Kasava/ Tapioca/ Kappa (കപ്പ)


Walking down the isle of a Chinese vegetable store in Mississauga, Canada, after  immigration in 2004, I was surprisingly greeted by the Kasava/ Tapioca/ Kappa (കപ്പ) placed on a rack. On Closer examination, the tag read ‘Kasava – Product of Guatemala’. Any Malayalee (Mallu) will always and forever relish Tapioca cooked with spices and grated coconut and fish curry marinated with special tamarind (Kudam Puli (കുടംപുളി) scientifically known as Garcinia Cambogia). The concoction served in Toddy (alcoholic extract from coconut trees) shops all over Kerala (Indian Province where Malayalam is the native language and the residents are called Malayalees – now Mallus), is something one can never get in any homes.

Tapioca is not a native of Kerala. Then how come it reached the shores of Kerala?.

Tapioca is said to have originated in Brazil. Portuguese distributed the crop from Brazil to countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Kerala in India in the 17th Century. Some believe that Vysakham Thirunal, the Travancore King (1880-1885 AD), who was also a botanist, introduced this laborer’s food in Travancore (South Kerala). By beginning of 19th Century, people from central Travancore migrated to the Malabar region (North Kerala) and they introduced tapioca to the locals.

Tapioca was promoted extensively during World War II in Kerala by Chithira Thirunal, Maharaja of Travancore and his Governor Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer. Then rice was the staple food of the people of Kerala and was being imported from Burma and Indonesia. With Japanese Navy enforcing a blockade in the Malaccan Strait, the ships carrying rice to India were either destroyed or captured. This caused an acute shortage of rice.

A large number of people, especially the labour class, accepted the starch-rich Tapioca as a substitute to costly rice. Thus Tapioca came to be known as ‘staple food of the poor.’ Hotels refused to include Tapioca in their menu due to its working class image.

The only place that served Tapioca were the toddy shops, where the labourers turned up for relaxation after a day’s hard work. Today tapioca is a rarity in Kerala and so is a delicacy and hence all hotels including the five-star ones have tapioca with fish curry in all their menus.

During my childhood, we used to cultivate Tapioca on our land. Tapioca is a tropical crop, tolerant to drought, but cannot withstand frost. It is best grown in lower altitudes with warm humid climate with well distributed rainfall. Our land is terraced on the hill slope into 20 x 20 feet sections. Each section is held together with stone masonry retaining wall to avoid soil erosion. On top of these walls pineapple was grown to give additional strength to the retaining wall. On some of these walls a fast growing grass was planted as fodder for cows.

In the month of August, the labourers till the land and make mounds of about a foot after spreading a compost mixture of cow-dung and ash. These mounds are made about three feet apart. Tapioca is planted in June with the onset of the South-West monsoon. Stakes taken from plants of the previous year is now cut into pieces of about a foot and is planted on these mounds. After a month, all the unhealthy or weak sprouts are pinched off leaving only two sprouts to grow into stakes.

As the plants mature, underground stems called tubers enlarge with starch. This is the time when the plant is most susceptible to rodent attacks, mainly from rats. As the tubers matured, a plant was uprooted almost every evening and tubers either were boiled and eaten with chutney or cooked with grated coconut and spices and eaten with fish curry. During weekends our mother had off being a school teacher and she made thin slices of fresh tapioca tubers and fried them in coconut oil.

After about ten months, in April, tapioca is harvested. Firstly the stakes are cut off and the healthy ones are stored for cutting for next planting. Underground tubers are now pulled out manually, pulling at the base of the stakes. The tubers are cut off from their bases and carried to the peeling site.

At the peeling site, the women folk of the village sit on mats and peel the outer skin of the tubers and slice the white starch part into thin slices. The women folk were generally paid in kind at the scale of one for every ten basket of tubers sliced by them. The sliced tubers are now collected in baskets and carried by the men folk to the boiling site. Here the slices are boiled in water until semi-cooked. The slices are now drained and put on the ground to dry under the sun. Once dried, these are collected in gunny bags. Some of the dried tapioca was retained for our consumption and the remainder were sold off to Kunjappan Chettan, the trader who lived across our home. Please refer to my blog https://rejinces.net/2014/07/15/kunjappan-chettan-the-trader/

In the 1980s, labour in Kerala became very expensive and  rodent attacks on tapioca crops became severe. Most tapioca plants were infected with Gemini virus causing ‘Mosaic’ disease curling the leaves and thus reduced yield.  In this period, the price of natural rubber skyrocketed. This turned tapioca farmers to rubber cultivation. With the incoming of rubber, out went the cows first as there was not enough grass to feed them. Further, the skins of the tapioca tubers and leaves from the uprooted stakes, which were the staple diet of the cows for four months, were now unavailable.

