good quality vegetables.  In case you resort to organic farming – without use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides – you will have a regular bountiful harvest of organic vegetables.

One summer morning, as I was tending to the roses in the garden, an octogenarian stopped his car and came out to compliment me on the excellent garden.  He said “your work has improved the property value of your home by a hundred thousand dollars and your neighbour’s by at least fifty thousand.  I retired from being a real-estate agent for over forty years and this I can vouch for from my experience.”  A garden or a landscaping is an investment for the future.  A well manicured lawn, well kept flowerbeds, well pruned trees – all add ‘curb-appeal’ of your home.  It is a sure shot recipe to sell your home faster.

Gardening and landscaping is truly becoming an art form. Planning, planting and watching your own garden grow can fill you  with satisfaction and pride. Gardening is truly a life-time hobby. The more you learn the more proficient you get and the possibilities become endless.  It is all about taking the first step, getting your hands dirty and your shoes soiled.  As time pass by, you will surely enjoy it – especially post-retirement.

So what’s stopping you from starting your own garden and landscape design or even get some indoor plants?

 

Vertical Bank Notes in Canada


Vertical currency is a type of currency in which the orientation has been changed from the conventional horizontal orientation to a vertical orientation. why a vertical currency?

People generally handle and deal with currency notes vertically rather than horizontally. People ‘tell’ (count) the notes, holding the bundle vertically.  They tend to hold an open  wallet or purse vertically while searching for notes.   Most people hand over notes to one-another vertically rather than horizontally, especially when making purchases.  All machines like Automated Teller Machines (ATM), vending machines, etc accept notes vertically.  Thus it appears that vertical note makes more sense.  Bermuda, Brazil, Cape Verde, Israel, Switzerland, and Venezuela have adopted vertically oriented currency and now Canada has also joined them by issuing a vertically oriented $10 note.  Early Chinese banknotes were also vertical, due to the direction of Chinese writing.


Many countries have different colors for their notes as it is one of the best ways to distinguish one note from another.  USA issues only green backs which traces its history to 1861, when US government issued paper money as a means of financing the American Civil War.  The backside of these notes were printed with green ink as an anti-counterfeiting measure.  Green colour was chosen to avoid photographic duplicates, since the cameras of the time could only take black and white pictures.  Thus these notes came to be known as ‘Greenbacks.’  In order to cut down on manufacturing costs, US government shrunk the size of all paper money and instituted standardised designs for each denomination, which made it easier for people to tell real bills from fakes. The small-sized bills continued to be printed with green ink because green ink was plentiful and durable and green colour was associated with stability.

Various images on the notes relate to the value of each note.  These images depict the history of the nation, its culture,  its important personalities, historical events, national achievements, monuments etc, to be educational, for its citizens and also for the others handling the currency.

On 08 March 2018, on the International Women’s Day, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen S Poloz unveiled the new $10 bank note featuring Viola Desmond.  It was the first time that an iconic Canadian woman is portrayed on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note.  She became the first black person and the first non-royal woman ever to appear on regularly circulating Canadian notes.  Please click here to read about my earlier post ‘Canadian Woman on Banknote.’

The note also features the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Also depicted on the note are an eagle feather—representing the ongoing journey toward recognising rights and freedoms for Indigenous Peoples in Canada—and an excerpt from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This new $10 note is the first vertically oriented bank note issued in Canada. This will allow for a more prominent image of Viola Desmond and differentiates this new $10 note from the current polymer notes.

Viola Desmond was selected for the new $10 bank note by Minister Morneau following an open call to Canadians to nominate an iconic Canadian woman for the next redesigned bank note. A successful Black Nova Scotian businesswoman, Desmond is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks after she refused to leave her seat in the ‘whites only’ section at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in 1946.

Desmond, then aged 32, was dragged out of the theatre by police and jailed. The civil rights activist was convicted of defrauding the province of a one-penny tax — the difference in tax between a downstairs and upstairs ticket.

Segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia in 1954, in part because of the publicity generated by Desmond’s case.  Desmond died in 1965. The province of Nova Scotia apologised to her posthumously, 45 years later.

 

Military Lounge @ Buffalo Airport


On 04 February 2018, I traveled to Buffalo Airport, USA to pick up Reshma Sameer, daughter of Veteran Brigadier Azad Sameer. To read more about Brigadier Sameer,Please Click Here.

Buffalo Airport is 160 km from our home, about two hours of drive by car.  She was scheduled to land at 2 PM.  It was snowing in the morning and was foggy.  Hence, I left home by 10 AM, catering adequate time for a slow drive,  breaks, and crossing at the Canada-US border.  We generally cater for about 30 minutes for border crossing formalities.


As I pulled up at the US Customs & Border Protection counter, there was hardly anyone waiting there to cross.  I drove up to the counter and the officer manning the post came out.  As I was handing over my passport he asked “Sir, aren’t you watching the Super Bowl?”  “I am off to Buffalo Airport to pick up our family friend”  I answered.  Returning my passport he said “Drive safely, have a nice day, Sir.”  This quick clearance must have been due to the ‘Veteran’ Licence Plate of my car.

The Super Bowl is the final game of the National Football League (NFL), played on the first Sunday in February.  It is one of the most watched TV event in United States with more than 100 million people from the United States alone watching it.  Every year the TV commercials, known as Super Bowl ads attract a lot of interest and also money.  This year it featured Hollywood stars Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish, Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman.

I reached the Airport at noon and was looking for a place to spend two hours at my disposal.  I picked a book I had in the car and my reading glasses after parking the car in the parking lot.  As I entered the arrival area, I read a sign ‘Freedom Lounge – A Courtesy Centre for Military Service Members and Veterans.’

This lounge was setup in 2016 by WNY Freedom Lounge Inc in recognition of  sacrifices by the US Military Service personnel.  It ensures a welcoming environment for traveling Military personnel & Veterans at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The lounge is open to members of the military, veterans and their families free of charge.


WNY Freedom Lounge Inc is a private, non-profit organization, headed by Veteran Lieutenant Colonel Dan Walther of Kenmore, who raised funds and made arrangements for the lounge. The lounge provides morale and recreational services to members of the US Military and their families. The lounge offers comfortable seating, reading material, TV, phone, snacks, and internet access. It is staffed by veteran volunteers, veteran organizations and military supporters.

I was welcomed in by Veteran Chief Petty Officer Ronald of the US Navy.  After exchanging usual pleasantries, he ushered me in and showed me three rooms – a reception area, a kitchenette and a small living room with sofas and chairs.  He opened the fridge, well stocked with beverages and asked “What would you like to have Sir?”  “Black Coffee” I replied.  He brewed a cup for me in the coffee maker and we sat down and talked.

He said that this lounge has been created for transitioning Military personnel, who  often have significant wait times between connecting flights.  Most Military personnel often travel alone and they need a place to rest.  The lounge is staffed and maintained fully by volunteers.  It is generally open from 9 AM to 10 PM and during other times, the Information Desk staff would open it.

We spoke about all matters two Veterans would speak – about our service in the Forces, places served, family, children, aspirations, dreams, et al.  At the end I realised that we Veterans – from US and India – why from world all over – speak the very same language.  The Military is in our blood and it cannot be shed easily.

Super Blue Blood Moon


On 31 January 2018, it is going to be a Super Blue Blood Moon – crossover of three individual lunar occurrences happening at the same exact time..  It is a lunar spectacle, a stellar show in the sky that night.  Last super blue blood Moon happened way back on March 31, 1866.

Social media will be abuzz with all possible details and explanations and also many e-rumours, some grotesque and some funny.  Many conspiracy theorists will claim this spectacular lunar display as a sign that end of the world is coming near.

To study this phenomenon, one needs to look at the moon’s orbit.  It is elliptical shaped, inclined at about 5 degrees.  It is offset from the centre with the closest point from the earth called ‘Perigee’ and the farthest ‘Apogee’.  The moon revolves around the earth along this orbit in 27.55 days.  As the moon revolves, it also rotates along its axis in very same 27.55 days.  Thus we see the same face of the moon every time.

New moon waxes to a full moon and then wanes back to new moon.  This takes 29.53 days and is called a lunar month.  It is due to revolution of the moon around the earth and the earth’s revolution around the sun.


A super-moon is when a full moon occurs when the moon is at its Perigee.  The New Year Day of 2018 was ushered in by a super-moon.  A super-moon appears around 7% bigger than an average full moon  and 12% to 14% bigger than a micro-moon – when a full moon occurs around Apogee.  Super-moon appears the biggest of all full moons as it is the closest it can get to earth.

Next super-moon will appear after 15 revolutions by the moon around the earth (15×27.55) – about 413 days  as it would coincide with a full moon after 14 lunar months (14×29.53) – about 413 days (one year and 48 days).  Thus we can calculate past and future super-moons.

The term  super-moon is believed to have been coined  by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 in Dell Horoscope magazine .  It gained credence when the media titled the full moon of March 19, 2011 as super-moon.

The idiom ‘once in a blue-moon‘ refers to a rare occurrence, but in fact it appears once every 2.7 years, because the lunar month – from new moon to new moon-  is 29.53 days compared to 30 or 31 days of our calendar month.  Hence February (with 28 or 29 days) can never witness a blue-moon.

