11 Jul Dr. Thrivikramji.K.P., Asst. Geologist, Work Story-3
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Dr. Thrivikramji.K.P., Work Story-3
(Asst.Geologist, Directorate of Geology),
With the new offer of appointment as Asst. Geologist, (with a rider warning me to meticulously observe the service rules), I took a bus to Kozhikod, to report for duty to the Geologist, in his Chalapuram office. I was received jubilantly by my friends – two nairs and one Iyer as well as the boss – yet another nair. The supporting staff also cordially welcomed me.
After formally signing the register to join duty in last week of Dec.1966, keeping with our earlier routine, we walked out to the street for a cup of coffee and snacks. Our usual place was the Tea stall run by the Co-operative Milk Marketing federation in the Kallayi rd. The place was not a great looking one, yet it was attractive for our age group, as our seats looked-over a bus shelter, which most of the day time had a crowd of the fair sex and one or two with outstanding build and colour.
I preferred to stay in the Valiyadi estate lodge, where I had earlier forged some good linkages with several other residents. In fact I and Iyer were the only PG degree holders in a crowd of high-schoolers. Outside of my professional friends, I still recall names like Jagannadan (a senior conductor, KSRTC), Mr. Unnikrishna Pillai (Inspector, KSRTC), Mr Sreedharan Nair (Inspector, KSRTC). In addition there were several others who say hello to always.
My own friends, Nair and Iyer (my room-mate at Valiyadi) were always together in a bunch, except when Nair goes home to Trivandrum. In fact, among the three Nairs in the office, the only one Nair was married and had the first boy child. So, this Nair made at least three monthly trips home.
Once I joined the office, the boss, assigned Iyer and me on field programs. Iyer had an easy field area as the lodging and fooding were on gratis. The Iyer team was assigned china clay exploration- a mineral deposit of great acclaim in that part of the state.
On the other hand, I and another Nair were put in charge of exploring for magnetite- quartzite in parts of Malapuram. In the sixties, Iran had showed some keen interest in the West coast magnetite. Several visits by Iranian teams or their Japanese consultants had taken place. as the Iranians had fairly deep interest in the magnetite ore. For example, the Kudiramukh iron ore deposit of Karnataka was taken up for exploration and exploitation by the NMDC for supply to the Iranian mills.
It is routine for the geologist-boss to introduce the field team to a new filed area of work. So, I and Nair were driven in the office jeep to Angadipuram near Perinthalmanna, in Malppuram dist now (and Kozhikod dist then). Our boss geologist paid for our lunch anyway on the first day and in the afternoon drove back to office at Chalapuram, Kozhikod. We decided to do a reckie from Angadipuram. Most of the known slag fields from historic days are northerly of Angadipuram. Legend has it that these slags were the remains of the crude style iron ore smelting, where in the iron ore is buried into a huge hearth made of local timber. And after several days of firing, the refined iron is recovered, which goes into making of implements and tools used during the days of Tippu Sultans ‘padayottam’ or march of army men. However, the left over slag due to its own heft is not eroded off. Thus we had a surface clue as to the location and extent of the quartz-magnetite reefs.
After spending the first field night in a lodge at Angadiuram, by early morning on the next day, we took a bus to a village, where Mr Abdur Rahman Baffakki Thangal presided over an Arabic College. Mr. Thangal a top brass of Indian Union Muslim League. He commandeered huge respect from the Muslims as well as non-Muslims in the area. Our intention in calling on this dignitary was to gain some kind of indirect introduction to the members of the majority community – Muslims- of the area, so that our stay and work will be quite smooth. Indeed, it worked very well.
We had absolutely no problem in securing a partially done house with shutters on the doors but sans electricity or toilet and bath, for our stay and operations. The only drawback was about fooding in the mornings and evenings. The sector was practically free of any kind of shop vending the immediate essentials. As the backyard of our house was large enough we could solve the second problem first i.e., attending the natures call. In fact, the house owner, a thangal on his own right had dug a well in the homestead. The compound was fenced off with tender bamboo pieces (sticks and branches), and had a wicket gate (with horizontally placed bamboo sections, to ward off cattle from the compound.
As far as bathing went, we had to get permission to use a private pond (roughly 100 m away from our compound but facing a patch of paddy field) owned by a “poor- royal-family”, with connections to the Zamorins of Kozhikod. We were advised by one of our Muslim field guides to approach the ‘king’ of the Kovilakomor the homestead of king, for permission to access their own small pond to meet our bathing needs.