Mr AD George, our botany teacher at school had mentioned that the Gemini virus intruded into Kerala through a sample brought in by a professor, who while on a visit to a foreign country where tapioca was cultivated, saw a plant infected by the virus. He collected a leaf to show it to his students and brought it home to Kerala. After demonstrating the specimen to his students, the professor discarded the specimen. This virus then is believed to have spread across Kerala.

The land lost all its herbal healing powers with the advent of rubber cultivation. Herbal plants like Kurumtotti (Sida Rhombifolia), Kizhukanelli (Phyllanthus Amarus), Paanal (Glycosmis Arboraea), etc, all very abundant until we cultivated tapioca, became nearly extinct. The undergrowth shown in the image above is mostly of these herbal plants. Further, the present generation is totally unaware of the existence of these herbs in our own land and uses of these herbs. The cows used to eat these herbs along with the grass they chewed off the land and hence their milk also should have had some herbal effect.

In 2002 I visited Colonel TM Natarajan, my class mate from Sainik School and he spoke about the Sago (Sabudhana[साबूदाना ] or Chavvari [ചവ്വരി/ சவ்வரிசி]) factory his family had. That was when I realised that Sago was not a seed and it was factory manufactured and tapioca is the main ingredient. As Thamizh Nadu had many Sago factories and in order to feed them with tapioca, tapioca cultivation now moved from Kerala to Thamizh Nadu. The only hitch is that it needs extensive irrigation to grow as Thamizh Nadu does not enjoy as much rainfall as Kerala is blessed with.

Why Do Soldiers Break Step On A Suspension Bridge?


Our son Nikhil and I had a discussion about the phenomenon of resonance about which he had a class that day. My mind wandered back to Mr PT Cherian’s high school physics classes. Mr Cherian had a knack of explaining basic principles of physics by citing real life examples which were simple and easy to assimilate. For more about Mr Cherian, please refer my blog https://rejinces.net/2014/07/15/guru-dakshina/.

Mr Cherian explained resonance by using a simple experiment.

He had three pendulums of different lengths and two of the same length (B & D) tied to a rubber hose. He swung one of the two pendulums of equal lengths and after a few minutes, all the other pendulums begun to swing with the other pendulum of equal length swinging as much as the other. This he explained was as a result of resonance and the frequency of the two pendulums with equal lengths were same and hence they resonated.

Bridges and buildings have a natural frequency of vibration within them. A force applied to an object at the same frequency as the object’s natural frequency will amplify the vibration of the object due to mechanical resonance. Mr Cherian explained that while on a swing, one can go higher with a jerk of a bend knee or a swing of the legs and a car wobbles at a particular speed; are all examples mechanical resonance. The shattering of glass by singers with their voice is also by the same principle.

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

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

A similar tragedy was averted in June 2000 when a large crowd assembled at the opening of London’s Millennium Bridge. As crowds packed the bridge, their footfalls made the bridge vibrate slightly. Many in the crowd fell spontaneously into step with the bridge’s vibrations, inadvertently amplifying them. The police swung into action to clear the crowd off the bridge. Though engineers insist the Millennium Bridge was never in danger of collapse, the bridge was closed for about a year while construction crews installed energy-dissipating dampers to minimise the vibration caused by pedestrians.

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

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

In a similar incident in February 2014, eight people died and more than 30 injured when a suspension bridge collapsed over a dry stream in the North-Western province of Lai Chau in Vietnam. The accident happened as a group of local residents walked across the bridge to bring the coffin of a local official to a graveyard. The group had walked 15 meters on the bridge when it suddenly collapsed.

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

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

In all probability, the frequency of walking of the mourners in the funeral procession could have resonated with the natural frequency of the bridge, causing the bridge to swing violently. The pandemonium that could have set out must have caused panic, resulting in the mourners rushing to get off the bridge causing a stampede.

