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Observing God

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In the entire Bible, the word “observation” appears only once and it is used by the Lord Jesus himself in the context of the kingdom of God. (Luke 17:20 KJV) Observation can be much more than merely seeing with one’s eyes. When we observe rules, it means that we abide by them. When we observe silence, we maintain it. When we observe certain days, we draw attention to their importance.

At a meteorological observatory, most weather elements cannot be observed with the eyes. But wind speed, wind direction, atmospheric pressure, air temperature, humidity, can all be measured and recorded with instruments. At an astronomical observatory, only a fragment of the universe can be viewed closely, but scientists keep looking beyond in the hope of unravelling its mysteries.  

When Jesus began his work on earth, his opening call was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) His inaugural address, or the sermon on the mount, started with the words: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God!” (Luke 6:20) The kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, was a new concept and Jesus went on explaining it to his hearers in many different ways. He once likened it to a gathering of little children (Luke 18:16). He compared it with the process of sowing and reaping, with the sprouting of a mustard seed, the addition of yeast to flour, a hidden treasure, a pearl, and so on. (Matthew 13, Luke 13).

However, Jesus’ listeners were still unable to visualize the kingdom. They could not understand whether the kingdom of God had come, and if it had, then where was it? Jesus clarified to them, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation. Nor will people say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)  

Indeed, the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed from outside, because it is not a physical kingdom of this world. (John 18:36) It is in the realm of the spirit. Its virtual reality is to be seen, heard, felt and experienced by the spirit.  

The Spirit is Like the Wind

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Without air, human beings cannot survive. When breathing stops, life ends. God had breathed air into the dust of the ground to make the first man come alive. (Genesis 2:7) In fact, spirit, air and wind are used synonymously in the Bible, through a common word ‘ruwach’ in Hebrew and ‘pneuma’ in Greek.  

During a discussion about the spirit, Jesus had illustrated his point by comparing it to the wind in the earth’s atmosphere. (John 3:8) Like many meteorological elements, the wind indeed is invisible but it can be measured accurately and is known to be extremely variable. So does the spirit operate in the world, changing its intensity and purpose while remaining unseen by man.

The wind comes to us, we do not have to go to the wind. Similarly the spirit approaches us, we do not have to go looking for it. We can either make use of the wind or let it go. So it is with the spirit. We can receive it, get filled with the spirit, or allow it to pass by. (Jesus John 30:22, Acts 2:4; Eph. 5:18).

The wind can be gentle like a pleasant breeze on a hot day or on a moonlit night. Likewise the spirit can refresh us in our times of tiredness. (Psalm 23:2)

The wind can blow suddenly as in a gust. The spirit too may come blowing in suddenly, unannounced. (Acts 2:2)

The wind has great power. It can move clouds in the air and ships over the oceans and can drive turbines on land. The spirit also has great power. It can stimulate the human mind, give courage and strength to people, and help them accomplish great things. (2 Timothy 1:7)

The wind brings together air from distant places on earth. The spirit brings together different people into a common fellowship. (2 Corinth 13:14)

Yes, the spirit and the wind are alike, but not completely. There remains one big difference. The wind may be like the spirit of God, but it is not God. It cannot therefore be an object of worship. God is a spirit and he alone is to be worshipped is spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

 

Climate Change and Older Persons

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Since 1991, the International Day of Older Persons is being observed annually on 1 October under the auspices of the United Nations. The Day has a different theme every year and the theme for 2016 was “Take a Stand Against Ageism”. Ageism is defined as stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. Ageism may not be a very commonly used word, but as a practice it is already widespread. Older people are considered unsuitable for jobs, regarded unfit for insurance, given lesser importance in society, and discriminated against in this rapidly changing world.

Even climate change seems to be working against older people. Rising temperatures, increasing humidity, deteriorating air quality, are some of the causes that are adding to the woes of older people. They are now more susceptible to heat stroke, dehydration, arthritis, asthma and many other diseases. Recent data on the correlation between climate indices and deaths due to these causes shows that it is much higher for older persons than for younger persons.

The reason for such a statistical bias in climate-related happenings lies in ageism. Because by nature ageism results in marginalizing older people and keeping them out of the mainstream community life. This happens particularly when old people are an isolated part of huge families or when they live on their own in urban residential complexes. For example, on an exceptionally hot weekend, the younger generation may go to refresh themselves on beaches or mountain resorts, or plunge into swimming pools, while the old are left behind to fend for themselves. Many times they may not even be aware that there was an heat wave in their region. Even if they were, they may not know how to cope with it.

On the other hand, there are many older people who do not believe in climate change and do not care about it. They have seen it all in their lifetime, they say. They recall having experienced worse situations and the future scenarios painted by climate change scientists do not scare them.

Either way, there is only one solution to the problem and that is: As you grow older, you must try to be wiser! Then you can defy ageism and enjoy the pleasure of living your own life on your own terms!

