Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 March 2014





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World War 1 and package of bad news

I picked up a tabloid never expecting it to end up as a package of bad news. First of all, maybe because I am myself a woman, a visual of a woman caught my eye. What is so special about that? The headline read, A woman walking in ...... Don't women ever walk? I ask myself, bemused that this feat makes such singular news nurtured by a photo too. Of course, she was walking all alone with head and face covered. Not a soul in sight. Was she going to be abducted and no one is there to rescue her?

Perhaps she was placed in some inevitable circumstances that made her this adventurous, a sick child it could be, a sick parent or sibling, a crucial accident at home sending her out for help in this land evidently lacking in communication, a suicide by her teenaged son or daughter making her so mobile as Patachara who grief stricken ran miles across Indian land searching for some help or consoling word.

Though of a completely different race, religion and creed, I felt so sorry for her and was glad that I was born in a country where I could just walk with head and face fully exposed. No eyebrows raised. Why, I could even write reams on whatever came to my head and have them published too and again no eye brows raised.


Am I not lucky! I could have stopped at this congratulatory position of mine and also adulation of my free country though recently contaminated by false and warped news spread by evil agencies. But another headline caught my eye. It was a woman walking on the road all by herself.

Scene from World War 1

Was the editor intent on plummeting the readers in a torrid whirl of such bad news? This time it is the World War. No. Not the second one of which those of my age have some memories. But the writer goes back into the horrendous details of the First World War which an earlier generation (those born in the first two decades of the 20th century) can only remember. But alas, not even a handful of such men and women trying the reach the limits of longevity remain. Maybe just a minimal few who could be glorified as extra-centenarians. And of course the World War I did not touch Asia as the second one did, that even this above species had nothing to go by, by way of reminiscing.

By and by we are left only with the writings of the First World War. Actually it was the English in the article that made me read on.


Anyway the best pieces are the quotes. Here is historian Jean Yves Le Nauur:

"Europe is a vast tomb. The legacy of the war also has taken a toll on the morality of the people. Contrary to 1944-45 when there was hope in the future, in 1919 society was paralysed under the weight of the dead". Becker, a specialist on that age writes, "With three million war widows and six million orphans Europe was gripped by an immense period of mourning."

The statistics of death given are more grim than facts. On average 900 French and 1,200 Germans had been killed everyday between 1914 and 1918.

"Those who returned often did so with stark and permanent reminders of the horrors they had witnessed. Amputated, maimed, blinded, gassed, the mutilations of millions were visible to all. Clear symbols of the awful new technologies that had appeared on the battlefield, machine guns, shells, flame throwers and poison gas".

In France many soldiers had their faces disfigured and began begging on the streets till a national campaign was launched to repair their faces. A good part entered mental asylums due to the traumas suffered on the battlefield. Britain began a pensioners' fund for 65,000. Psychological trauma was an unknown phenomena then making the lot of those affected doubly bad. And all these victims had mothers who wept and wailed in their own homes. They could do nothing else.


I turned to page two only to be confronted with a set of bad news of another genre. It was titled, "A massive radio active water leak at Fukhushima".

The radio active water leaks are not anything new in Fukushima but the evil emerges when it begins to happen repeatedly causing destruction to man, beast and buildings. In the jargonised account of how the radioactive water causes such intense damage I picked up these facts volatile in themselves.

Beta radiation that includes cancer raising strontium is very harmful to humans and can cause damage to DNA too. Last August around 300 tonnes of radio active water had escaped that is considered a serious incident on the UN's seven point International Nuclear Event Scale.

Just below this news item is a photo of Pakistani bombs falling on Taliban hideouts.

Coming on to milder matter is "Forty lashes for Sudan man over a sex video". Yet not so mild too, for the victim ie. the one whose photos were taken is a teenager and pregnant one too.

Three men have had sex with her and another had filmed it. How was the woman treated by law? She was jailed for partaking in indecent activity! Did she ask for it, is the evil issue.

An acquaintance who had a look over on this article just pooh-poohed it.

"News is always bad news," he said adding that there is nothing to waste words on this truism. Someone else said, "Write good news and no one will bother to read it. Stories on bad women who sleep with many men create much interest but write on one saintly woman and no one bothers."

I think they were exaggerating and desecrating the sacred art of journalism. What do you think?


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