Hence in future the rule must be that not only the soldiers need to break steps on a suspension bridge, but also a funeral procession.

Super Brats : Girls in the Forefront


Sulagna Panigrahi, daughter of our coursemate Colonel Panigrahi, debuted in the leading role in the Hindi movie ‘Ek Adbhut Dakshina’. Colonel Ajay Sharma, another of our coursemates and my next room friend at the India Military Academy, his wife Ashima and their daughter Anushka Sharma (now a leading actress and celebrity) were present to encourage the young girl during a special screening of the movie.  It appears that acting, talent and confidence runs through the veins of the children of our coursemates and also all the defence personnel.

It is much more heart warming to see girls out performing the boys.  Navneet Kaur Dhillon was crowned Miss India 2013, comes from an Indian Army background and Sobhita Dhulipala adjudged the first runner-up, comes from an Indian Navy background. The list of women from defence background winning such pageants gets longer – from Sushmita Sen – (Air Force) in 1994 onwards to include Gul Panag – (Army), Priyanka Chopra – (Army), Lara Dutta – (Air Force), Celina Jaitly- (Army), Neha Dhupia – (Navy), the list goes on. These pageants are not only for the girls who are beautiful, but they also need to be intelligent, confident, well mannered and well groomed.

What gives them the edge over others? What really makes these defence children such inborn winners? These children, raised in military cantonments around the country, display a lot of grace, wit, confidence and poise – all at the same time.

The parents of these children- mostly the father (now-days both father and mother) – are serving defence officers. The selection process for these officers – with a written examination, a five-day interview which scientifically analyses each candidate’s potential, personality and intelligence tests, and a stringent medical examination has no comparison in the country, which tests one in all aspects of human development and behaviour. The selected candidates undergo a tough training where they are polished into better humans and leaders. When they select their spouses, its no surprise that they select the best to suit them – (if the spouse is a serving officer, the job has already been done by the defence). The children born to these parents have to be as good or even better than their parents. They are born in the military hospitals which provide the best of medical care and excellent hygiene conditions.   They are well natured into this world and the military society nurtures them really well to be better human beings and responsible citizens.

A typical army kid will claim to be natured in Srinagar, and nurtured in Siliguri, Coimbatore, Ferozpur, Allahabad, Bhatinda, Manipur, Imphal and Patiala. These children have grown up in small towns as well as big cities, they are used to the cold mountains of Kashmir to the hot deserts of Rajasthan, they amalgamate with Malayalee culture to Mizo culture, they learn Thamizh to Assamese during their school days.   In short they are adaptive, open-minded, a survivor and thus a winner.

The life in a typical military home for these kids is well organised and is set to the rules and standards dictated by the parents. They have to rise early, attend school and then participate in sports and cultural activities after school. In the evenings they have to attend social functions – both formal and informal. They need to welcome guests who come calling-on or to attend parties and keep everyone in good humour. Its a tough job for these kids as they must study well and obtain good grades at school and pass all entrance examinations. Hence, it is no wonder that these children develop great conversational skills and carry themselves with lot of confidence. They interact with a lot of people who belong to different age groups and cultures. They never hesitate to speak to a stranger or a new person. Ultimately, these communication skills help them to be winners.

Most of the military parents are avid readers, a habit developed mostly due to their intellect and also the loneliness of being posted in remote areas with no access to television. The mothers pickup this habit while living separately from their husbands while he is posted in remote areas or during the endless train travels – while on posting or while proceeding on vacations. The parents are also good with all aspects of communication and are capable of discussing all aspects of life – from spirituality to sports to movies. The children listen to these conversations and are active participants in many such discussions – mostly ending with the father shooing them off to bed when he has nearly lost his point of argument. Thus these children ought to have stronger personalities, and are also very disciplined and punctual. They are trained and groomed well as to — how to walk, how to sit, how to talk etc. They are taught grace and poise from an early age. It comes naturally to them

Along with every new posting of their parent – an event these children undergo once the least in three years- puts a lot of pressure on the children too. They got to adapt to a new place, a new culture, often a new language and above all to a new school. Making new friends, going to new schools make them ooze confidence. Most of these children  have seen at least half a dozen schools by the time they complete their higher secondary education.