12 lunar months  (12×29.53) makes it 354.36 days, against the 365.25 days in a calendar year,  The difference of (365.25-354.36) 10.89 days adds up over 2.7 years (2 years 8 months) to about 29.5  days, which is a lunar month.  Last blue-moon occurred on July 31, 2015.

2018 has another specialty. January has a blue-moon on 31st.  As February this year has only 28 days, there will be no full moon in February.  This results in March having two full moons on the 2nd and 31st being a blue-moon again. Double blue-moons occur about 3 to 5 times in a century. The next occurrence will be 2037, while the last was in 1999.

Super-blue-moon on January 31 will coincide with a total lunar eclipse, which is colloquially referred to as  a  blood-moon or a red-moon.  The Moon will turn a shade of red as observed from many parts of the world as the earth moves between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow on the moon’s surface.  The moon takes 3 hours and 23 minutes to cross the earth’s shadow.

Even though the moon is in the umbral region of eclipse, some of the red spectrum of visible light  emanating from the sun (longest wavelength) tends to skim over the earth and reach the moon. This red spectrum is reflected by the moon when it is passing through the umbral region.  Thus the moon appears red with a copper-tone during an eclipse.


Lunar eclipse, partial or total, can only occur on a full moon day as that is the only time, the earth may come in line between the sun and the moon, casting its shadow on the moon.  Eclipse does not happen every full moon as the earth’s orbit around the sun is not in the same plane as the moon’s orbit around the earth.


(Image Courtesy NASA)

Eastern North America can see beginning stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the west before sunrise of January 31.  Portions of the Middle East and far-eastern Europe can view the ending stages of the partial umbral eclipse low in the east after sunset.  Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the eclipse will already be underway as the moon rises.  In India it would start at 6:21 PM on January 31 2018 and will be visible till 7:37 PM.  South America, most of Europe and Africa will not witness this trilogy.

 

Canada’s African Lion Safari

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It has become a ritual for me to take our guests to the African Lion Safari, located in Cambridge, Ontario.  I have even lost count on the number of times I have been there.  I can for sure claim that I am now an accomplished tour guide for anyone visiting the Safari.  When Air Vice Marshal TD Joseph (Joe) and Sophie Joseph came calling in May 2016, how could I omit the African Lion Safari from the itinerary.

African Lion Safari, a family owned private entrepreneurship, is a picturesque and fun-filled Wildlife Park that offers not only a Safari trip of 9 km, but also conducts educative shows on birds and elephants.    This conservation theme-park showcases many different and rare animals from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The drive through the game reserve will get you as close as you can ever get with fascinating wild life.

At the Safari, animals are exhibited in an entirely different way – visitors are caged in their cars or tour bus, and the animals are free to roam the 5 to 50 acre reserve, in their natural habitat.  The Safari Trail comprises seven game reserves that showcase a diverse collection of species such as lions, cheetahs, baboons, rhinos, ostriches, giraffes, and many other exotic and native species.

In case you take your own car, you are in better control of the time that you spend observing and photographing the animals, and it affords a great deal of flexibility. There is a  guided tour on the Safari bus, which takes just over an hour.  The tour guides offer great information about the animals you encounter.  Visitors who spend a full day at the African Lion Safari, often exercise both options. I prefer the drive in our car and surely there are a few risks involved.

It is worthwhile to note some interesting facts about the founder of this wonderful place. Late Colonel GD Dailley founded the Safari with a vision to create an environment for self-sustaining populations of declining wildlife species.  It opened with 40 lions  in three reserves in 1969.  Today the park houses in excess of 1,000 animals comprised of more than 100 species.

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Colonel Gordon Debenham Dailley  (July 24, 1911 – May 3, 1989), was born in Winnipeg, Canada and was educated at St John’s College at the University of Manitoba.   He was a member of the team which won the gold medal in ice hockey for Great Britain at the 1936 Winter Olympics. The team consisted mostly of British-born Canadian citizens, as well as Dailley, whose only justification for playing for Britain lay in his long years of living in England.  He led the team to European Championships in 1937 and 1938,  after which he left hockey to join the Canadian Army.

Colonel Dailley served in England throughout World War II. After the war, he remained with the Canadian Forces and held a number of posts in Ottawa and served on the United Nations Armistice Commission in Korea. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1955 and was assigned to Belgrade, Yugoslavia as the Canadian Military Attaché.  In August 1960 he was appointed the base commander at Gagetown in New Brunswick.  He retired from the army in 1964.


After about an hour’s drive from our home, we generally reach the Safari gates at 9:55 AM, five minutes before the gates open.  In order to avoid the rush, it would be better to visit the park on a weekday, that too well before the schools close for summer vacations.  This gives all the time to watch and photograph the animals as there is no pressure from the vehicles following.


First reserve is Nairobi Sanctuary which houses elegant birds like the crowned crane and white stork  with llamas and robust Watusi cattle from Africa with its large distinctive horns that can reach up to 8 feet.


Next is the Simba Lion Country, home to a large pride of lions, perched on large rocks or in the shade of trees.


If you are lucky, you can capture the lions in such poses too.

There is a separate enclosure for the White Lions.  They are same as their African Lion cousins with a rare color mutation.  They are found in the Timbavati area of South Africa.

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Adjacent to the lion sanctuary  is  the Duma Cheetah Preserve.  African Lion Safari has been very successful with breeding cheetahs, who are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, with over 40 cubs to date.

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Most entertaining reserve is Wankie Bushland Trail where you will encounter baboons.  This is where the risk of taking your car lies.  These baboons have developed special skills to pull at wipers or peel rubber stripping or to simply perch atop the car’s roof and take a ride around their habitat.

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Next enclosure is the Rocky Ridge Veldt representing the Savannahs of Africa.  It is home to a mix of species from the curious ostrich to the highly endangered Rothschild giraffes, as well as  zebras, eland and rhinos.

Joe216Ostriches and giraffes come very close to the cars and this shot of the giraffe saying hello through the moon-roof  of our car.

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Last reserve takes you to North America which houses animals like elk and the bison.

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There are also a number of entertaining, educative  and informative shows starting with the Elephant Swim.  The keepers bring the Asian elephants, all cutely holding the tail of one in front by their trunk. They range from the oldest at 35 to the youngest at two years.

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Next show, the ‘Birds of Paradise’ where various birds showcase their incredible intelligence like a crow cleaning up tin cans to put in a blue recycle bin to a macaw deciphering colours, as well as the red-legged Seriemas,  a long legged bird from South America, showing off their natural abilities.  The Serena displayed its skill at killing a snake by picking it up and throwing it repeatedly hard on to the ground.  They also showcased a wide assortment of birds like macaws, emu, an Indian bat,  peacock and ended the show with a talking and singing parrot.

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The next is another great show, the ‘Birds of Prey’. The flying and hunting skills predator birds are on display here. The birds include marabou stork, a bald and golden eagle, a couple of owls and peregrine falcon ,the fastest moving creature in the animal kingdom.

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Elephant Round-Up show is a display of elephant’s impressive strength, agility and intelligence.  One even paints a t-shirt in the show, holding the paint brush in its trunk.  It was heartening to see that not even once was an elephant shouted at or goaded with a pointed metal rod as seen in some parts of Asia. African Lion Safari is home to the largest Asian elephant herd in any zoological facility in North America and has one of the most successful breeding programme.  The Safari announced the birth of Jake in 2009, a healthy male calf , through artificial insemination, the first ever in Canada.

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African Queen boat cruise piloted by one of the parks guides, circles a lake to see exotic birds, primates, ring-tailed lemurs, ground horn-bills, spider monkeys, black and white ruffed lemur and endangered Angolan Colombus monkeys that reside on the islands.

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The shows were conducted mostly by university students, many pursuing their degrees in zoology related fields.  What an opportunity and environment for these students to earn, learn and apply their knowledge and also improve their confidence levels, communication skills and self-esteem?

How do these animals, mostly from the tropics, survive through the harsh Canadian winter?  The Safari has large barn-like centrally heated housing where the animals can go in and out.  As per the Safari staff, the Cheetahs love playing in the snow and enjoy the winters.

Since its inception in 1969, the Park has been successful in breeding 30 species, considered endangered, and 20 species, considered threatened. The original idea of maintaining self-sustaining populations of species in decline is still the Park’s priority, all while providing its visitors with a safe, entertaining, and educational environment.

Randomness of Life

Life is a random sequence of events on which neither God nor humans have any control.  It should and must remain as random as it could be.  Otherwise where is ‘thrill’ in one’s life? Where is the place for our ‘dreams’? How do we celebrate our ‘achievements’? When will we shower our ‘praises’ on our children and other humans who helped us through this ‘randomness’? When will we thank our God Almighty for all his ‘blessings’ for guiding us through this randomness?

‘Godmen’ will try to influence you with a promise that this randomness can be controlled, but you will always be happier with very same randomness and your will to face it.  Hence, let it remain random. Let us not allow godmen and astrologers to solve this randomness.

Let us begin with our birth.  “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)  He created us in His ‘image’ indicates that we were made to resemble God.  He gave us all Godly powers- power to create, power of love, power to carryout Godly acts, power to influence others, power to control the environment around us, etc.

