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.

 

Musings in the Mist – A Journey of an Indian Army Brat – from Childhood to an Army Officer


This book is authored by Major Shona George, Regiment of Artillery, Indian Army, a personal friend.  Rather, his father Late Colonel Raju George, again from Artillery and I shared many hours  discussing various subjects ranging from military, history, religion, faith, parenting, philosophy, etc.

The book is fast paced and gripping.  It is a about 160 pages –  short enough hold your interest and cover the essentials, but long enough to get into your mind with a detailed account of what an Indian Army Officer – Sam Kapoor goes through.

The language used is simple, with adequate explanations about other language words and also military terminologies.  The book is as expected, divided into three sections.

The first dealing with Sam’s childhood of growing up in the Military Cantonments – a gypsy life – natured in Assam and nurtured in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Nagaland – rather most Provinces of India Union.  The life of a kid maturing to an adult through his teens is well etched. The language and narration keeps up with the innocence of a kid, with all the pranks, comical situations and activities the youngsters indulge in.  This chapter depicts the growth of Sam into a leader, through his various childhood activities.    Turning into adolescence –  a university student in Delhi  – and the hiccups everyone faces, interaction with friends, crushes, infatuations and ultimate love for a girl has been essayed out with its essence intact.  Ultimate dilemma of Sam to choose between his dream of becoming an Army officer like his dad and his love gives a cinematic twist to the narration.

Sam as a newly commissioned Lieutenant serving in Siachen Glacier – the highest and coldest battlefield in the world – forms the second part.  It is real fast paced, fascinating and will surely touch your inner cord.  What goes through Sam’s mind, without any dilution has been well explained, especially what Sam goes through losing the soldiers under his command.  The irony every Army Officer faces while breaking the news of loss of a soldier to his parent, carrying out the last rites  of an officer whom he met briefly, digging out a soldier trapped under an avalanche  – could not have been explained better.  At least I can vouch for it having been through similar situations.

Third part of the book deals with the operations in Kashmir Valley, dealing with terrorists.  Here again the author has done justice bringing out what goes through Sam’s mind as a military leader.  This I am sure is an experience most Officers of the Indian Army in the last three decades would have been through.

This book is a must read for all those who follow the Indian Army, its Officers and Soldiers.  The reader will surely end up with a feeling of patriotism and leave you with a hair-raising and spine-chilling sensation.

A prescription for sure of all those self-claimed Desh-Bhakths.

The book is available on Amazon.in, eBay and Flipkart. The ebook version is available on readwhere.com and the international edition is available on Amazon.com.

Legendary Lungi

Legendary Lungi

For me, undoubtedly most comfortable evening home wear has always been the down to earth ‘Lungi’.  It is extremely comfortable and is an all season wear.  It is unisex – wearable by both men and women.  It is easy to wear without any hassles of zips, buttons or laces.  One got to  just tie at the waist.  Tying a Lungi at the waist is surely not any rocket science, but to ensure that it remains there is surely an art by itself.  Lungi surely provides free movement for the lower limbs and also air circulation, especially  ideal for the hot and humid climate of Kerala.

A Lungi is a cotton sheet about 2 meter in length and about a meter and a half in breadth and is characterised  by its floral or window-curtain patterns.  By design, surely one-size-fits-all, both males and females and surely does not have any caste creed or religion.  The only variation is that Muslims of Kerala wear it right to left, whereas others wear it  left to right.  It is very difficult for a normal eye to make out this subtle difference.  Lungi is worn in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Thailand. ‘Mundu’ is its white cousin and is worn mostly outdoors  in Kerala- to church, family functions and even to office.

While serving in the Indian Army, I wore a Lungi to bed, even in remote border posts – at altitudes above 10,000 feet when the mercury dipped to nearly 30 degrees below the freezing mark.  I wore it while serving in the North in Kashmir, in the West in the deserts of Rajasthan and in the humid jungles of Eastern India. It surely had no combat or camouflaged design or pattern as it was not an Army ‘issue’ item and surely did not figure in the ‘Dress Regulations for the Army.’