When our son Nikhil landed in Canada in grade 1, his teacher said to him, “You may find it difficult to adapt to the Canadian culture as you are new to it.” Nikhil replied, “Until now to my grade 1, I studied in four states of India with diverse cultures, speaking three different languages.  I will quickly adapt to the Canadian culture.”

Children from the defence background are tougher, calmer, and in control of their emotions. When their parent is posted in remote areas of India, they naturally get trained to be tough survivors, adapt to new situations and people. Many children learn to be independent at a young age as their parent is posted in far-flung and inaccessible operational areas and the family has to look after themselves, with the children shouldering a lot of responsibilities.

These kids are excellent in stress management – a phenomenon unknown to the present day kids as they undergo a lot of stress in everyday life and a few succumb to these stresses and pressures. Most defence kids have seen off their parent on posting to hazardous areas and also to fight militancy – and many a times not knowing whether they will ever meet again. Every day passes with fear and uncertainties of their parent’s return and the role the mothers play to keep the household going and in bringing up the children needs to be commended.

The grooming and etiquette also come naturally to these kids, as they watch their mothers wear their clothes with grace, fathers adopt immaculate manners, the effort that goes into organising and conducting parties and get-togethers at home, etc. These kids are taught table manners and good etiquette from an early age at home.

The army cantonments provide a lot of sporting facilities like swimming, squash, tennis, golf, horse-riding etc. The children, without any sexual bias, are encouraged to participate in these activities. During these sports activities, people mingle with one another. The military stations organise summer adventure camps for the kids – from trekking to hang-gliding. These go a long way in developing physical fitness and also a sense of adventure- daily military life is by itself full of adventures for these kids.

A defence hub has a particular social culture, which becomes an integral part of the child’s personality. They pick up good etiquette and manners. They know how to talk and more importantly what to talk about. They know exactly how to avoid or get out of tricky situations. These are qualities imbibed by the children with defence upbringing of over 20 years and can never be learned over a month-long crash course. These assets help the children to stand out and win in every field of life.

Most military stations – even in the remotest places- have musical and dance schools – mostly run by the defence officers’ wives. They go a long way in nurturing the cultural aspects of these children. These children get many an opportunity to showcase their talents – both at home and also at military functions, clubs and messes. These make them very confident and they develop and master the art of presentation.

Contrary to popular belief, defence personnel are very religious and also spiritual. They celebrate all festivals and observe all religious occasions. They celebrate Holi, Onam, Pongal, Baisakhi and also Christmas, Dushera, Durga-Pooja, Eid and Guru-Purab. The kids attend all the religious functions in the station along with their parents and visit all religious places of worship – they are familiar with the rituals followed in the Mandir, Masjid, Gurudwara and the Church. It would be very common to see a Christian child singing the Arati or Slokas as fluent as they say the Lord’s prayer. They learn to respect all religions and accept everyone irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or religious beliefs. This facilitate the children to develop a multidimensional personality and hence adapt to various cultures and people with ease.

One reason attributed to the women-power in the military circles is due to the fact that the only society in the country where women are treated equally with men is the military. Many a times men complain that the women are often treated more equally than men. The General or a senior officer will always rise from their seats to receive a lady walking in though the lady may be a Lieutenant’s wife. The only place in India where the ladies are served first – whether at formal or informal or at-home functions – is in the armed forces. Even in the military’s religious places of worship, women are offered ‘prasad’ first. The officer on duty or the Captain of the Indian Navy ships will salute all ladies entering or leaving the ship irrespective of their social or military hierarchy. The ladies are always respected at home and outside by the defence service personal and the sexual discrimination is minimal in this society. That may be reason why we have defence service officers’ daughters performing extremely well in the society and winning many crowns and laurels.

The facilities like swimming, tennis, golf, libraries etc are available in all the cities of Canada at a real subsidised price or at times even free of cost. The government provides tax benefits for these activities. The need of the hour is to take time out of your schedules and take the children for these activities. The environment at home need to be upgraded to facilitate children’s development and the children must be trained to actively part-take in all the activities and chores at home. This will ensure that our next generation will turn out to be better citizens and human beings.

