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Soon after my graduation in 1965, I had been assisting Prof. KK, Menon  (my own Professor) by readying sediment samples and/or sedimentary rocks in the laboratory for various downstream analyses. The year 1965 went off in the midst of many significant events. For example, one needing record is the award of a fellowship by the Ministry of education, Govt. of India to study for a Ph.D., in the USSR and in the Patrice Lumumba Friendship University (PFU), Moscow.

In fact, Rajendran Nair (one of the two lecturers in the Department) too had an offer of fellowship by the Ministry of Education to study in Leningrad University, USSR. Nair took the offer and packed off to Leningrad toward the end of 1965.   I did not accept the offer of fellowship and instead chose to stay back hoping that when university makes a search for a new lecturer I might get that offer. I took the million-dollar decision based on two premises. One, that I might stand a pretty good chance at the selection for filling the position left open by Mr. Nair. Secondly, for reasons of their own, my parents did not approve of or diffident about my trip to Moscow as I was only at the vibrant age of 22 yr.  

In fact, immediately after Rajendran Nair went off, based on a formal written request, the university administration appointed me as Instructor in Geology, till a new person is selected and appointed for the job. I started teaching in the first week of Jan. 1966. An event I still recall in first or second week of my joining, is the crash of an Air India Boeing 707 in the Mt.Blanc in Alps, killing every one onboard including Dr Homi Bhabha  – father of Indian Nuclear Science &Technology. I was teaching the Applied Geology course for the final year and structural geology maps for the first year. The Geology department those days was housed in the space now used by the IMK of the University of Kerala. I had a reasonably good time in the class. I had a set of excellent lecture notes given to me by Rajendran Nair to rely on.  Interestingly, some members of the final year class were my own classmates and very good friends. I prepared for the class really hard and my first lecture lasted for a good two and a half hours.

My over-optimism (on the prospect of a permanent place in the University Department), made me oblivious of the fact that in a selection process many things could go against one. It did happen, when the university selected and offered semi-senior mineralogist with a Ph.D degree for the job. I was saddened deeply by the news of the offer going to another distinguished geologist. With a swollen and grieving heart I walked into the office of a senior Professor in the University, who also sat in the selection process. The moment he let me in the dam of agony broke open wetting my face with string of tears.  This professor spoke to me after offering a seat; consoled me by saying that it is not the end of the world and as young professional I will have plenty of opportunities in future. I had a chance to drink a cup of coffee that was offered to me by this academic.

This agonizing event was followed by one of ecstasy, when I had the first offer of a job to be a Asst. Geologist working (then temporarily) for the Directorate of Geology, Govt. of Kerala. There was a down side to the job, i.e., I was working with those guys who I taught in the early 1966. But this feeling soon weathered off and I enjoyed my posting with Iyer at Kozhikod Regional Office. The Director himself was sort of keenly displeased with me for more than one reason. For example, when the Department did not have any qualified professional at the entry level, I cared less about. Even after applying for the job through the Public Service Commission, I failed to appear for the selection. Mr.San got selected from among the only candidate turned up for the selection process.

The appointment was temporary and posting was at Kozhikod roughly 400 km away from my home and home town and I travelled with Iyer to Kozhikod. It was a bus trip – one bus from Trivandrum to Kochi and a second bus from Kochi to Payyanur. We got off around the evening and went to Mankavu – to stay overnight with a family that Iyer knew. Next day we went to the office at Chalapuram, roughly behind the landlords own house and opposite to the Ganapathy High school for boys. We reported to the Geologist for duty – a senior officer with so much of grievance against the seniors and the Directorate, otherwise a wonderful elderly person who treated the younger professionals with love and right to correct.

One Mr Nair, who studied with me in the undergraduate class, invited both of us (Iyer and me) to check out his place for stay.  We checked out the place (The Valiyadi estate, Meenchanda) and liked it for the rustic look, cheap rent and a village like setting. We went to a watering hole, to the west of the Valiyadi estate and to the west of the railroad. We had a moderate share of the fluid to enjoy. Nair then earnestly took us over to dinner, in a teashop, where we had beef stew and Pathiry.A dinner I still cherish. Yet, I enjoyed thoroughly my stay in Kozhikod, my first stay away from home and without any surveillance. I smoked rather heavily, finishing off a pack of 20 ‘Panama’ on a day. Boozed with friends at least once a month. Loafed around with my intimate friends in the backwaters of Meenchanda.

A brief note about the Valiyadi estate. I shared a room with Iyer in the Valiyadi estate on the west side of the Kozhikod-Kochi highway.  The Valiyadi estate, a large imposing factory shed with tall ceiling and double-pitched-roof covered with red tiles hung above us sleeping in the rooms. The factory floor was partitioned into two rows of rooms with doors and windows opening into a hallway. The walls separating the rooms never rose above the doorposts. Ventilation was aplenty as the roof stood at height of about 5.0 m above. You could only whisper inside your room. There were no attached toilet or bath facilities. The toilet battery stood at least 15 m. away from the rooms.  An Iyer run canteen was part of establishment; it had a cheap look and price food was also cheap.

In the mid 60’s, Meenchanda was a sleepy wayside settlement with rows of shops on either side. A road branched off to Beypore a port of a sort. There was a large but dilapidated temple pond with several bathing ghats to the east side of a Hindu temple. On holidays or weekends, if you walked along the track bordering the pond, you get a feeling that nearly most of the female folk of the locale gravitated to the pond to wash clothes and bathe. In fact, customarily, while bathing, women did not cover their upper torso with a bath towel of any sort. This practice was part of the ancient culture of Malabar.

But I had to leave the job abruptly by September to get ready for the 1966 Civil Services Examination to be held in October/November months. My chosen center was University College, Trivandrum. So I left Kozhikod, on a leave of absence, and my request (for the same), was summarily rejected by the Directorate and consequently I lost the job. Though I took the written examinations in right earnest, I did not qualify in written part and especially in the English essay. Then I waited till Dec., 66/Jan.,67 or so, to earn an offer of appointment, from the Directorate of Geology, GoK, after a selection process in the Public Service Commission, Kerala.  The order issued by the Directorate offering me job however had an extra letter signed by the Director, warning me not to repeat violation of service rules like I did earlier while going away for the 1966 Civil Services Examination. However, I did not consider that warning as a serious blow as I was ranked only in the third place. I reported for duty at Kozhikod Office, and started living in the Valiyadi Estate by sharing the room with Iyer. 

The lesson I learned as a young and a hardworking student was that academic achievements always do not stand in good stead in the professional track. At the time of selection the committee did not consider my outstanding merit over the rest while ranking me. Instead, the first place went to my classmate and a fellow who earned the third or fourth place in the MSc class. The second rank went to a man who studied junior to me. As an instructor I had taught that man too. Moral of the story is – you do not win all. Secondly, during selection, factors other than academic merit are factored in.


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