Once on my trip home on vacation from Sikkim, I called on Colonel Baby Mathew who was commanding an Artillery Regiment located near the airport from where I was to board the flight home.  On reaching the main gate of his regiment, the sentry on guard saluted me smartly and said “Our CO (Commanding Officer) is waiting at his residence for your arrival” and he then gave directions to the driver about the route.  On entering Colonel Mathew’s residence I heard his voice saying “Head straight to my bedroom.”  There was Colonel Mathew, sitting on his bed, adorned in his favourite Lungi.  He ordered me to change into my Lungi and join him for a hot lunch of Kappa (Kasava or Tapioca) and fish curry – a Kerala Christian favourite.  While partaking the meal, Colonel Mathew said “I have placed my residence out of bounds for all ranks for the next 24 hours” – meaning no one to come near his house until I was there.  Obviously the Commanding Officer did not want his command to see him and his friend in their Lungi.

In June 2002, I took over command of our Regiment in its operational location on the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan.  The Regiment was mobilised from its peace location in Devlali (Maharashtra, near Mumbai) on that year’s New Year Eve.  The entire Indian Army had moved into their operational locations after the attack on the Indian Parliament building by terrorists believed to have come in from Pakistan.  The Indian Railways ensured that our Regiment, like all the other units of the Indian Army, were transported to their operational locations at super-high priority in two days.  The Military Special trains moved at speeds greater than that of many express trains and were accorded the highest priority.

The move back to Devlali from Rajasthan was the opposite.  An Army which did not even fire a single bullet, an army which did not fight a war surely  had no priorities in anyone’s mind.  The Military Special trains stopped at every possible station, even to give way to the goods trains.  Now we were the lowest priority in the eyes of the Indian Railways.  The onward move executed in less than two days now was sure to take a week.

On the day of our train’s move from Jodhpur (Rajasthan), the soldiers loaded all the vehicles and equipment on the train.  After accomplishing the task, the Subedar Major (Master Warrant Officer) Thangaswamy had a roll-call to ensure everyone was present and also to brief the soldiers about the return journey.  As I looked out of my railway coach’s window, I saw the entire regiment standing.  I had a brain wave – “Why carry all the soldiers on the train?  About a hundred of them is all what I require, mainly to ensure the security and safety of the train and the equipment.  Why not the rest of the soldiers be send on leave as many had not met their families for a prolonged time due to the operational commitments?  Also, less of a trouble for the chefs to cook meals on a running train and less of administrative issues.”  I stepped out of my coach wearing my Lungi and a shirt and ordered Subedar Major Thangaswamy to only keep about a hundred soldiers and disperse the rest on leave for a week to rejoin at Devlali.  Everyone’s face suddenly brightened up but with that I was christened “Lungi CO”.

After moving to Canada, on a warm and sunny summer morning, I was watering the garden wearing my all time favourite Lungi.  There appeared our neighbour, Mr Win of Chinese descent and on seeing me wearing a colourful and comfortable costume enquired “Reji, what skirt are you wearing- looks really colourful.” -That was it! I discarded my favourite Lungi forever.

Hindi Minimum or Maximum Hindi

hindi1
Hindi Minimum Test, a test to assess the linguistic ability of cadets, used to be conducted  at the National Defence Academy (NDA) for all cadets in their second semester.  It was a well known fact that for most cadets who graduated from Sainik School Amaravathinagar (Tamil Nadu) – known as Amaravians, it was  hurdle too high to clear.  So, we all had extra classes on Thursday evenings and all those Hindi Pundits at the Academy tried their level best to make us imbibe the national language.  Thus Thursday evenings became more of a school social at the NDA.  At the Indian Military Academy (IMA) the very same test was called Compulsory Hindi Test.

The move by the Congress government at  the Centre in 1965 to impose Hindi on Tamizh population was the root cause of Congress being wiped out of Tamil Nadu.  The rise of the Dravida Munnettra Kazhakam (DMK) was also due to this imposition of Hindi.

