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


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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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!      

Monsoon: Advent, Onset and Declaration


Monsoon: Advent, Onset and Declaration

ADVENT: On 8 June 2016, IMD’s announcement of the coming of the monsoon over Kerala had set off celebrations not only in that state, but even in distant Maharashtra which had been reeling under two subsequent droughts. When I heard the media saying that the news had brought hope and cheer to millions of Indians, I was somehow reminded of Christmas, the festival that brings hope and cheer to all humanity.

Christmas is celebrated every year on 25 December. The date does not change, so it does not have to be announced as in the case of Good Friday and Easter.  While Christmas is fast becoming a secular festivity, it is only Christians who also celebrate what is known as the Advent Season, prior to Christmas. This four-week period is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the actual event which is the birth of the Lord.   

While thinking about Advent in times of the monsoon, I felt that there was a need to introduce “advent” into our monsoon terminology. The monsoon is known to arrive every year without fail. It comes to Kerala around 1 June, or within a week before or after it, though exceptions have been there. The month of May could be considered like an advent for the monsoon, preceding its onset. It should be a time of expectant waiting and preparation, for watching the unfolding and build-up of events in the global atmosphere and oceans. The knowledge could be shared and discussed. It need not be shrouded in secrecy. It should not be used for speculation or one-up-manship. The advent of the monsoon could even be used as a time of prayer, by those who believe in its power.    

ONSET: Meteorologists have always had a definition of the onset of the monsoon. When only raingauges were available, they had a definition based on rainfall. As higher technology became available, the definition was suitably enlarged to include other parameters. The definition may even be modified again in future. But is there is a need for such a fuss about the onset? As the media hype grows and technology improves, the onset may not have just a date but even a time in the 24-hour clock, like an eye of a cyclone making landfall. But does it all matter? To whom does a day make a difference?

The monsoon has a four-month journey. If it begins well, that is good. Well begun is half done. But only half. The other half is not guaranteed. Monsoon forecasting is getting better and better with every passing year. But in a philosophical sense, knowing the future is not given to man. Most scientists do not make predictions. It is only meteorologists, economists and astrologers who make predictions and meteorologists are perhaps the most daring of all. They can predict the weather and climate from the next 10 minutes to the next 100 years. It seems that all they need is money. But as we know, money cannot buy everything.  

DECLARATION: Continuing with the Christmas analogy, the birth of Jesus had been foretold by the prophets many centuries before. The three wise men had known about it from a new star in the sky. But for the actual declaration of the birth of the Saviour, angels had to come down to earth from heaven.

A declaration is something solemn. A person making a declaration binds himself to it. The American Declaration of Independence is a piece of literature. In the Bible, God had a long discourse with a man named Job that began with this challenge, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have the understanding!” David in his Psalm 19, says, “The heavens declare the glory of God!” In today’s world, sportspersons may assemble in huge numbers in an Olympic stadium, but they cannot start playing unless an authority of the host country announces, “I declare the games open!”.

Coming back to the monsoon, on 8 June 2016, the day IMD announced the onset of monsoon over Kerala, Jatin Singh, CEO of Skymet, the private weather forecasting company, wrote on his home page: “G for Government, G for God… It might rain, it might not… When IMD says its Monsoon, and when Skymet says it’s not…” : (http://www.skymetweather.com/content/weather-news-and-analysis/ceos-take-when-imd-says-its-monsoon-when-skymet-says-its-not/)

Anyone can say, “I think this is the monsoon!” Anyone can point out, “Look, the monsoon is there!”, Anyone can shout, “The monsoon is coming! The monsoon is coming!” But they have no authority to declare it. Only the India Meteorological Department can do so as per its constitutional authority.

Lecture on the Monsoon


Prof R R Kelkar delivered a Marathi lecture about the Monsoon at an open event organized jointly by Marathi Vidnyan Parishad and Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan on 18 May 2016 at 5 pm in Mumbai.

A news item in the Sunday Guardian has commented on some aspects addressed by Prof Kelkar in his lecture. Click on the link below to read.







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