If He created us like Him, He would never want us to suffer for sure.  He did not want to create unpleasantness or cause sickness in our lives.  He did not want us to face disasters.  These are natural, hence random, and never a satanic or a demonic attack.  When we overcome these difficulties, we look back at our lives and grow closer to God, learn to trust Him more, and also evaluate the true value of our God gifted life.  God is not trying to test you at all as He is ever-loving and all-knowing and He knows how much you love Him.

Our birth, was a random chance, a divine occurrence that our parents met.  It was also a random occurrence that a sperm out of thousands fused with our mother’s egg in a specific condition and time.  The genes we inherited due to this fusion could well be traced back to the family tree of both our parents and here too randomness play an important role, despite all Mendel’s theory of genetics.

Now comes our physical birth.  Who decided the time of your birth?  Wasn’t it random, even if it was a C-Section?  The time of birth, based on which astrologers predicted your life span by means of Kundali or Jathakam or birth chart, who recorded it?  Was it as per the hospital clock?  Was it as per the nurse’s or surgeon’s watch?  Was the time accurate?  Wasn’t the time of your birth random?  Hence let it remain random and let us not allow the astrologer to play into this randomness and dictate how our lives are going to flow through.

As we grow up and cross many milestones, we realise this very same randomness.  Many people around us help us through difficulties we face, some known and many unknown.  Some call it a ‘miracle’ but isn’t it all humane?  God does not come down to execute ‘miracles’, but He does it through us humans and that too randomly.  We need to recognise these humans, which we ignore conveniently many times.

God himself never did any miracle, but it was always through humans -Moses split the Red Sea, Elijah divided Jordan River, Jesus cured lepers – and so on.  Lord Vishnu took ten Avatars (Dasavatharam) of humans, animals and also their combination to restore cosmic order.

Our family friend in Canada, suffered a massive stroke and was admitted to the ICU. I was there with his wife at the ICU for the 10 days.  The bed on which the patient lay was maintained at a temperature, a degree less than normal human temperature with many gadgets connected.  There was a dedicated nurse, sitting beside his bed 24 hours, monitoring all his body parameters. The nurses changed every eight hours.

The doctors attending to him said to us at least seven times that he is gone, but always managed to resuscitate  him.  They said that his complete recovery was doubtful.  On the tenth day, he came into his conscious self, surprising even the doctors, with all his facilities intact.  It was a ‘miracle’ for sure. The Canadian Government would have spend nearly a million dollars to bring him back to life.  Now, I realised where the heavy tax money we were paying was put to use.  I concluded that the tax I paid and would pay in future will not be sufficient to compensate this ‘miracle’.

After a week, I had to drive him and his wife to hospital for follow-up. Enroute his wife said that they are visiting Tirupathi (India) to offer the hair of him and their son as a vow (‘Mannath’). I asked her “Do you know the name of the Doctor who took care of your husband for those ten crucial days? Do you remember any of those nurses who sat beside his bed?” Obviously the answer was a clear “No”.

“What use is hair to Tiruppathi Balaji? You are likely to incur Rs 10 Lakh ($20,000) for the journey from Canada. In case you even donate 10% of it to educate a child in your village or buy books & blackboard for the village school, I am sure Tiruppathi Balaji will be much happier” I said.

Whatever it was, they went to Tiruppathi, shaved off their heads and returned to Canada.

In Canada, a few of our friends working as nurses have shown me ‘Thank You’ cards dropped off by patients or their relatives, appreciating their services.  There would also be many offering prayers, poojas and their hair to the Gods instead.

God executed a ‘miracle’ for you through some random person.  Now, you become the instrument of God in executing a ‘miracle’ for another random person and let the randomness prevail.

St Matthew 25:35-40  – For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Ultimately, what you do for the least of these brothers and sisters, would be counted and you will reap the benefits.  You may call it Karma, you may call it destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.

Coldest New Year in Canada


Mercury in Toronto region plummeted to minus 30⁰ C, with the wind-chill it felt minus 35⁰ C to minus 40⁰ C soon after Christmas of 2017.  The freezing temperatures continued through for the first week of January.  The New Year eve of 2018 was the coldest New Year’s Eve in 158 years.  Quebec recorded frigid minus 49⁰ C.  Taking Maximus out on a walk during these days was bit difficult.  We shortened our walks to about 15 minutes.  I always walked on the sidewalk which the city had cleared of snow, but Maximus – he is a Labrador Retriever from Canada – obviously he enjoyed the cold and the snow.  He preferred walking in the snow with his legs buried.

This record-breaking stretch of cold weather started when a mass of abnormally warm air moved up the western side of Canada and settled over the North Pole. That pushed a huge mass of frigid air known as The Polar Vortex southwards into Central and Eastern Canada.

A polar vortex is an upper level low-pressure area circulating around both of the Earth’s poles, an upper level feature in the troposphere and extend into the stratosphere.  It may not be felt directly on the Earth’s surface.  It acts as a heat pump that moves extra energy from the tropics towards the poles and keeps the Earth’s temperatures in balance.  Polar Vortex weaken in the summer and pick up strength in the winter.

Due to the rotation of the Earth, this circulation is counter-clockwise in the North Pole and clockwise in the South Pole.  The cold air gets locked into the Polar Vortex and can be scientifically explained by Coriolis/ Magnus effect.  This could well be added to the reason why the spin bowlers of the Indian cricket team (Northern Hemisphere) are ineffective in Australia and South Africa (Southern Hemisphere) and vice-versa.


The outer edges of the Polar Vortex – a low pressure conveyor belt like circulation above 60⁰ Latitude – ensures that the cold air remain in the polar regions, like water being held in a dam.  When the warm air from the equatorial region moves towards the poles, the dam like edges weaken at places.  This results in the Polar Vortex getting elongated towards the equator like a sheet of dough or chewing gum being pulled.  This winter, the elongation of the Polar Vortex covered Central and Eastern Canada, going down south to touch Florida in US.  As this elongation of Polar Vortex escaped Western Canada and Alaska, while Toronto was freezing, Alaska – much North of Toronto – enjoyed warm weather with mercury at plus 5⁰ C, about 20⁰ C above the average winter temperature.

The outer edge of the Northern Polar Vortex is like a conveyor belt moving counter-clockwise.  It is at a much lower pressure and when it collides with warmer air and when the pressure rapidly drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.  This causes ‘Weather Bomb’ or ‘Bombogenesis’.

The effect of Polar Vortex this time ended with a Weather Bomb, resulting in a storm that dumped snow on the Southeast of Canada and US and delivered near hurricane-force blistering winds, with record-breaking cold.  Florida in the sunny south also experienced snow this winter due to this Weather Bomb.


Did Niagara Falls freeze this winter due to Polar Vortex?  The Niagara was not frozen and probably never will.  It may appear to a viewer that  parts of Niagara Falls are frozen.  It is due to the miniature glaciers and long icicles forming around the mouth of the falls, but water continued to flow beneath the ice.

The mistaken frozen appearance could also be due to increased diversion of water, a  kilometer away from the falls, through tunnels and canals for hydro-electric purposes.  In winters about 75% of water flow is diverted and in summers about 50%, obviously to give a better view to the tourists.  With less water going over the falls, there is more scope for ice build up, giving the appearance of frozen falls.

The only instance when Niagara Falls nearly froze occurred in March 1848 when a preponderance of ice above the falls reduced the flow of water to a trickle.  However, there are lots of images floating over the internet claiming to show Niagara falls in a frozen state.

Power Companies have been generating hydro-electric power from the Niagara River since the 1880’s.  The ice floating on the river at the mouth of the tunnels reduce water flow into the turbines and may also jam the tunnels.  To avoid such a havoc,  an ‘ice boom’ – 2.7 km long, made of floating 30 feet long steel pontoons – is  installed each fall since 1964 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.


During the winter season, the ice breaking boats work at breaking ice formations in the river that may hinder the flow of water into the hydro water intakes along the American and Canadian shoreline.  The boats are operated by the power generation companies.

To read my Blog Post  about the Niagara Gorge, Please Click Here.

By Monday, January 8, 2018, the Polar Vortex receded bringing in above seasonal temperature in Toronto region with a forecast of about plus 8⁰C.  This warming up melted the ice and the cold evening temperatures froze this water on the roads and sidewalks causing ‘Black Ice’, making it slippery.  As I was walking Maximus, a lady carrying a large bag slipped and fell as she got on to the sidewalk.  I helped her to get up and offered to carry her bag and escort her to her apartment building entrance.  I tied Maximus to fire hydrant and then escorted the lady while I carried her bag.  At the entrance to her apartment where I bid bye to her, she said “Thanks a ton, you really saved my day, but tell me why you helped me.”  I replied “I only helped a fellow human.  Like Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus despite not knowing who Jesus was, I have done it for you.  Take care and Good Night.”

Projecting Hard Military Power the Soft Way in Indian Context

As per the US Department of Defense (2013) Dictionary of Military Terms, Power Projection is a term used to refer to the capacity of a state to apply all or some of its elements of national power – political, economic, informational, or military – to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces in and from dispersed locations to respond to crises, to contribute to deterrence, and to enhance regional stability.

