| Thrivikramji sun burned in the Varkala Beach, Kerala
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Thrivikramji sun burned in the Varkala Beach, Kerala

Thrivikramji sun burned in the Varkala Beach, Kerala


It all started out like this. On Jan.1, 1977, I was just back in the Department of Geology, after my tenure in the Heroy Geology Lab., SyracuseUniversity, Syracuse, NY13210, USA, where I was pursuing higher studies at WB Heroy Lab, SyracuseUniversity. In fact I had a 1972 Fulbright pre-doctoral fellowship to cover my first year stay as well as to and fro travel from home to campus and back. Prof. Menon was quite happy about me and my training. In the University of Kerala, I was looking for something to do, some thing tangible and useful in the longer run. So I grabbed the first opportunity to get out of the office along with the senior class to the Varkala beach northwest of Trivandrum. This trip to Varkala, after a span of roughly 5 years, was quite exciting for me.

The field visit covered the backshore cliff section of Tertiary sedimentary rocks, the protection structures like seawalls and an adjacent groin field, beach sediments, some bed forms as well some sedimentary structures. I cannot immediately recall the date any better than as Feb. 1977 – bright and brilliant hot day or scorchingly hot day. In fact, after missing the tropical summer heat for more than five seasons, the outing in the beach was so much exciting to me that I took my shirts off. My torso was naked. All that I wore were the pants, sneakers and a ”Foster Grant” sun-sensor sunglass that brought from the US. I liked stuff like sunglasses, pens, jeans and so on. I was sweating and the sea breeze kept my soul and self cool. Like all the visits to Varkala beach, I chose to do a spring water shower at beach- refreshing indeed. The class also followed me quickly and without any prompt.

I was walking the outcrops with the student team. Unfortunately, I do not recall all the names of the class., but for two Kasargodians viz., Ramachandran (later joined GSI, now may be a Director in GSI) and Kunhikannan (serving in Persia now). After making some “Fevicol Peels” of soft sediment structures on a sheet of cardboard (let us say like A4 size) laced with the new generation glue – Fevicol – and crawling on the base of the cliff to do some show and tell, I led the group along the beach towards Chilakoor landing of the TS canal. The structures, like passenger and goods/cargo shelters in the landing were in a dilapidated state; all that remained were the walls made of Laterite-jumbo-bricks with lime mortar plaster on it, portion of the roof and some tiles. The lamp pole of cast iron was still standing tall, sans the housing and the kerosene lamp. For the boat crew this lamp was like a beacon.

The Chilakoor village (primarily a congregation of fishworker families) stands roughly 10.0 ft above the sea level and sports a groyne field on the sea side. These groynes were put in place during the days of Raj (circa 1932 and are intact even today, doing what they were meant to do, even when I write this after three and a half decades later.

The land elevation at Chilakoor stands pretty low (like under10 ft) compared to the cliffs to the north (Vettoor) or to the south. So this low landform, I explained to the class, is an example of a graben – a pair of shore transverse normal faults created this form. The cliff forming Tertiary sedimentary rocks to the south, abruptly start to rise again far above the canopy of coconut palms.

All along I was on my sneakers and trousers but with an bare torso. (Shirt was wrapped around the waist though – part style and part pleasure). By noon I felt as though the skin on my back was sort of getting tight like in between the jaws of a vise. The class did not notice anything special or different about me. In the after noon we walked back to the Varkala Train station to be on time to catch our Trivandrum bound train. Some of the boys who lived in the Kariavattom hostel got off at Kazhakootam station anyway.

On reaching home my wife (Geetha) noticed the reddened skin on my back and quickly announced that I had suffered severe sun burn. Imagine a Keralite getting sun burn!. Look at the paradox. In fact, later in the evening I felt miserable and I could not sleep on my back. It was like I had a one large single would on my entire upper back. Three or four days ahead in the same week I nearly lost a several cm square of skin from my back.


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