A Remembrance Day to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veteran Plate

On social-media, a friend, an Indian, now settled in UK  commented  “For Indians the mode of transport is a status symbol. When my uncle became a Sub-Lieutenant  from a Naval rating, the first thing he did was replace push bike for a scooter. In U.K. I have seen Lord Chancellor Hailsham and Prime Minister David Cameron riding bike to the Parliament.”

Indians carry the very same attitude it to the North American shores too – all riding BMW/ Mercedes/ Audi. You will hardly find Indians driving any other brand – even if their salaries are meager.

One Sunday, at the Malayalam Syrian Orthodox Church in Canada, a man told me “Why are you driving on a Honda? You can easily afford a BMW!

With Veteran General Hariz at Niagara

I’m comfortable driving a Honda, Why invest so much in a BMW?  The gasoline needed is the higher grade which is costlier and the cost of maintenance too is high,” I replied.

I was taken aback by his reply “If you want people to respect you in this church, then you must drive a BMW.

Remember – Jesus went to the church riding a poor donkey!!! No one should have valued him then!!!!

I said “My ‘VETERAN’ license plate is much more valuable than your BMW. There is many BMWs in the parking lot. Show me another car with a Veteran plate???”

The Veteran Licence plate is available to those who have honourably served in in the Canadian Armed Forces, including Reserve Forces, the forces of the Commonwealth, or its wartime allies. Indian Army Veterans too fall in this category. Indian Army fought the two World Wars alongside the Canadians as part of the Commonwealth and they respect that association.

Canada values Veterans’ contribution, dedication and commitment to serving and protecting our country. The licence plate features a Red Poppy with the word ‘VETERAN.’ The poppy has been a symbol of those who died while fighting for peace since it was first distributed in Canada in 1921. The plate can only be used by the veteran and is non-transferable. In demise of the Veteran, the plate can be held by the family as a souvenir.

Veteran licence plate holders can park for free at on-street metered parking spaces and in municipal paid parking lots in many municipalities. Some parking lots have parking spaces earmarked for Veterans.

With Veteran Air Marshal TD Joseph at Niagara Vinery

In Ontario province of Canada, a regular car licence plate consists of four alphabets and three digits with a crown in between. One can choose to include graphics such as the loon, a trillium, or the logo of your favourite professional sports team, community organisation or university on your personalised licence plate. A personalised licence plate or a Vanity Plate may contain 2 to 8 characters (letters and/or numbers) without a graphic and with a graphic, the maximum is six characters. Thus a personalised licence plate for a veteran can have only six characters as the Red Poppy graphic is to be placed. Offensive meanings or derogatory, profane, racist, sexual, religious, as well as references to a variety of subjects, drugs and alcohol, political opinions, criminal activity, etc are considered objectionable.

Arithmetic of Licence Plates

Our son Nikhil in his Grade 3 found division a bit difficult. Along with the division difficulty came the prime numbers and factors. We decided to solve the problem by making arithmetic interesting by me giving out various tips that I had learned while at school, especially from Mr Venkitesha Murthy, our Grade 7 mathematics teacher. Mr Murthy taught us mathematics through various stories, anecdotes and riddles. He also inspired us with the achievements of great Indian Mathematicians like Ramanujam, Bhaskara and Aryabhatta. It took me some time and effort to grasp the concept of factors and prime numbers even while in Grade 7 and hence Nikhil’s difficulty with the same was not at all surprising to me.


Everyday Nikhil and I spent almost half an hour in the car – dropping him off at school, picking up after school, commute to the swimming pool or tennis court or for music class in the evening. Nikhil called it a ‘father-son‘ time and used it to discuss all those which he thought would attract a comment or a spoof from his mother or sister. This practice continues to date, and the subject kept changing as Nikhil grew up to his current Grade 12.

To solve the riddle of division and factors, I came up with a game. In our province, Ontario, most licence plates on vehicles has four alphabets followed by three digits. Three digit numbers can be easily handled by a Grade 3 student. Any vehicle we came across on our drive, we used to analyse the number.