Projection of Hard Military Power paid dividends up to the end of old War era.  With the breakup of USSR and change in the world order, even the US military was not successful in projecting Hard Military Power as was seen in Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Soft Power Projection can be defined as ability of a state to project its influence other than through military combat into an area that may serve as an effective diplomatic lever, influencing the decision-making process and acting as a potential deterrent on other states’ behavior.  Deployment of various countries’ militaries during the humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is one of the best examples.

Hard Power facilitates India’s use of military, economic and political means to influence other States; Soft Power has, through our cultural or ideological means, the ability to indirectly influence the behaviour of other States. ‘Soft Power’ also enables us to distinguish the subtle effects of our culture, values, societal ideas, developmental assistance programs and other forms of influence on the behaviour of other States, from the more direct coercive measures such as, military action or economic incentives or sanctions. A potent form of soft power is ‘intellectual power’, which entails ‘the knowledge and insight of the populace and their leaders’. The strength of India’s soft power has been the power of assimilation. India’s unique ability to embrace different cultures and the philosophy of tolerance and peaceful co-existence continues to be a source of strength for our Nation and a shining example to the world community. Smart Power would be our evaluative ability to combine Hard and Soft Power resources into effective strategies.

The Indian Armed Forces have been in the lead in projecting the nation’s Hard Power the soft way.  The political leadership, bureaucracy and media have not played up these achievements many a times, resulting in the soft power projection not achieving its full potential.

Humanitarian Aid.           Indian Armed Forces have an enviable track record in providing humanitarian aid whenever needed, within the country and also in the neighbouring countries, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  In many cases, the armed forces moved its troops and resources, without awaiting a formal request from the civil administration or from the higher headquarters.

In the aftermath of the Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean countries including India, the Indian Armed Forces provided assistance to Sri Lanka and Maldives and was able to reach out to Indonesia as well.  India provided humanitarian aid in the aftermath of earthquake that devastated Pakistan Occuppied Kashmir in 2005 providing relief materials of medicines, blankets, and food packets.  When a severe-cyclonic storm, Nargis, struck Myanmar in 2008, the Indian Air Force and Navy transported more than 100 tonnes of relief material.  The 2015 Nepal saw the Indian Army and Air Force commence relief operations on the first day itself, which was scaled up in the subsequent days.

Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations.              The Indian Air Force has come out with flying colours in the evacuation of Indian citizens and people from other countries from a third country when they were endangered by war or civil unrest (Operation Rahat in April 2015, Yemen).  During the evacuation operations during the Yemen crisis of 2015, the Indian Air Force took a lead in rescuing Indian citizens as well as foreigners trapped in Yemen, evacuating more than 550 foreigners from 32 countries, including a dozen Americans and three Pakistanis.

The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait post Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait by Air India, the national carrier, with support of the Indian Air Force finds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner.  They evacuated 175,000 people.  This stands out as a prime example of the nation’s Hard Power, projected the soft way in a foreign land. The Indian Armed Forces repeated this act in Iraq (2003), Lebanon (2006) which included Sri Lankan and Nepalese nationals, Libya (2011), Nepal (after the 2015 earthquake- Indian and foreign nationals) and South Sudan (2016).

United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping.  A state that wants to project itself in the international arena as a major power needs to have strong presence in UN Peacekeeping efforts.  Indian Armed Forces have had a fair share in the UN’s commitments and always accredited themselves with their great deeds. India is the largest cumulative troop contributor, having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions over the past six decades.  India, with its demand for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC), has to prove to the world through its Peacekeeping that our demand is fully justified.  Such actions will surely ensure that India projects its hard military power the soft way, resulting in the nation having a greater say in international decision-making process.

Securing Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC).   For India, a peninsular state with a coastline of about 7500 km and with Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, it is imperative to have a powerful navy.  The Indian Navy is a three-dimensional force, capable of operating above, on and underwater, ensuring the safety and security of the Eastern sea board and its assets and India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  The oceans in Indian Navy’s area of influence has witnessed an increase in maritime terrorism and piracy coupled with illegal narcotic trade, unregulated fishing, dumping of pollutants and natural disasters.  Also, there must have been many SOS calls made by the ships and fishing boats.

In order to project hard naval power the soft way, the Indian Navy along with the Coast Guard should possess sufficient resources to mount round-the-clock, all-year-around maritime surveillance in the SLOC. Indian Navy has been an active part of the anti-piracy ops in the Gulf of Aden and in the Arabian Sea.  There are quite a few  success stories of interceptions by the Indian Navy, but they have not received adequate global publicity.  The Navy and the Coast Guard  got to be well equipped to respond to the distress calls of ships and got to pursue cases of illegal and unregulated fishing.  They got to be vigilant enough to prevent illegal dumping of pollutants in the oceans around us.

Developmental Activities.            The Indian Military has proved time and again that it can take up any task that cannot be executed by their civilian counterparts.  Run-up to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, it took seven years for a company to build a Foot Over Bridge (FOB) near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which then collapsed. The Indian Army, which was called in to salvage Delhi’s pride executed the same job in four days flat and at a fraction of the original cost.  In the aftermath of the tragedy where 23 people were killed in a stampede on a bridge at Mumbai’s Elphinstone railway station, the government has turned to the army for a new bridge.  This will help in projecting the Hard Power of the Indian Military in a soft way.

Parades and Pageants.  The Republic Day Parade at Delhi is the best example for projecting the nation’s Hard Power the soft way.  It is the culmination of synergy between all the departments of Indian Government and is telecast worldwide as a great show.  There is a need to encourage military formations in other cities and towns to facilitate the general public to view such parades/ pageants and also telecast them for wider viewership.


Military Facilities.             Most American airports have ‘Military Lounges’ and the signage for the same is placed everywhere in the airport.  The airlines board the serving soldiers even prior to the Business class passengers.  This surely projects the power of the American Military, especially to the travellers from other countries.  Many Indian railway stations have ‘Movement Control Office (MCO)’ for the military with a lounge, but is not signaged so.  Leave alone foreign travellers, even the Indian travellers are unaware of such facilities.  By doing so, it is sure to project the Hard Power.

Home Coming Videos.   The internet and social media is filled with ‘Home Coming’ videos of American soldiers.  Indian soldiers also do ‘Come Home’, but there are hardly any clips on the internet.  The same can be orchestrated well by incorporating various videographers available in Indian towns and villages and compensating them well for the clips they provide.  Many would even execute the task without charging as most Indians are devout patriots who hold their Defence Forces in high esteem.


Recognition to Soldiers, Martyrs and Veterans.   In Canada, almost every city and town has war memorials and museums.  During the innings break of baseball games, the two team captains present a signed shirt of their teams to veterans and serving soldiers.  During the cricket matches in India, a similar act will pay rich dividends in projecting Hard Military Power.


Military History
.               India has had a chequered and colourful military history, but the reality is that many Indians are unaware of it, forget about projecting it to the world.  Many European countries celebrate and recognise the service of the Indian soldiers during the World Wars in grand scale, but there is hardly any  such celebrations in India.  This year for the Armed Forces Flag Day (07 December) was observed throughout the country to honour the martyrs, veterans and the men in uniform.  The media came out with clips of the political leadership urging everyone to wear the Flag on the day, but the political leadership did not wear the Flag as seen from various news clips.  In Canada, during the week prior to the Remembrance Day (11 November), almost everyone appearing on the media are seen wearing the Red Poppy.  The English Cricket Team that played a test match at Rajkot (November 9-13, 2016) were seen wearing the Red Poppy.  Will the Indian Cricket Team ever do so?

In order to make the Indian youth aware of the great Military History, there is a need to infuse the same into the school curricula.  The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the state Commissions must include at least 5% questions from Indian Military History in their examinations.  This will ensure that the candidates study India’s Military History in detail, to a certain extent to answer the questions.

If India is to prove that it is a major Military power and also stake its claim for permanent membership in UNSC, there is a lot to be done to project its Hard Military Power.  Doing it the soft way will be cost effective and will also enthuse the nation.

 

Manspreading


During our Sainik (Military) School days (boys only) in Grade 8, I had an opportunity to play a girl’s role in a play.  Ms Sheela Murphy, our English Teacher was in charge of the event and she really decked me up to be a beautiful girl.  The photograph of me sitting down came out after a few days and Ms Murphy said “I have always been telling you to sit with your legs closed.  Ladies always do so. While on stage, men should also keep their knees as close as possible, else it becomes an eyesore.”  From that day I made efforts to ensure that whenever I sat,  my knees were together, especially with  legs visible.

Recently I read an article about ‘Manspreading’ by our friend Suresh Nellikode, which was published as a middle in the New Indian Express newspaper dated October 25, 2017.  This made me analyse and I realised that menspreading is a habit of men, whether in a public transit or in their homes or offices.  Some men take extra care to avoid manspreading while being photographed, especially in the group photos.  Sometimes it may be the fault of the cameraman to have shot the image while the man was in a manspreading position.  Ultimately, the responsibility to avoid it lies with the man being photographed.

“Manspreading”  is an act of a someone, usually a man, taking up two seats in a public space by spreading his legs.  This has been a cause of inconvenience to many, one of them could have taken a seat had the man not manspread.

Oxford Dictionary (online) describes manspreading as a practice whereby a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat.