Pink Day

Pink Bully

Pink, as a word to identify a colour was coined in the 17th century from the flower of the same name. In North America, pink is associated with love, beauty, charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, childhood, femininity, romance, etc. By the turn of the 20th century, pink got associated with anything feminine. It was in fact the clothing manufacturers in the 1940s, who decided on pink for girls and blue for boys. Their intention being that parents would have to buy a whole new wardrobe and set of baby accessories in pink if they had a girl and blue if it was a boy, rather than reusing the one set for both as before.

The pink ribbon was first associated with breast cancer awareness in 1991. The pink ribbon represents fear of breast cancer, hope for the future, and the charitable goodness of people who support the breast cancer movement. It is also intended to evoke solidarity with women who currently have breast cancer.

On Wednesday, 08 April 2015, on seeing our son Nikhil wearing a pink shirt to go to school, I enquired the reason behind in this sudden change in his colour scheme. Nikhil said that on the second Wednesday of April is observed as Anti-Bullying Day and all the students are to wear Pink. On returning home after dropping Nikhil off at the school, I decided to research into the new piece of knowledge I gained from our son.

It all started on the first day of the new school year in September 2007 at Central Kings Rural High School, Cambridge in the Province of Nova Scotia of Canada. On this day, a Grade 9 boy wore a pink polo shirt to the school and the bullies harassed the boy, called him a homosexual for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up.

In response to Angus Reid Institute survey on bullying in school, three in four Canadian adults said they were bullied while in school. Nearly half of the parents polled said their children have been bullied at some point. Among the 24 per cent who said bullying occurred regularly, often or continuously, 37 per cent said they still think about it and 19 per cent said the events had a serious and lasting impact.

On hearing about the cowardice actions of the bullies, David Shepherd and Travis Price, two Grade 12 students decided to react against this act. They went on line, used emails, social media, and through word of mouth, conveyed their disgust and the need for the student community to raise against the menace of bullying. The two went to a nearby discount store and bought 50 pink shirts, including tank tops, to wear to school the next day.

The next day, Davis and Travis were surprised to find that they ran out of pink shirts in minutes. They had to procure another 100 immediately and some students ran home to change into pink – head to toe. Within minutes, almost the entire school was in pink, a visible statement to the bullies that they were in the minority.

The simple act helped change the dynamic at the school, which saw an end to bullying. Based on the reports of the event, The United Nations declared the official UN Anti-Bullying Day to be May 4 in 2012. The second Wednesday in April is designated the International Day of Pink and is observed in most schools in Canada.

A study by University of Guelph, Canada, on bullying found that 50 percent school children report being bullied, and 45 per cent of surveyed children feeling unsafe when they go to school in Canada. Boys typically engage in more physical forms of bullying; girls tend to do in indirect ways, such as gossiping , excluding and by using passive aggressive behaviour. Some researchers say that every seven minutes someone is bullied in Canada. Another recent survey found that cyberbullying surpassed drugs and alcohol as the top concern among Canadian parents.

Remember that all these media attention and wearing of pink by all the students all over the world, were all started by two teenagers in a remote rural school in Canada. Rather than just giving up by the usual teenage rant that why should one bother about such flimsy matters or the feeling that even if one does something, it will ever have any effect, and so on, the teenagers need to act and demonstrate. One need to make a statement that enough is enough and such acts cannot go on. If the teenagers of the world take up such issues, I am sure that the parents will take not and the world will become a better place for the new generation to live.

All the teenagers must take a leaf out of the actions of Malala Yousafzai for her single handed struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Today she epitomises the struggle for right to education for girls in the under-developed nations and has been recognised by the world by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014.

You Can, You Must all act to Bring in the Change.


Terrorism Live : The French Connection


Every terrorist attack anywhere on the globe attracts media attention. Every media is vying with each other to prove that they broke the news first and had the most daring and extensive coverage of the incidence. The terrorists on the other hand are very pleased about the coverage they get and the platform from where they can further spread terror in the name of their cause. The Television at your home or workplace has in effect become another gun in the terrorists’ hands to terrorise you out of your minds. The media reporters and anchors become the magazines and their utterances in the grab of informing the people become bullets. These invisible bullets actually pierces through your mind and terrorises.