Many argue that the agitations against Hindi have had an impact on the Tamizh psyche.  It is often claimed by the political commentators that the people from other Southern States learn Hindi along with their native language, but the Thamizh are fanatical about their language, being cultivated by the Dravidian political parties.

It was bit easier for Mallus as the language Malayalam had nearly all the alphabets as the Devanagari script of the Hindi Language.  Malayalam language is closer to Tamizh. but has borrowed its vocabulary and grammar from Sanskrit.  For a Tamizhan it was a nightmare to learn Hindi as Tamizh, being the oldest Indian language had limited consonants – only one ‘ka’ (க) in place of ka (क), kha (ख), ga (ग), gha (घ) and similarly for all other sets of consonants.  The Hindi Pundits never understood this very basic issue (and till date they do not seem to understand this fact or try and gloss over this fact – else they would have to accept that Tamizh is older and more sacred than Sanskrit – hence, where would the ‘Indian Nationalists’ hide their faces.)

Hindi propagated in the seventies and eighties by various governmental organisations also had its effect.  The Hindi terms coined by them to replace commonly spoken English words were so confusing that even the Hindi speaking population of North India would have a run for their money.  The national Television Doordarshan  and the All India Radio spewed out those tough Hindi words with venom.  This resulted in many homes in South India switching off their TV sets at 8:45 PM – the commencement of Hindi national telecast.

In the eighties, with the opening up of media space for private players resulted in the new channels using a medium – a mix of Hindi and English – which could be better understood by everyone.
With globalisation and advancement of IT, the luck Indians rode on, mainly for maintaining English as a national language, was that many found jobs in the world market.  India ended up having a reservoir of English speaking educated mass, which attracted global players to establish business, especially in the IT field.

I do not even remember how I managed to pass the Hindi minimum test.  For using the idioms in sentences for पानी पानी होना I wrote –  जब मैं स्विमिंग पूल में गया, वहां पानी पानी हो गया and for पांचों उंगली घी में होना  I wrote –  जलेबी खाते वक़्त मेरा पांचों उंगली घी में था and the list of bloopers go on.  This was done knowing well that they were howlers, but it resulted in annoying the Pundits who tried their level best to ram Hindi down my throat and I really derived sadistic pleasures from it.  With vengeance, (more than the keepers of the Tamil culture, language etc as displayed during the Jallikattu demonstration) I coined new sentences and helped the Hindi Pundits in coining new words to enhance their vocabulary.  I was even successful to a great extend in creating new rules for Hindi grammar -the least it did was to put some doubt in the minds of the Hindi Pundits at the NDA.

Whatever it was, I managed to pass the Hindi Minimum Test in my Fifth Semester.  Some of the Amaravians struggled with it during their entire three year stay at the NDA and did not pass until their Final Sixth Term and special tests were conducted for them.  After three years of NDA and a year of training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA). I was commissioned to 75 Medium Regiment of Artillery.  The Regiment then had three sub-units called Batteries – manned by Jats, South Indians and North Indian Brahmins (Pundits).  For all the ‘fun’ I had with the Hindi Pundits at the NDA, the Gods must have been very unhappy with me or was it that Lieutenant Colonel AN Suryanarayanan, our then Commanding Officer (now a Veteran Brigadier) decided it wisely that I must go to the Pundit Battery.  I ended up at the right place, I thought.  This resulted in me learning to speak proper Hindi for the first time in my life.  I learnt Hindi from our soldiers and many spoke chaste Hindi.

In the Indian Army, the official publications and forms were bilingual – with English and Hindi.  It did not achieve much other than making the publications double their weight and increasing production cost.  I used to advice young officers in the Regiment to read the publication – Glossary of Military Terms, because of the need to use and understand military terminologies is very important for a young officer, especially during training courses and also during tactical discussions.  This book was bilingual – with Hindi on the left pages and English on the right pages.  I would often suggest to the officers to read the Hindi side when they got bored of reading the English pages as they would find many of them totally out of place and some really humorous.
Nowadays, the Indian Army has done away with the Officer’s Hindi Minimum Examinations – to the delight of all Amaravians joining the NDA.