During our foot work, we struck friendship quickly with one Mr Abdulkader – a primary school teacher from Angadipuram, but teaching in a local school – the entire community called him mash – colloquial word for master. The friendship with mash created a wider network of other friendly youngsters. Two significant points about this mash. One, he was the local expert snake disabler in the community. As he belonged to Angadipuram, only on weekends his services were unavailable. Whenever a poisonous snake is spotted, word will be send to mash, who will rush to the spot on bicycle and launch the operation-disablement.
The process starts like this. First, a javelin or spear carved out of a bamboo split or arecanut palm split. The good thing about these spears is that they are strong and rarely bend or break while in use. The step two is spotting the hiding snake by straightening the rat-hole by widening to get a full unhindered view of the deadly beast. Step three is quick and brisk action of driving the sharp end of the spear directly on the holed in snake. In the next instant mashwill hook the snake and get it out for the crowd to beat and stone the poor animal to death beyond doubt.
Secondly, during summer festive season, mash used to guide and take us to the festival grounds around our camp. It was certainly a great feast for our eyes as we get a chance to see the parading village girls and mid-aged women, along with the staging of drama, music concerts and so on.
Once we befriended with mash, we were looking for a better place with some more neighbours. We located one-room- upstairs of a tea shop run by one Aboo. The rent was only ten rupees monthly. The advantage was the breakfast cooked to our liking and choice by Aboo. For cooking the evening meal, we are free access to Aboo’s open kitchen. So un-hesitantly, Nair and I shifted our stuff to Aboos. The structure was of course very new, yet without plastering of walls both inside as well as outside. Of course we had to sleep on a blanket spread on the floor. Toilet was the open field or the side of rail road connecting Nilambur and Shorannur. Water was not at all scarce as the smaller streams always had a string of flowing water. We had to do bathing in the river, which is only less than three kilometers one way if we walked along the rail track. .
The Aboos Teashop is seasonal in that during the harvest and sowing seasons only the shop attracted customers. As it was the harvest season, summer, several farm workers (both genders) thronged to the shop for their morning food and tea. Once the farm worker crowd is out, it is our turn for food.
One or two words about the farm hands will be in order. Majority are harijans or members of the scheduled caste. In the sixties, the culture of Malabar did not call for covering of the upper torso of women while taking bath in river or pond. However, the girls of the scheduled caste wore a jumper only till their marriage. But after marriage and child birth, they covered their bosoms only with several layers of beaded necklaces. In other words the weather beaten bosom is there in the open if one cared to a look at.
Our morning breakfast served by Aboo is quite sumptuous. The dosa made of paste raw rice flour is topped with one or two whole eggs while it is on the grill. I always had three or four such dosasbut my friend Nair never ate that many. We may also go for one or two cups of the Aboo tea.
Our noon meal was really non-descript. What most of the time we get is only black tea and that too is with the kindness of the man or woman in charge of a bi-session- only tea shops in the interior villages. I always preferred a hot black tea mixed with one or two eggs poured into the boiling tea. It assured a comfortably belly-full that I can ignore food needs and be focused on what I do. The supper was quite exciting. Nair was in charge of cooking and took care of the dishes. We procured by payment of course, a certain volume of home milled raw rice. That family also used to give us pickle of some sort and curd or yogurt- both came as freebees.
Nair will cook the raw rice say after seven or so in the evening when our Aboo packs off for home. I keep all the supplies and the other essentialities ready for Nair to earnestly work on, while listening to songs in a SW radio. Once cooking is done we finish our supper, and I take over the last chore, which is cleaning and washing the pots and pans. Occasionally, mash too will join to taste the food cooked by Nair.
We took Sundays off our work. On one of those afternoons when we came back after work, Aboo, called and informed us about some guests who came in a Government Jeep are looking for us. Well it was a team of young soils men who worked for the Kerala Soil Survey. They had a hard time to locate alkaline soils in parts of Plakkad dist, about which their own Director, (Dr. CKN Nair) wrote a scientific paper and published. As soon as we met each this dilemma was presented to us and enquired if any one of us could help them to locate the alkaline soil sections before their own Director makes a field visit. I replied in the affirmative to earn quick invitation to travel with them to their field camp in Mannarkkad. I agreed to and left the camp to Nair and left for Mannarkad to reach there later in the night. We had good food and coloured local brew to top it.
The next day early in the morning we started off in the jeep, and I sat on the front seat at the edge to get a better view of the soil sections exposed along the remade road side gutters. Within half an hour of journey I had hit the jackpot – the alkaline soil. Such sections always had white Kankar cobbles and pebbles exposed on the face of newly opened cuts.
I came back to my camp directly from the field. During the same week, our boss asked us close the camp and return to the office, in order to settle the accounts and to work on the report. So, by the first week of March, 1967, we got back to Chalapuram office by the office Jeep.