To further complicate the definitions of a terrorist, the governments across the globe and the media confuses the people with the definitions of a ‘Freedom-Fighter’ and a ‘Terrorist’. Some of the media (with the tacit support of their governments) have been spreading the idea that one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’. This idea should never be accepted by the modern world. The recent bloodbath of innocent Kenyan college students on 02 April 2015, the uprising in Yemen, inhuman actions of IS; all must be classified as acts of terrorism and in no way ever graded as a freedom struggle.

Freedom fighters never segregate people based on their religion and slaughter them like animals; they never attack the school and college students and kill them so as to ensure that the future generations are uneducated and the terrorists can easily plant seeds of terrorism ideology in young minds; they do not take innocent hostages of children and women to terrorise the population, They do all these to ensure that the people under them remain slaves to them and will never question them. This slavery ensures that there is no freedom of thought or action and the best method most of these terrorist groups have adopted is to (mis)interpret the religious beliefs to justify their violent actions. It would be incorrect to blame it on any particular religion as most religions have gone through such upheavals in the past.

During the 09 January 2015 attack on Hyper Cacher, a Paris supermarket, two days after terrorists opened fire on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, an employee of the supermarket hid six people, including a three-year-old child and a one-month-old baby, in the cold room freezer located at the basement of the store. Hearing shots, these shoppers fled downstairs to the storeroom where they huddled together in near freezing temperatures. Fearing they would not escape alive, they made what they believed would be their last calls to family to tell them they loved them.

Extraordinary pictures emerged in the days after the siege showing the hostages huddled together for warmth amid cardboard boxes of food inside the freezer. One woman is seen cradling her child, while in another image a hostage sends a text message to a loved one. One man with his young son had removed his jacket and wrapped him in it as they cowered in freezer for nearly five hours before the attacker was shot dead.

The families of these hostages have filed a lawsuit against French 24-hour news channel BFMTV, arguing that the live coverage revealed information that endangered their lives. The BFMTV and other networks revealed the location of the freezer where they took refuge. The families argued that had the gunman heard the reports, the hostages would have been in grave danger.

The live coverage by the French media in real time in such situations were tantamount to goading someone to commit a crime. This coverage would have helped the handlers of the attacker to direct the terrorist to the site of hiding of these six people as had happened during the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. One can well imagine the plight of these six people had the terrorist seen the live coverage on the French TV. In all possibility the supermarket might have been streaming live news in the store. The lawsuit charges media with endangering the lives of others by deliberately ignoring security protocols, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a €15,000 fine.

Such dastardly acts are used by the terrorists to seek psychological impact on the unsuspecting population. Psychological effects include fear, intimidation, insecurity, and also deprives faith in governmental institutions like police, intelligence, etc. To optimise psychological impact, terrorists need an audience to terrorise and the media unknowingly provide this readymade for the terrorist.

The terrorists are always in a win-win situation and they achieve a high value media profile, that too at a very low expense. It takes millions of dollars worth of publicity for the soft-drink giants to market their products and squeeze into the minds of its customer base; whereas, it took Al-Qaeda a few air tickets and the cost of training half a dozen terrorists in the basic operation of a commercial jetliner to become well known all over the world. The events that followed the live coverage of the 9/11 attacks infused fear in the minds of the world population, resulting in much stricter security checks, especially at the airports. This only helped to cause extra delay for the passengers and hiking the cost of infra-structure at the airports, which in turn showed up on the air tickets.

Many people are unable to resist news coverage of terrorist attacks. As horrific as they are to watch on television and read about in newspapers and magazines, many still find it nearly impossible to turn away. It is difficult to know why the information is so hard to resist. Some say that people are hoping for information because they are fearful of future attacks and want to be prepared; others say that people are watching and reading in an effort to digest and process the event; still others say the media is intentionally creating seductive and addictive images almost like those seen in an action movie.

The way out now is for the media to impose self-regulation about coverage of terrorist attacks in future. It would be prudent to limit or even completely blackout coverage of terrorist acts. In the post event coverage, the media must make all out efforts to ensure that they do not mention the name of the individuals and organisations responsible for the act and also not to give out the goals and intentions of these organisations. The methodology suggested is to choke the terrorists the ‘oxygen’ the media provides.

Clearly the media plays a critical role in the aftermath of a disaster. The media provides needed information, makes announcements, and gives instructions regarding services that are available to victims and their families. They are a resource for the community and can provide a source of hope. However, too much trauma-related television viewing may have a negative impact on everyone.