18 Nov Prof: KK Menon- Founder Professor, Department of Geology, Univ. of Kerala and Story of his Portrait
Prof: KK Menon- Founder Professor, Department of Geology,
and Story of his Portrait
Univ. of Kerala
I went back from CESS for good to the
(Department of Geology or DoG) as Reader on the June 16, 1982, after two years of rather very enjoyable work and play. Obvious reason for vacating the CESS is basically the desire for peace of mind firstly and secondly the better work environment only the university can offer. The first task in the university was to look for some funding to proceed with my research pursuit. CESS of course had its own research fund (tax payer’s “charity” if I may say so), whereas the university basically has no funds earmarked for faculty research.
University of Kerala
My friend and office mate Mr Kriashnanath (we shared the same room from 1968 Dec., till it was walled and divided into two smaller offices in mid 1986, during my absence as I was in PFU, Moscow, USSR on a UGC fellowship) informed me of a notification by the DOEn, calling for research proposals for consideration of funding, under the Western Ghats eco-development program. As I could not immediately locate the announcement to gather the details, in the same evening I dropped into the VC’s front office to know more on the matter. One man in the office gave me a sheaf of papers detailing the nature of support and the conditions of grant and the gentleman permitted me to keep it overnight. .
Interestingly, later I discovered that the same paper is available in the DoG office. That was the beginning of the birth of “River Metamorphosis due to Human Intervention: the
, Kerala”. The DOEn generously funded the study with a handsome grant of Rs.3.45 lakh and for three years. Krishnanath’s project on “Slope stability issues in the transport arteries of the W.Ghats” was also supported with a little larger sum, which made Krishnanath quite happy. In all some eight projects were granted to the various teachers in the Kariavattom campus.
By 1983 June or so we had the final OK from the university and late DR PK Rajan (then member syndicate) came up with a new set of regulations in respect of implementation of sponsored research in the university which I once called a Magna Charta of research, which practically empowered the investigators with both administrative and financial powers enabling the smooth implementation of the programs, yet within the four walls of Kerala Financial Code.
For some reason, it occurred to me that only after displaying a portrait of Prof. Menon, I will start off with the new project. My friend Mr. Ramasarma (in
then), collected a negative of a portrait of Prof. Menon, and I borrowed the same and entrusted it with late Krishnankutty (in Botany Dept. then) – a person with huge loyalty to Prof. Menon – along with some funds for the portrait project.
In fact Krishnankutty wanted me to pick a double weight photo printing paper from a shop near Padmatheertham, East Fort, which I promptly complied with. On the third day, the print landed on my office table. In the same evening I took the photo to a picture framing shop at Palayam (on the west side of the road but behind street front row of shops). The older man in the shop immediately recognized the man in the photo and asked why I was doing it to which I answered that he was my teacher and mentor.
I got it framed the next day evening. And obviously I cannot resist the thrill of taking it DoG and properly displaying it in my own office. On the inaugural day of the photo, I offered a cup of tea and piece of cake to all the staff and colleagues in the DoG through the usual agent Jagadamma (cleaner of the DoG).
This photo stayed in my office from 1983 till I sold it to the DoG, for Rs.2500/- and that too after the then HOD figured that firstly the core of anti-Menon group bowed out on superannuation (i.e., KVK, RK and RP) and secondly there was no way of going back to Mrs. Menon to request for lending the negative of a suitable photo. In fact I did not feel bad at all in collecting the money for the portrait, instead I proudly insisted that the photo will be only sold and not donated. In fact, my colleagues had to buy it from me (sort of a Hobson’s choice).Roy Chacko did all the talking and negotiations with me for the Menon portrait anyway. Indeed, it took a long 20 or so years, since the retirement of Prof KK Menon in 1979 that a formal recognition by a public display of the portrait of the founder professor materialized. From my office, the Menon portrait went to one of the walls of the DoG library and later to the seminar hall, i.e., on the wall facing the current photo gallery.
When I was retiring, Roy Chacko made a proposal to me that we shall display the portraits of all teachers instead of restricting it to the HOD’s especially when the rotation of the HOD was not even spoken about. I readily agreed and thus, on the Jan. 31, 2004, three more portraits (KVK, RP and RK), were added to the photo gallery of teachers of the department. It was the then PVC, Prof Kevin who unveiled all the one plus three portraits. In fact, I shot a portrait of Kraishnanath (after he retired and during one of his visits to the DoG), in the main portico with my Minolta digital. KVK and RP made their own photos and gave the negatives instead. These are the same photos that are displayed in the photo gallery of the seminar hall of the DoG.