19 Jul Work Story 5, Thrivikramji, MA Romanova in the Dept. of Geology
PROF. M.A.ROMANOVA (A SOVIET MATH-GEOLOGIST) IN THE DEPARTMENT OF GEOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF KERALA, (~1970 AD).
The Department of Geology moved from the city campus to the University Park, Kariavattom, during Dec. 1968. We, the faculty were only four in number; Prof. K.K.Menon, Shri.K.V.K.Nair, Mr.R.Krishnanath and me, Thrivikramji.K.P. Dr.Rajendran Nair rejoined the Department after his Ph.D(from Leningrad U), say in the academic year 1969-70. Mr. Raju Philip was in IITKh, with Prof. Asok Mukherjee doing his Ph.D.
This was closely followed by, a Soviet exchange visitor Prof. Maria A.Romanova (a Math-Geologist and an associate of Academician A.B.Vistelius) choosing to come to Kerala to be attached to the Dept. of Statistics. Soon after her arrival in the University Park, Kariavattom, Maria discovered that a geologist (trained in USSR), versed in Russian language sat just one floor below her own host, the Statistics Department. In fact, after a brief discussion between Prof. Menon and Dr. (Ms.) A. George of Statistics, an office space was carved out for Maria in the room where Rajendran Nair sat.
This was like two birds in one shot for Dr. Romanova. For one thing, she is a Mathematical Geologist and had a geological troupe for her to mingle and discuss with. Secondly, presence of a Soviet returned scientist with good Russian language skill is an added attraction.
She had also brought along copies of the first issues of the journal of Mathematical Geology (a journal of the International Association Mathematical Geologists) edited by Daniel Merriam and Published by Plenum Press, NY. According to Dan (later narrated to me when I was in Syracuse), the idea of an association or platform for Mathematical Geology was mooted in one of the IGC’s (the 1968 IGC in Prague, which coincided with the march of Soviet tanks through the main street in Prague in order to tame the Check communist Party).
During my several hours of audience with Maria, there was frequent mention of names, like A.B. Vistelius (Soviet Academy of Sciences), Richard McCammon (Univ. of Chicago, Illinois circle), W.C. Krumbein (North Western University), John Harbaugh (Stanford), John Griffiths (Penn State), D.F, Merriam and J.C. Davis (Kansas Survey), S.V.L.N. Rao (IIT Kharagpur). The acquaintance with Maria, made me to resolve that I should go for a Ph.D. in Math-geology.
Interestingly, Dr. Romanova wanted to look up the geology around parts of southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Though, the Dept. of Geology had no van or car for field visits of faculty and students, Maria had funds of her own to meet car hire costs etc. I had the great and fine opportunity to be part of the Romnaova team (others are Rajendran Nair and K.V.K.Nair) that toured the southern parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We had camped in Kanyakumari (Vivekanandapuram) and Courtallumb(Guesthouse) before driving back home via, Shencotta. In the northern tour, it was the turn of Mr. Krishnanath to go along.
Now some geological details of the southern trip; the team always made a point to stop over to check out the exposures of crystalline rocks occurring either as sheet rock, or exposed in quarry floors and walls or along the right of way of the NH47 or the other arterial roads.
During the southern trip, we stumbled on calc-granulite, calc-gneiss exposures along the southern edge of the right of way of the Amaravila-Perumkadavila road, roughly 4-5 km away from the Amaravila check-post. It was interesting to note that neither the British Geologists (King, W or Foote, B) who covered south Travancore Geology nor the native ones who later reported on the Geology of south Travancore, did not make any report/mention of this outcrop or occurrence. However, in the 90’s, Santosh, M (CESS) and his co-workers had carried out extensive research on these rocks.
Yet another piece of ‘new’ geology, is the serendipitous discovery of an occurrence of Kankar, at Kaliyikavila, again by the side of the Kanyakumari road and behind the Kaliyikavila Panchayth office compound.The weathered profile exposed in a cut at the foot of a hill slope, and on the eastern side of the NH47, but immediately after passing the TNSTC garage at Kaliyikavila.The thin sections of samples of kankar, the transition rock and parent rock eminently displayed the process of gradual alteration of feldspar and replacement and its substitution withKankar.
Outside of this, we did not make many other geological discoveries. At Kanyakumari (our first overnight stay), we stayed in the Vivekanandapuram complex. Saw both the sunset in the evening as well as the sunrise in the following dawn. At Kanyakumari, the team inspected the beach rock platforms (on calcareous sandstone) to the west of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial. (We don’t see it any more as some‘wise men’with authority, decided to build a retaining wall to make a wider road with parallel parking strip). Then, we checked out the pocket beaches with quartz sand, garnet sand and ilmenite sand. The legend has it that these rice (quartz sand), bran (garnet), and charcoal (ilmenite) were thrown away intentionally to the sea, so that the she god in the temple at Kanyakumari will stay as a virgin. In fact the grain etc., were meant for the feast after the marriage ceremony. Naturally, sea being what it is brings back every thing to the shore, instead of keeping it.
After watching the sunrise, we had breakfast Tamil Nadu style, at the Canteen. As usual, Maria got her thermos fully filled with sugar free black tea – a drink she deeply cherished and enjoyed both in the office at the University park, as well as in the field. From, Kanyakumari we then drove down the Tirunelveli road toward Kavalkinaru but with a stop at Vattakottai- a historic fort along the Bay of Bengal waterfront and overlooking the ocean and at Leepuram beach.
The Vattakottai is now under the watch of the Archaeological Survey of India. The court yard of the fort is under one ha or there about in area. In the Maharaja days of the early 19th century, this place used to have a garrison, ammunition, canons etc. The rampart is connected to the courtyard with a wide ramp, through which men, canons, other supplies etc. could be quickly moved up to the rampart. The outer parapet of rampart has wide enough vertical slits to allow aiming of gun barrel against any enemy troupe. The entrance to the fort faces northerly.
There is no moat around this fort anyway. Perhaps, the expected enemy approach, was from the seaside made the builders to do away with the moats. The fort is constructed primarily with granite blocks and granite dimension stones. In contrast, the nearly a meter and a half wide walkway plus the slited parapet are made of brick, stone and plastered (where ever needed) with surki – a mixture of quicklime and sand in a ‘certain proportion’ along with some secret additives. The lore has it that primarily raw egg and molasse are some among the secret additives. Well, surki is the same building material that went into making of the Mullaperiyar dam. This fort is one of the last sea-side out posts of Maharaja of Travancore, who those days lived in the Padmanabhapuram place (the Maharaja and family). Adjacent to the western and south western basement of the fort, one could spot presence of a fossiliferous limestone with a huge semblance to the Quilon limestone, (Age:-Burdigalian).
Then the party briefly stopped at Leepuram beach to take a closer look at the black sand concentrate in the beach. Maria was making comments about the vast plain land extending from the foot of the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats toward east and to the sea, and wondered if the sea waves had once crashed against the foot of the hills.
Another distinct and fresh recollection is about the water shower of the bathroom in the Courtallum guesthouse instantly going dry. I was only half way through the bath, and in fact laced with soap lather. So were others. Maria, our Soviet math-geologist had her own room in the guest house while the rest of us shared a common room. She too had the shower going instantly waterless, but never made any fuss about it. The ‘boys’ in the team had a bath in the Five falls (Ayyaruvi) at Courtallam, before we packed off to Campus on the nest day. In fact, when Maria went back to Soviet Union for good she left behind in my mind a fire to do a PhD in Math. Geology.