 

Something Special : The Indian Army Way

Something Special : The Indian Army Way

This video is a great tribute to our soldiers and is worth watching, especially on the Valentine’s day.  Do not be surprised, it has come from Malabar Gold, a jewellery chain in Kerala.  The animation is excellent with apt scripting.  It depicts how a senior army  officer would advice a young officer in a situation like this.  It celebrates the bonding and bonhomie among officers of the Indian Army.  In fact, it is a real motivational video.

After watching this TV commercial, I reminisced about my Commanding Officer days in 2002.  Our Regiment was deployed in Rajasthan sector for operations since January.  After I took over command in June, I realised most young officers, especially the newly married ones had not been home to look up their wives.  Leave for everyone in the army was curtailed and could only be sanctioned in extreme emergencies only.

After taking over command, I had to travel to Devlali, our permanent peacetime location, to carryout documentation procedures.  I was accorded permission by our higher Headquarters to move out of the sector for a week.  I took this opportunity, rather misinterpreted the orders knowingly, to take our two young Captains with me as my staff officers – Adjutant and Quartermaster – to facilitate various documentation.

We three booked our tickets to travel by train from Jodhpur – Captain Subhash  to Devlali as his wife was stationed there and Captain Mitra to Ahmadabad, Gujarat, which fell enroute.  Mrs Mitra was living with her parents there.  I was booked for Devlali as Marina had by then emigrated to Canada.

The train was scheduled to stop at Ahmadabad by daybreak.  Subhash called up Mrs Mitra instructing her to prepare breakfast for the Commanding Officer and him and carry it along.  He also did not forget to add an advisory note that the Commanding Officer was a connoisseur of good food and so it got to be good.

Half an hour before the train was to pull into Ahmadabad Station, Mitra woke us up with a cup of hot tea and with the best smile he could portray.  That was when the ‘devil’ in me worked overtime.  I asked Mitra to step out of the train – not on to the platform side, but to the opposite side.  Subhash was to meet Mrs Mitra at the platform and break the ‘sad’ news that the leave of Mitra was cancelled by the Commanding Officer on the eleventh hour due to unforeseen operational requirements.  I was to walk in then to meet Mrs Mitra for the first time.

After the train came to a halt everything proceeded as planned.  She was waiting on the platform next to our coach with her dad, all smiling and eager to meet her husband who was away for the past six months.  The moment Subhash broke the ‘sad’ news, I walked in to meet them.  I could now see the dark clouds of sadness layering over her smiling face.  Rather it was as if the arc light bright face now had a fused bulb look.  Her father was comforting her by reasoning out that her husband is on an important national duty and would be with her shortly.

I apologised to her that I had to cancel Mitra’s leave and he would be sent on leave home surely after two months.  Mrs Mitra was surely not hearing me – she gave a dazzled blank look.  Subhash now grabbed the breakfast hamper from her saying “He has not come, but we can have the breakfast.  Haven’t you brought it for us?”

The train blew its whistle to indicate that it was leaving the station.  We thanked them and got into the train and stood in the doorway, waving goodbye.

Wishing all the couples Happy Valentine Day.

Falling in love is like looking at the stars. If you pick one among the billions and stare at it long enough all the others will melt away.

Why I Hate Conferences and Meetings

meeting-monkeys

Colonel Mahaveer Singh was the Commanding Officer (CO) under whose guidance I spent my five years as a young officer. He was a real father figure who believed that the Regiment was his family and insisted on all officers getting together for tea at 10:30 AM. All officers, especially the young officers, really enjoyed these meetings as the first five to ten minutes was official stuff where in the CO gave out a few directions and it was for us to act on them and execute them. The next 20 to 30 minutes used to be “story telling” time and we all could narrate anything and everything and all officers would listen and participate in the discussion. This instilled a lot of confidence in all the young officers and they all are doing well today. Colonel Rajan Anand (now a retired Brigadier) and Colonel PK Ramachandran (now a retired Major General) were two COs who never ever held a conference or meeting. They gave their directions on the run and everybody executed them and for sure executed them really well.