Does man’s anatomical structure make him manspread?  Is it a natural act by a man to avoid testicular compression from his thigh muscles?  Is it  natural for a woman to sit with their knees close together and ankles crossed, but the same may be painful for a man?  Is it that God gifted women with a wider pelvis and thighbones resulting in  sitting with their knees close together as a stress-free position?  Is it the male ego that makes a man to manspread?  Is it that the parents and teachers never corrected a boy while he manspread?   These were the questions that came to my mind after reading Suresh’s middle.

New York police officers arrested two men on the charge of manspreading on the subway in May 2015, for they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders.  Now Spain’s capital city Madrid has taken a stand against manspreading, banning men from indulging in the rude leg extending move on its trains and buses..

If we want perfect, equitable commuting, why not legitimise that all able-bodied persons, both males and females,  between the age of 19 (voting/ marriageable/ drinking/ smoking) age and 30 stand while traveling on public transit?

Keeping your legs planted on the floor, with the knees a feet apart would be the most ideal way for men to sit.  Men may also lock their heels or cross their legs, but sitting with straight legs works best for most situations.  Ensure that one does not over project his genitals as monkeys and chimps are known to display their genitals to act more aggressive.  This  many a times looks grotesque, especially when one is seated on a stage or facing a camera.  While crossing legs, men often cross their left leg over their right – because …. Please click here to read my Blog and you may be able to reason it out.

Are we going to finish at manspreading? Are there more issues that the women are concerned about men’s behaviour?   ‘Manslamming’ is one feminine concern when men do not move out of the way of women on the sidewalk fast enough to give them way.  Then is ‘manterupting’ where the women are shouted down by men at conferences/ meetings, shopping malls, etc.  Then comes ‘Mansplaining’ where the women describe men who infringe on their feelings of narcissistic superiority; and the list will go on, adding new terms in times to come.

Tourniquet


On returning from his orientation programme from the city’s swimming pool, where he works as the Swimming Instructor and Life-Guard, I asked our son Nikhil, “What’s new this time?”  The Swimming Instructors have to undergo an orientation programme prior to commencement of any teaching session –  a ritual once in three months.  They are assessed for their swimming ability and life saving techniques.  The incidents that occurred during the quarter in all the swimming pools are discussed in detail and the correct methodology to deal with them are brought out.  Any changes to the existing protocols of First-Aid, CPR, Child Psychology, etc are also covered during this programme.

“The age old tourniquet is back in” was his reply.

His reply made me dwell back into my memory of the Cadet days at the National Defence Academy (NDA) where the tourniquet and a blade adorned our Field Service (FS) Cap.  The tourniquet was in fact two pencils, four inches long, wound neatly by a shoelace.  The ends of the shoelace were neatly tied on to the two holes on the left side of the FS Cap.  Luckily never heard of anyone untying the knot and using it during the Academy days.

On commissioning as a Second Lieutenant, I still carried the blade and the tourniquet as an integral part of my FS Cap.  The blade was the first to go as the Indian Army found that the blade had a great chance of infecting the wound rather than saving a person from a snake bite.

By the late Eighties, Indian Army recommended doing away with tourniquets.  The tourniquet meant to stop circulation of blood through the limb where a poisonous snake might have bitten was found to be more damaging than allowing the poison to spread across the victim’s body. In case a limb that had a tourniquet applied for hours, with no blood or lymph flow, caused a huge buildup of toxins in the limb.  When the tourniquet was released, all those toxins spread into the victim’s entire body.

There simple tourniquets was employed as an effective means during many wars to stop serious bleeding wounds.  It saved many a lives that would have been lost due to blood loss.  The tourniquet, in case applied over a prolonged period of over two hours, may damage tissues due to a loss of circulation.  This may result in permanent nerve injury, muscle injury, vascular injury, etc.

Periodic loosening of a tourniquet in an attempt to reduce tissue damage may often lead to blood loss and death.  Further, the victim suffers immense pain when a tourniquet is applied and may need heavy dose of pain killers.  For the tourniquets to be effective, the person applying the tourniquets must be well trained and must be aware as to what he is doing, how to do it and why.

In today’s world where the threat of a militant attack, industrial accidents, natural disasters, man-made disasters like stampedes, etc may result in mass civilian causalities with serious limb injuries.  The first responders and medical aid, even if available, may not be sufficient enough to treat all casualties.  Hence there is an urgent need for all responsible citizens to be trained in First-Aid and in use of tourniquets.  A casualty with multiple injuries, including serious bleeding limb injuries may be effectively managed by the immediate application of a tourniquet as a temporary measure to stop bleeding.


In most cases there is a need to improvise a tourniquet.  One must use a broad band to provide adequate compression.  A shoelace is a last resort, being thin, may not provide adequate compression.  The tourniquet must be applied just above the injury. onto bare skin to prevent slipping.

The first tourniquet may be applied ‘high and tight’ over clothing until a more considered assessment and reapplication may be considered.  The tourniquet should be tightened until bleeding stops.  Insert something rigid under the tourniquet and next to the knot to keep the tourniquet taught.  In case it is ineffective, the tourniquet should be tightened or re-positioned.  One may even consider applying a second tourniquet above the first if required.  Always write the Time and Date on the tourniquet.

Releasing the tourniquet once the casualty has been stabilised will, theoretically, avoid or limit the complications of prolonged use of a tourniquet.  Release the tourniquet, observing the wound and If bleeding continues, tighten the tourniquet until bleeding stops.

The tourniquet should remain in place if :-

  • The transit time to medical care is less than one hour.
  • The casualty has other life threatening injuries.
  • The casualty has unstable vital signs.

Tourniquets are an effective method of controlling serious bleeding which may not otherwise be controlled by simple measures but only if applied effectively.  The greatest risks of serious complications are due to inappropriate or incorrect application of tourniquets, not the tourniquet itself.


Sgt Dakota Oklesson, senior line medic with Apache Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, helps an Indian Army soldier apply a tourniquet during their first day of joint training for Yudh Abhyas 2010 Nov 1 at the Battle Command Training Center and Education Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

 

Why Do We Wear a Poppy Today?


On November 10, 2017, our friend’s daughter, Ann Maria, a Grade 6 student, invited me to her school to attend the Remembrance Day Memorial Service. On reaching the school’s auditorium, I was greeted by Ann’s teacher and said she was expecting me as Ann had spoken to her about me coming.

All the students of the school and staff were present and it was a solemn ceremony, paying tribute to all the soldiers, veterans and their families. The theme was to Remember the Soldiers and Veterans and also who laid down their lives to bring peace to Canada. The children enacted various scene from the lives of soldiers and read passages from bible and also a few lines remembering the soldiers.

The most inspiring and heart touching moment for me was the recitation of the poem “Why Wear A Poppy?” by Don Crawford. He turned this poem, handwritten in pencil and on two sheets of foolscap, in to The Perth Courier one morning in the early 1960’s, which was printed a few days later. Since then, this poem has appeared in a multitude of weekly newspapers and magazines, including Legion Magazine in Canada, and foreign publications like Australia’s Anzac Appeal and Scotland’s Claymore magazine.


Such events at schools are sure to develop the students into good citizens and also instil respect in them for the soldiers and their sacrifices to ensure peace and prosperity in Canada

Fishing @ PEI


In the summer of 2010, we decided to travel to the Eastern most province of Canada, the Prince Edward Islands (PEI).

Savanna Style Location Map of Prince Edward Island
PEI is located close to the Eastern Canadian coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The Confederation Bridge links Prince Edward Island with mainland Canada. The 12.9-kilometre bridge opened on 31 May 1997. One can also reach the island on a ferry. There is no toll on the bridge or charges on the ferry while entering PEI, but on leaving one got to pay.

The island is named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria. The Island is 224 km long and from 6 to 64 km wide with a total area of 5,660 square km. No place in the province is more than 16 km from the sea and the highest point is 152 metres or 466 feet above sea level.

Classic Style Map of Prince Edward Island
The island has three counties: Prince, Queens and Kings. The Island is formed from sedimentary bed rock of soft, red sandstone which produces the rich, red soil. The redness of the soil is due to the high iron-oxide (rust) content.


Agriculture remains the dominant industry, especially potato farming in the red soil. The province currently accounts for a quarter of Canada’s total potato production. In the PEI, fishing, particularly lobster fishing as well as oyster fishing and mussel farming, is second to farming as an occupation and is a highly regulated industry.


The lobsters are fished using a lobster trap. Lobster traps are constructed of wire and wood and an opening permits the lobster to enter a tunnel of netting. The size of the opening depends upon the size of the lobster to be caught. The majority of the newer traps consist of a plastic-coated metal frame.  Traps are usually constructed in two parts, called the ‘kitchen’, where there is bait, and exits into the ‘parlour’, where the lobster is trapped from escape.

During fishing season, bait fish is placed inside the trap, and the traps are dropped onto the sea floor. A long rope is attached to each trap, at the end of which is a plastic or Styrofoam buoy that bears the owner’s license number and is identified by their colour coding. The traps are checked every day by the fisherman and re-baited if necessary.