Filmy Weather (34): Rustom, the Courtroom Drama with the Rain Song

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rustom poster_

I went to watch “Rustom” for reasons of sheer nostalgia. I just had to see how the “Commander Nanavati case” had been portrayed on screen 57 years after it had actually happened. My late father Ratnakar Hari Kelkar, a retired postmaster, used to take keen interest in legal matters and court proceedings, and the Nanavati case of 1959 was his favourite. It was then the hottest topic of conversation in our home. I was a college student, but I had become familiar with the names of Sylvia Nanavati, the wife, and Prem Ahuja, the lover who was shot. Not only that, I even knew names like Karl Khandalavala, Nanavati’s lawyer, and Ram Jethmalani, the prosecution lawyer, and all their arguments. In those days, the Bombay courts used to have a jury like in Perry Mason’s novels, and the actual setting itself was in a sense “filmy”!

So I saw “Rustom” and was, frankly speaking, impressed by its authentic recreation of the Bombay of 1959 and its courts. There was a very realistic interior shot of Bombay GPO, especially the huge circle of service counters located right under its massive dome. My father would have loved to see it!

And midway in the movie, it was there – the unexpected sharp shower! Vikram Makhija (actor Arjan Bajwa) is entertaining Cynthia Pavri (actor Ileana D’Cruz) in the sprawling lawns of his home. Suddenly there is thunder and lightning. Vikram says, “Lagta hai bin mausam barsaat hone wali hai.” And bang on, it really begins to rain, the unseasonal “Avakali Paus”! Cynthia is drenched and trips while hurrying to safety. Of course, Vikram has to carry her to his bedroom and the rest follows.

So that was “Rustom”, a crime-courtroom-love triangle, complete with the rain sequence that Hindi movies must have! But honestly, I liked it!

The Indian Budget Need Not Be a Gamble on the Monsoon

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“The Indian budget is a gamble on the monsoon” is a clichéd statement that has been made repeatedly for more than a hundred years.

The gamble comes into the game because of four factors:

(1) the Indian fiscal year begins on 1 April and ends on 31 March of the next year,

(2) the southwest monsoon arrives over the country by 1 June and withdraws by 15 October on an average,

(3) the budget for the fiscal year has to be prepared by February end, and

(4) the prediction of an all-India drought can at best be made in April.

The quantum and distribution of the southwest monsoon rains over India during June to September largely determines the agricultural production during the kharif season. Even in the rabi season the crop production is dependent on the amount of moisture left over in the soil after the cessation of monsoon rains. In a good monsoon year, crops give bountiful yields, farmers’ incomes soar, their purchasing power rises, and industry responds. In a drought year, crops wilt, animals perish, the population has to be fed out of buffer stocks, farmers have to be bailed out, and industry suffers. Whatever one may talk about monsoon-proofing the Indian economy, that the “Indian budget is a gamble on the monsoon” says it all.

(Who said it first? Click here to find out from my earlier post.)

I am happy to learn that after all these years, there is now a rethinking on the matter of the Indian fiscal year. According to a news report dated 7 July 2016 in the Indian Express, the Government of India has constituted a committee to examine the desirability and feasibility of having a new fiscal year for the country.  It is headed by Shankar Acharya, former Chief Economic Adviser, and has three other members, K. M. Chandrasekhar, former Cabinet Secretary, P. V. Rajaraman, former Tamil Nadu Finance Secretary, and Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. The committee will look into the impact of having a new fiscal year in relation to the effect of different agricultural crop periods, taxation systems and procedures and impact on businesses, and is expected to submit its report by 31 December 2016.

I think that for India the biggest economic reform would be to have a budget that builds upon the actual performance of the previous monsoon and plans for the next year, thus removing the uncertainty factor of the monsoon. Perhaps, the fiscal year could happily begin on the new year’s day of the year of the Lord!

 

Prof R R Kelkar’s Lecture on Monsoon now on YouTube

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Prof R R Kelkar had delivered a lecture in Marathi on the Monsoon under the auspices of Marathi Vidnyan Parishad and Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan in Mumbai on 18 May 2016.

It is now available on YouTube in two parts. Click to watch.

Fiilmy Weather (33): Bernie, or Christian service under a cloud

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Bernie-Marathi-Movie

With “Sairat” released on 29 April 2016 still attracting huge audiences, I settled for another Marathi film “Bernie”. On 17 June 2016, first day first show, there were just ten people in the hall. Bernie had no weather for me to write about on this blog. The movie was a bold attempt to show the interiors of a Christian convent, an institution that has existed for several centuries in many countries of the world. The convent of Bernie is very much Indian, located in Goa, with mothers and sisters speaking fluent Marathi. The only connection the movie has with the weather, is that figuratively everything is under a cloud and the movie tries to lift it.

Bernie is a young vivacious girl, and the movie revolves around her in the first half. A little before the interval, however, we suddenly see her becoming a nun, just in deference to the dying wish of her father. After the interval, the camera follows Bernie into her convent and we see all the contradictions within it: forgiveness and punishment, abstinence and temptation, freedom and oppression, truth and lies, happiness and sorrow, life and death. Director Nileema Lonari has tried to tackle these contradictions quite boldly, perhaps for the first time in Marathi cinema. But while taking a secular view of spiritual matters, she misses the main point, that following Jesus is not easy because he demands the full life of his followers, nothing less, whether they are inside a convent or in the open world!      

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