All three of the above mentioned COs never ever seemed to supervise our work and believed in all of us and in delegation. They had trust in us and hence we always went an extra mile to ensure that the results were the best. The performance of the unit in all spheres spoke for itself and each and everyone, to the last soldier, took pride in being from a great Regiment and put in that extra effort to keep the Regimental flag flying high.

I have had my share of pathetic experiences also which led me to ensure that I never held a conference or meeting during the command of the Regiment, mainly because I hated them. Based on the lessons I had learnt from the above three COs, I put into practice the ethos of trust in all my subordinates and also provide them enough elbow space to execute the task with minimum directions. The performance of the Regiment at that time was there for everyone to see and the men were confident of what they did.

Why do I hate conferences / meetings?

During a short stint with our Regiment, I was called in for a conference regarding a task. Normally every soldier would get into their drills and procedures, while the officers get their briefings and directions from the CO. This meeting was attended by nearly all up to the Havildars (Sergeants) and the CO’s office was overflowing and also nauseating. The meeting went on for two hours, with nothing new other than a few finger pointing by the CO and on returning to where the men were, I found no activity at all.

On inquiry I found that all the soldiers generally have their lunch and sleep off the moment this CO called for a conference as they knew how to make full use of this valuable “dead-time”. The soldiers would never do anything much even after the conference as they were pretty sure that this CO would make them re-do or change what they did. So they felt “why waste effort and time”. A well oiled Regiment was now waiting for the CO for everything and the soldiers felt most miserable about it as they were not used to such ridiculing and lack of trust ever before. When I returned to the unit after two years, luckily the new CO had turned the clock back and I found the soldiers happier and proud of being part of a great Regiment.

What Makes these Conferences/Meetings so Resentful?

The conferences are held to show that the boss has done his job of briefing anybody and everybody, many not even remotely connected with the task in hand, thus making him ‘safe’. The boss is mostly unsure about the task in hand and who will execute it and has normally not done enough homework. Most of these conferences tend to be confrontational instead of being collaboration, especially in a hierarchical organisation like the army.

The bosses tend not to get to the point quickly enough and often are with the bad attitude that the people sitting in front “just will not understand it”.

The listeners are mostly not the right people in the right meeting. Some do not even know as to why they were called for the conference, wondering what the meeting is all about. Even if they know what it is about, they are not prepared to contribute to the discussion or their inputs are never asked for

The boss holding the conference tends to lose focus and gets off track. These monologues do not to add value, but the boss feels that there have been value additions, but mostly are time wasters. These bosses do not realise that most of the attendees already know that most of what is discussed and what their jobs are and the part they got to play.

Exhaustion spreads like wild-fire. All it takes is a couple people to start squirming and a few yawns and it spreads. This is compounded by the feeling as to why they were attending the meeting – to get ready for the next meeting.

Suggestions for a Good Conference/Meeting

Never Hold One.   It is very apparent that many meetings serve no purpose. The best methodology is to consider two to three days in advance whether there is any way at all of avoiding the meeting.

Keep Attendees the Least.   Fewer the people who attend the meeting the more effective it will be. Many bosses love to hear the sound of their own voices and the bigger the audience the greater the need to pontificate.

Direct the Meeting.    It is much easier to control a meeting that is about specific topics rather than merely held for the sake of meeting itself. Allow all the participants to give opinions while at the same time stopping them from talking unnecessarily.

Know the Job in Hand. If you knew exactly what the job was, you would have never called for the conference; instead you would have given out clear cut instructions to your subordinates.  If you know what you are trying to achieve, then it is far easier to do so.

Start on Time and End on Time.    One of the most frustrating things about meetings is the long wait for a few stragglers who cannot be bothered to turn up on time. Avoid demonstrating Parkinson’s Law that work will always fill the time available to it.

Wishing you all the very best for your next conference/meeting.