The activity that really enthused us was the lobster and crab fishing tour, operated by Captain Mark Jerkins and assisted by his younger brother Codi. Captain Mark runs this tour in July and August at the end of the fishing season. During the tour we experienced what the lobster fisher folk undergo. It involved locating a buoy, hauling a trap and banding a claw of the lobsters. The claws are banded to ensure that the lobsters do not fight with each other and lose their claws. Watch how Cody holds the lobster’s claws in the image. Outside water, if not handled properly, these claws will fall-off as they are really heavy.


As per Mark, this Lobster is about 40 yrs old.


Everyone took a turn at the boat’s wheel and learned how to use modern technologies to fish for lobster. Captain Mark also shared his personal experiences while fishing for lobster and also how this fourth generation lobster fishing family makes their living on the water. At the end of the tour we were treated to a sumptuous dinner of lobsters and crabs.


More than 1,200 lobster fishers set out for these waters to haul in lobsters during the first fishing season in PEI that runs from April 30 to June 30 each year. Setting Day marks the start of the eight-week lobster fishing season. The annual event starts at 4:45 am when the fishing communities across the island come out to cheer on their local fishing fleets as they head out to the sea. The first lobster boat that leaves the wharf is that of the most veteran fisher and his crew and other boats follow and the wharf roars with the sounds of engines, cheers and silent prayers. Some harbours invite local clergy to bless the boats and crews during this annual spring rite.

PEI’s lobster industry strongly believes in sustainability and would never jeopardize their rich resources for short term gains. Its fishery is strong because of the aggressive and sustainable management strategies implemented throughout its history. The Canada government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) sets minimum legal sizes to sustain the lobster fishery and fines fishermen caught with smaller lobsters on their boats.

The smaller lobsters called the ‘Canners’ are unique to the PEI, where the warmer temperatures cause the lobsters to mature quickly. These small lobsters were canned in the earlier days and so they got their name. Minimum size of ‘Canners’ is now set to 72 mm and they weigh between 250 and 375 grams. This is where the marine-scientific community believes the population is sustainable, as 50% of female lobsters in PEI’s waters would have reproduced at least once by the time they reach this size. In other regions, the minimum legal size is 81 mm. The waters are colder there and it takes longer for the lobsters to mature – when they do, they are much bigger. The ‘Market’ lobsters are about 81 mm and weigh more than a pound. They are used in the restaurants and are exported live to the United States.


The Island’s 27 crab fishermen are engaged in the trade.  Their allotted annual quota for PEI fishermen is about 600 tons which include snow crab, rock crab and spider crab.


In PEI, during a  tuna fishing season (mid July to mid October), each licence is allotted  one tuna and the captain owns that fish, to conserve Bluefin tuna population. According to Captain Mark, he stays in the high-seas until a Bluefin Tuna  weighing about 400 kg is caught.  Tunas are fished using ‘tended line’ method where a baited hook is attached on a line, connected to a powerful motor on the boat to reel in the catch.  At the hook end Captain Mark ties a kite which flutters in the air and goes down once the fish bites the bait.  The line is now pulled in and if the tuna is not large enough, is released and the operation is repeated.


95 %of the Bluefin Tuna is exported to Japan. A fish can be caught on a Monday, trucked to Halifax on Tuesday and arrive by plane in Tokyo on Thursday.  A fish that fetches about $25,000 at the PEI Wharf may fetch half a million dollars in the Tokyo’s fish market auction.

The fishing industry being regulated stipulates that there is a need for a licence to fish lobsters. The licenses are passed on from generation to generation and it is not that easy to get a new license as the DFO has put a cap on it. With each licence comes stipulations regarding the harvesting season dates, area they can set their traps, the number of traps permitted, the minimum and the maximum size of the lobsters that can be caught. Any violation of the stipulations will lead to hefty fines and also suspension of the license for three days. There have been hardly any violations reported as a three day suspension during a sixty day harvesting season will prove to be big loss.

The fishing community along with the DFO officials and the environmentalist have succeeded in maintaining the equilibrium of the fragile eco-system and also ensure optimum market value for their catches.

 

From Bog to Bottle – Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh


On October 24, 2017, we travelled to Bala in Muskoka Region of Ontario to visit Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh. Johnston and his wife, Wendy Hogarth, now run the oldest commercial cranberry farm in Ontario. The farm was founded in 1950 by Johnston’s father, Orville, and his wife June.

The early settlers from Europe called it ‘crane berry’ as the shape of the blossom resembles the head of a crane. Over time, they dropped the ‘e’ and the fruit came to be called cranberry. Captain Henry Hall was the first to successfully cultivate cranberries with the first documented harvest occurring in 1816 in Dennis, Massachusetts, USA. William MacNeil planted Canada’s first commercial cranberry farm in Nova Scotia in 1870.

Cranberry is a native fruit of Canada. The vines on which the cranberry grows is very hardy and can easily survive a Canadian winter. The fruit is packed with antioxidants and other healthy plant chemicals. Cranberry got a boost in the early 1990s when scientists at Harvard University found that drinking cranberry juice was a natural way of preventing and relieving Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). Then came research that said cranberries helped to keep the arteries healthy, are a good source of vitamin C and may even help to prevent cancer. This resulted in most retail grocery stores selling cranberry and various other cranberry related products like juices, crasins (dried cranberries), sauces, capsules, etc.


The cranberry vines grow in bogs. These bogs evolved from deposits left by the glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. These deposits were left in low lying areas lined with clay. The clay prevents materials from leaching into the groundwater. As the glaciers receded after the ice age, they deposited peat, sand and moss in these low lying areas, creating a marshy land.


Cranberries thrive best in these bogs, which consist of alternating layers of sand, peat, gravel and clay. Cranberry vines produce horizontal stems called runners that may grow up to 2 meters long and spread profusely over the bog’s floor. The runners spread along the ground and would rise only a foot above. The fruit grows at the lower side of the runners and hence picking it is a difficult job. Cranberry growing season extends from April to October. Thus it is often the last of the fruits to be harvested in Ontario.


Many people believe that cranberries are grown in water. The berries are mostly depicted floating on top of the water during harvest. The vines flower in early spring, but the chill of the Canadian Spring may damage them. To prevent this damage, the bogs are flooded to ensure that the blooms and the tender buds are not exposed to the cold. The vines need to be irrigated all through their growing season.


There is an extensive network of pumps and pipelines, coupled with water reservoirs controlled with floodgates all through the farm for irrigation. Most of the irrigation and flooding is carried out from these reservoirs with the water flowing down due to gravity.


Come harvest time in the Fall and the bogs are flooded again to facilitate picking. The cranberry fruit has four air pockets and hence they float in water. Once the bogs are flooded with about 2 feet of water, the vines holding the cranberry fruits rise up.


A water reel picker now rakes the fruits off the vines. The cranberry fruits float up on the water surface as the picker moves ahead. This method ensures that the vines are not damaged while picking.


The red berries floating on top of the water are swept together with the help of a floating hosepipe and pumped into trucks to be taken to the packing plant for further processing.


The truck carrying the cranberries from the bogs empty them into a hopper. From here begins the packing journey of the cranberries. The cranberries now travel through a conveyer belt up to the Vibrating Table of the Air-Cleaner. The table has holes, adequate enough to let the cranberries pass through. The vines are collected here. From this table, the cranberries fall through a wind tunnel. The wind clears all the leaves.


The cranberries again travel up a conveyer belt to the Dryer. The dryers houses a huge fan which blows cold air on to the cranberries. As the cranberries move from the top step to the bottom one, the forced cold air dries surface moisture off the fruits. This process last about one hour.


The dried fruit is delivered to fresh fruit receiving stations where it is graded and screened based on color and ability to bounce. These berries bounce because they have four air-pockets in them. An early cranberry grower named John Webb had a wooden leg – and he couldn’t carry his cranberries down the stairs. So apparently he dropped them instead. The story goes that “He soon noticed that the firmest berries bounced to the bottom but the rotten ones stayed on the steps.”

Most of the cranberries are red, but there are white ones too. They are surely ripe ones. They are white because they did not get enough exposure to sunlight. The anthocyanin (red pigment) that gives red colour to these berries have not come out to the surface. Cooking or freezing these white cranberries will turn them Red. At the Johnston’s farm, they convert these white cranberries into their speciality product – White Cranberry Wine. It has become very popular and are an immediate sellout.


The bogs are also flooded in winter to form a protective layer of ice over the vines. Sand is then placed on the ice, where it falls to the bog floor in spring, allowing the vines’ long runners to set roots. At the Johnston’s farm, they convert the bogs into a 10 km skiing and skating trail that wind around and through the 350 acre farm.

The Johnstons run a Shop at their farm, open all year around. The shop sells fresh cranberries during harvest season and cranberry products like wines, crasins, jams, jellies, preserves etc through the year. The products are hand made by Mrs June Johnston and is sold as ‘Mrs J’s Preserves’. Mrs Johnston also and wrote a cookbook and is also available in the store.


The farm also offers a tour of the farm aptly named ‘ Bog to Bottle Tour’. The tour commenced with a briefing about cranberry, its history, how the Johnston’s farm was established etc. Then we moved to the bogs to see how cranberry is grown and harvested. the tour gave many interesting insight into cranberry and its cultivation.


The tour ended at the shop with wine tasting. We tasted their famous Cranberry Wine, Blueberry Wine, Red Maple Dessert Wine and also their signature White Cranberry Wine. At the end we picked up a few bottles of wine to be taken home.