To begin with was to see whether the number was even or odd and hence conclude its divisibility by ‘2’. Then it was to add all the digits and if the resultant sum was either ‘3’ or ‘6’ or ‘9’, it was to be concluded that the number is divisible by three.

In case the number was an even one and the last two digits (ten and unit place) was divisible by ‘4’, then ‘4’ is a factor. If the unit place is either ‘5’ or ‘0’, the number is divisible by ‘5’. In case ‘2’ and ‘3’ are factors, then ‘6’ will also be a factor. If the sum of the digits resulted in ‘9’, the number is divisible by ‘9’. If the unit place has ‘0’, then ’10’ is a factor.

With this game on, every day we analysed about 10 licence plates and with that the difficulty of division, factors and prime numbers was resolved to a great extent.

The first car my wife bought for me on arrival in Canada was a new Honda Accord and when I went to take the delivery, the agency had already procured the licence plate for me. The number was ‘BBZW 139’. In North America, licence plates move with the owner, not with the vehicle. If you sell or change vehicles, you keep the licence plates and affix them on your new vehicle. Hence this number plate remained with me, though I changed three cars.

The number also reflects a bit on my personality as 139 is an odd number and also a prime number. It has only 1 and itself as a factor and is not fully divisible by any other number. I believe that I cannot be affected by any factors or divided by any other than 1 – the God Almighty – and myself.

The digits 139 fascinated me as it added to 13, my day of birth – 13 March. My school Roll Number was 931, which again added up to 13 and my Defence Account Number was 161005, which again added up to 13 and the list goes on. This is mere coincidence and has nothing to do with the unlucky 13 and it has never bought the lady luck to my side, and I cannot claim to be unlucky also. I do not believe in numerology or astrology and hence this trail of 13 never ever cast its bad luck on me.

’13’ is also known as ‘Baker’s Dozen‘ – instead of 12, bakers always packed 13 for a dozen in Britain. In the mid-thirteenth century, Britain enacted the statute of Assize of Bread and Ale, which set the relationship between the price of wheat and what the subsequent price of a loaf of bread from a certain quantity of wheat should be. If the baker accidentally cheated a customer by giving them less, they were subject to extremely severe fines and punishment. In order to avoid such accidents, bakers started to count 13 for a dozen.

Children turn teenagers when they turn 13 and we are all aware of what it means.   Apollo 13 is the only unsuccessful moon mission. An oxygen tank exploded and the survival of the astronauts on board was hanging in balance for several days, but they all came home safely. Many Christians believe that 13 is unlucky as there were 13 people in the ‘Last Supper‘.

Triskaidekaphobia‘ the fear of number 13 (from Greek tris (three), kai (and), and deka (ten,) and ‘Paraskevidekatriaphobia‘ is the term used to describe the fear of Friday the Thirteenth – (Greek words paraskevi (Friday) and dekatria (thirteen) with –phobia as a suffix to indicate ‘fear’). Researchers estimate that at least 10 percent of the US population has a fear of the number 13, especially for Friday the thirteenth.

Mathematicians point out that 13 is not so unlucky, but it earned all its bad name as it is an odd number and a prime number. It is 13’s bad luck that it follows the perfect number 12. Many believe that 12 is ‘perfect’ as it counts to a dozen, there are 12 months in an year, a day consists of two 12-hour cycles etc. The extend of ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ in the US is so high that more than 80 percent of high-rise buildings do not have a thirteenth floor, and the vast majority of hotels, hospitals and airports avoid using the number for rooms and gates as well.

The number 13 may be lucky or unlucky, but one cannot blame the number for it and will always follow number 12 and precede number 14.

Vet Plate

PS.  Now I do not have the above licence plate.  The Government of Ontario, in recognition of my service with the Indian Army has given me a new Veteran Plate.  My gratitude to Canada for honouring a Veteran from another country.