As we bid goodbye to the Johnstons Farm, rain clouds had formed up in the sky. As we drove through the countryside, a huge rainbow appeared in the horizon. Might be wishing us all the luck for our next journey.

Butterfly Conservatory @ Niagara Falls

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When Air Vice Marshal TD Joseph (Joe) and Sophie Joseph visited us in May 2016, how could we miss a trip to the Niagara Falls.   Niagara Region has much more to offer, other than the falls, like Niagara Gorge, Welland Canal, and Wine Country.  (Please click on each one to read about them on my earlier Blog Posts).

The place, a nature lover should not miss is the Butterfly Conservatory, filled with beautiful free flying butterflies, a tropical wonderland located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden. It really is a near ethereal experience.

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Whenever I see butterflies, my mind races back to the nostalgic memories of our childhood in Kerala, India.  Kerala is home to more than 500 birds, 330 butterfly species from the largest butterfly in India, Birdwing, with a wingspan of about 25 cm to the smallest, the Grass Jewel with only 2 cm.  It is also home to 68 species of dragonflies –   the most common types being Malabar Torrent Dart, Yellow Bush Dart, Pied Reed Tail, and the Long-legged Clubtail.  Many writers and poets were fascinated and inspired by these romantic creatures that they became subjects of some great contributions to Indian literature.

As kids, we enjoyed the sight of butterflies and dragonflies fluttering around, especially after the monsoons (June to August) and during the Onam Festival (end August / early September), when the flowers would be in full bloom.  We chased and caught a few of them.  We used to catch these little beauties and tie a small thread to their tails so as to control them and make them take short flights.

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We would prompt the dragonfly in our captivity to pick up small pebbles. We increased the size of the stones until the dragonfly could lift no more.  This sadistic game ended with the death of the dragonfly, when it severed its head from its torso.

Advent of rubber cultivation and extensive use of pesticides in Kerala for over three decades have driven these beautiful creations of God from our farmlands.

Thumbi Thullal (Dance of Dragonfly) is a dance performed by women of Kerala as a part of Onam celebrations.  About six to seven women sit in a circle and the lead performer (called Thumbi meaning Dragonfly) sits in the middle of the circle. The lead performer sings melodious fast paced songs and other performers clap their hands and sway to the melody.  Gradually the tempo of the song increases and the lead performer brushes the floor with her hair as if she is possessed by a spirit.  It usually ends with the lead performer fainting or playacting so.

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Back from nostalgia. At the commencement of the Niagara Gorge, about 10 km from the spectacular falls is the Butterfly Conservatory.  This glass-enclosed conservatory is home to over 2000 butterflies.  This state of the art facility is designed to have a tropical environment within a Canadian climate characterised by both warm and cold weather.  The mechanical and electrical systems maintain optimum environmental conditions for the butterflies and plants while accommodating comfort needs for its visitors.

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Around 45 different species of butterflies can be found fluttering in this rainforest setting spread over 11,000 square feet. The exact number of butterflies and species fluctuate on a day to day basis.  The butterfly conservatory accommodates as much as 300 visitors per hour.

The self-guided walking tour of the Butterfly Conservatory begins with a short, informative video presentation that is close captioned for the hearing impaired.  After this, one is allowed to explore the area and spot different species of butterflies as they fly all around you. The setting has a lovely pond, waterfall and a series of meandering pathways amidst several tropical plants with lovely flowers.

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The jungle vegetation and delightful fluttering of hundreds of beautiful butterflies are unusual and a very uplifting experience.  Everywhere there are exquisite butterflies floating in the warm, moist air or spreading their iridescent wings on leaves and flowers.  One can even catch them mating.

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It is a great place to see beautiful butterflies up close but you are not allowed to touch them, because if you touch their wings they get damaged and they cannot fly anymore and may die.  One may photograph them, but surely they need to be kept out of harm’s way.

The Conservatory currently hosts species such as Monarchs, Swallowtails, Owls, Mosaics, Red Lacewings, Blue Morphos and Small Postmans. The green house setting also hosts goldfish, turtles, beetles, toads and Eurasian quails to help regulate insect population.

The best part about the tour is that you can actually get the butterflies to land on you. Some might be even willing to rest on your outstretched hand. Visitors are encouraged to wear bright clothes, wear perfume or cologne and move slowly if they wish to have butterflies land on them.

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Plates filled with fruits are kept at certain places to attract butterflies who like to feed on these and you can watch them doing so.

Most of the butterflies have been imported from farms in tropical countries while some have been raised in a greenhouse behind the conservatory.  The tour is not only entertaining but also educative.  One can watch the metamorphosis process and the life cycle of a butterfly in real time.  One can also observe the butterflies come out of their cocoon, dry their wings and take their first flight.

Adjacent to the Butterfly Conservatory is the Floral Clock.  This unique and stunning display is a very popular stop and is photographed almost as often as the Falls.  The planted face is maintained by the Niagara Parks horticulture staff, while the mechanism is kept in working order by Ontario Hydro, the originally builders of the clock.

The Floral Clock is 40 feet wide, with a planted area 38 feet wide, making it one of the largest such clocks in the world.  The Tower at the back of the clock, houses Westminster chimes that chime at each quarter of an hour.  There is a 10-feet wide water garden that curves 85 feet around the base of the timepiece.

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If you are lucky you may come across the Niagara Parks Commission’s gardeners crawling along the special aluminium ladder they lay across the face of the clock, in order to plant and tend the clock face. Designs are created a year in advance to allow for the proper preparations. Tin dividers are built and installed to prevent soil slippage caused by the slope of the face of the clock. The clock is stopped during the planting process.

The floral design is changed twice each year.  Spring designs are made up with Tulips, Forget-Me-Nots or similar plants, therefore, do not last long.  It is followed by Violas planted in late Spring to provide a colourful design.  From the latter part of May, traditional carpet bedding material is used until frost occurs. The summer designs in general are made up of approximately 24,000 carpet plants whose foliage rather than their blooms provide the necessary contrasting colors. Flowering plants are not suitable for summer planting because the plants that are used must be kept trimmed to form relatively sharp contrasting patterns and not be allowed to grow up and interfere with the movement of the hands. For this reason reddish, green and yellow Alternanthera and Santolina form the background and markings of the various dial designs from year-to-year.   California Golden Privet and Blue Festuca Grass may be used for contrast. In winter, the summer design is perpetuated by using rock chips of various colours.

Anyone planning a visit to the Niagara Falls on the Canadian side must include these little wonderful sites in their itinerary.  Always remember that the falls are better viewed from the Canadian side as one can hardly see it from the US side.  So, always obtain a Canadian Visa in case you are visiting the Niagara Falls.

Special Aircraft for the Indian Cricket Team

During our recent trip to Alaska, we flew from Toronto to Vancouver.  We boarded the early morning Air Canada flight from Toronto.  The flight duration was of about five hours, but the clock only moved by two hours because the clock had to be set back by three hours as the time zone of Vancouver is three hours behind Toronto.

The five hours flight was made more comfortable than the regular one as the aircraft, an Airbus 319 variant deployed was the special charter plane used to fly various teams of the National Hockey League (NHL).  The aircraft had only 58 seats, that too all First Class, with all the accessories like comforters, extra legroom, LCD screens, and a private jet-like experience.  Thank you Air Canada.  They neither charge us any premium nor extra for the additional comfort and services rendered on our Economy Class ticket.

Former India cricket captain Kapil Dev has suggested the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to buy an airplane for the Indian cricket team in order to reduce travel time and resulting fatigue in an already busy schedule. He had made a similar suggestion to the BCCI a few years ago too.  With the T20 Indian Premier League (IPL) also going great guns, BCCI is surely making good money.  By owning a plane, could be in partnership with any of the leading carriers, it is sure to save a lot of time and make life easier for Team India and also for various IPL teams.

In the middle of the aircraft were four seats on either side with a large table.  Surely, it must be for the team management, the captain, the coach, the physio to hold any meetings in flight to work out strategy for the next game or to evaluate the team’s performance in their previous game.

With a busy schedule ahead, both at home and at international locations, Team India is in for spending a lot of time in air.  The effect of jetlag travelling across the globe takes a fair share of energy that too sitting in a cramped position, especially after playing a physically and mentally tiring match.  Why, even the practice sessions of today takes the toll.

It could also be feasible for various IPL teams to own their own aircrafts in collaboration with various domestic carriers.  The aircraft could be used on the domestic circuit when the IPL is not in session.  It will surely be a great draw with the cricket crazy Indian public, to be sitting on a seat usually occupied by their cricketing hero.  Obviously, such seats will go at a premium.  The aircraft can also be chartered for corporate events, tourism packages, pilgrimage and also for weddings.

It would not only generate extra mullah for the airline, but would also help in with their publicity.

Kapil Dev’s suggestion must be taken up by BCCI  and all the IPL franchisees, at least to make  the players enjoy a better and comfortable flight in future.

To Sir Without Love

‘Sir’ is a term for addressing males who have been given certain honours or titles (such as knights and baronets) in Commonwealth Countries and is strictly governed by law and custom. The term is also commonly used as a respectful way to address a commissioned military officer – surely not civilians. Equivalent term in the feminine gender would be ‘madam’ and a young woman, girl, or unmarried woman may be addressed ‘miss’. A knighted woman or baronetess is a ‘Dame’ and a ‘Lady’ would be the wife of a knight or baronet.

In Kottayam, Kerala, there is a girls’ school called Baker Memorial Girls High School. The school was established by Amelia Dorothea Baker (1820-1904) of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Miss Baker married John Johnson, another CMS missionary, who passed away in 1846. Miss Baker remained in-charge of the school in Kottayam till 1855. Her two sisters married CMS missionaries and three daughters of her brother Henry Baker Jr became teachers at the very same school. (Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, edited by Gerald H Anderson, Page 336)

The school today stands as a memorial to celebrate the efforts of the three generations of missionaries who dedicated their lives for the empowerment of the women of Kottayam through education.  Common folk of Kottayam until my student days called it as Miss Baker School. Remember, it was during the British Raj and everyone addressed the founder headmistress of the school, very respectfully, as ‘Miss Baker’. Today, could any student in the very same school address their teacher ‘Miss Anita?’ I have often heard them addressing their teacher as Anita Miss (I could never make out as to what Miss Anita ‘missed’!)

On joining Sainik School, Amaravathi Nagar, Tamil Nadu in Grade 5 in 1971, our first Class-Master was Mr MJ Raman, our Mathematics teacher. We were about 25 of us from Kerala and only one could understand English and the rest 24 of us knew only Malayalam. In the first class Mr Raman issued us all the books, stationary, etc and briefed us in English and surely I did not get any of what he said.

We then had English class by Mr KG Warrier. He asked us something like “Who asked you to do it?” in his Oxford accent and the boy who knew a bit of English promptly replied “Raman Sir told us to do it.” Mr Warrier now said “I know that Dr CV Raman was knighted, but did not know that Mr MJ Raman was also knighted. You all will address your teachers as ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss’ followed by their surnames.” Those words were imprinted on our young minds and through all these decades until now, we have always revered our teachers but invariably addressed them as ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss’, orally and in writing. Culturally, in Kerala as well as the rest of India, these modes of address have undergone a ‘mutation’. Today, it would be sacrilege for a college student to address his professor as ‘Mister Singh’

Please Click Here to read Blog-Posts about our teachers at Sainik School Amatavathi Nagar https://rejinces.net/category/sainik-school/

In Canadian high schools, students mostly address their teachers as ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss’ followed by their surnames. In universities, some professors during their introduction class would specify their requirement. Some want to be addressed in the traditional manner and many with their first names or even shortened first names.

While interacting with an Indian immigrant teacher in Canada, he said he felt uncomfortable when the students addressed him as ‘Mr George.’ He had taught in a college in India for over two decades and everyone addressed his as ‘Sir’ and he felt that the Canadian students are disrespecting their teachers by not addressing them as ‘Sir.’

Addressing male teachers as ‘Sir’ and all females irrespective of marital status as ‘Miss’ shows a massive status disparity and sexism of previous years. According to Times Educational Supplement, ‘Sir’ was first used in Sixteenth Century classrooms when male teachers of a lower social standing were attempting to reinforce their authority among largely upper-class boys. ‘Miss’ (surely not anywhere near the status of ‘Sir’) is largely a Victorian era creation when women were pressurised to give up work after they married, with a number of schools only hiring single female teachers.

In the Dutch education system, children address teachers by their first name, using ‘juf’ or ‘juffrouw’ as a title for a female and ‘meester’ for a male teacher. Australians address their teachers as Mr/Mrs/Ms and surname. Sometimes if a teacher has a long or difficult-to-pronounce name, it is shortened to Mr PK, etc.

In Finland, it’s first names or even nick-names with teachers, no titles or surnames. The whole society there is very informal. French kids use the terms ‘maîtresse’ and ‘maître’ for female and male teachers respectively, meaning simply ‘teacher’. German students address teachers by using ‘Herr/Frau’ and surname, using ‘Sie’ as the polite form (Herr Schmidt, Koennen Sie…).

How do you wish to address your teachers? How do you wish your children addressed their teachers?

York-Durham Heritage Railway

On October 1, 2016, we embarked on the York-Durham Heritage Railway train on a trip around the city of Uxbridge, about an hour’s drive from Toronto.  The York-Durham Heritage Railway trains operate on the original Toronto & Nipissing (T&N) rail line, built in the late 1860’s. This line was built to allow its owner, William Gooderham, a distiller from Toronto, to carry grain to his distillery as well as lumber.

On March 4th, 1868, the Company was chartered and construction began the following year. As it was advantageous at that time to have the rail line pass through any town, many paid handsomely for the privilege. Markham raised over $4,000 in one evening, and Unionville made a successful last minute effort to have the line rerouted after it bought $500 worth of shares. The town of Uxbridge was chosen for the site for the railway’s shops.

We  reached the Uxbridge station, with its distinctive “Witches Hat” roof, owned and maintained by the Township of Uxbridge for the heritage journey. Uxbridge is situated in a beautiful valley on the northern slope of the Oak Ridges Moraine, about 64km northeast of Toronto, Ontario.  The York-Durham Heritage Railway reopened the line between Uxbridge and Stouffville in 1996 and has been running on summer weekends since then. The train journey of about 90 minutes.

After we boarded the train, the Captain of the train – the Conductor – briefed the passengers about the train and its journey, what to see and do with the coach attendant watching. All the staff running the train are volunteers.

The fall had set in (01 Oct) and the leaves were changing colours – before they fall off.  This gave a kaleidoscope of colours all through the journey.

The guard’s wagon  of the train called the Caboose at the rear end of the train, acted as an office and living quarters for the crew of a freight train in the old days. A viewing Cupola is built to facilitate a crew member to look forward at the train to see if anything is amiss

The Baggage Car with open doors fitted with safety barricades is the best place to view the landscape while the train is on the move.

One side of the Baggage Car is a ‘Railway Play Station’ for kids, to keep the kids engaged all through the journey.

On the other side of the Baggage Car is the Souvenir shop and a snack-bar – all manned by volunteers.

The rail-road crossings do not have barriers like those along an operational rail line as the trains operate only on weekends.  It is the duty of the drivers who cross the railway line to lookout for approaching trains and stop.

A musician, again a volunteer, entertained the passengers with his melodies. The passengers also joined him in chorus.

A volunteer ‘Clown’ was also seen entertaining kids with his tricks on board

This is a lime stone quarry enroute of LaFarge Cement Company.  Ontario has large deposit of limestone which supports the large cement manufacturing industry.

The journey was very pleasant, especially with the friendly, easy – going volunteer staff.  The staff obviously loved what they did.  It is an experience worth sharing as it goes to prove that a volunteer force can run a railway and much more.

 

Pelee Island : The Southernmost Tip of Canada

On July 08, 2017, we along with Stephens, our travel companions, travelled from Toronto to Lemington, a four hour car drive along Highway 401.  We boarded MV Jiimaan, a vessel 200 ft)in length that transports 400 passengers and 40 vehicles on Lake Erie from Lemington to Pelee Islands.  The cruise was of  about 90 minutes.  The ferry housed a cafeteria and the view from the deck was awesome.

Pelee Island, (42 Sq Km) largest island in the Western End of Lake Erie, is the Southernmost tip of Canada.  It was leased to Thomas McKee by Ojibwa and Onawa tribes in 1788.  The island’s name is derived from a French word ‘pelee’ meaning barren.  It remained barren, true to its name until it was purchased by William McKormick in 1823.

The Pelee Island Lighthouse was built by John Scott in 1833.  William McCormick donated the land and also served as its first light-keeper till 1840.  The lighthouse used to guide sailors through the rocky Pelee Passage. in the Erie Lake until it went out of service in 1909.

The only other way to get on to the Pelee Island is through the International Airport with a 3,300 feet paved runway.  Regular flights operate in winter when the ferry services are closed.  It serves as the emergency pickup point. It might be the smallest International Airport in Canada – it is International as it receives flights from USA, just South of it.

The population of Pelee Island is about 140.  In summer about 100 migrant workers land on the island to support both tourism and agriculture.  The island has a Police Station manned by two personnel, obviously there is hardly any crime and the last major crime was reported in 1920.  The Emergency Services is operated by two Para-Medics with an ambulance and a Nurse Practitioner manning the Medical Clinic.  Emergency cases has to be airlifted to the mainland at Lemington.  The Fire Department has a fire tender operated by volunteer crew.

This is the shoe tree which has an interesting history.  The tree was given up for dead and the home owner tied a pair of shoes on to it and it is believed to re-grow thereafter.  All the migrant workers, on leaving the island at the end of the season now tie their work-shoes on the tree to bring them good luck.

The island is mainly  agricultural based with about 5,000 acres of soybeans, about 1,000 acres of wheat, 500 acres of grape cultivation.  The centre of the island was a large marsh which was drained out to form the fertile agricultural land.  Thus most cultivation is done below the Lake’s level and hence there is always fear of floods.  The houses on the island are built on stilts to save them from flooding.

After spending the day on the island, we boarded the ferry on our return voyage to Lemington and then we drove off to Toronto.

 

 

A Befitting War Memorial and Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March Break or ‘Breaking’ March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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