I will give brief account of 03 visits of K. Unni sb, as he was popularly known, ..02 to Jammu and 01 to Ladakh. In two visits Mdm. Latha Krishnanunni too accompanied..so it may be poignant memories to her and their son Nitin who came along to see rarified Trans Himalaya of Leh Ladakh
1. 1992-93, Special Mission to Jammu:
It was on 21st May, 1992 that a long list of 165 Sr. Geologists came with promotion as Directors when Mr. C.P.Vohra was the DG, GSI. I remember the dates clearly as I was unexpectedly included in the list along with three more from Jammu. Out of four promotees, only one was posted out to Gujarat and three retained at Op. Jammu & Kashmir H/q Jammu. Srinagar office had been deserted since 1990 due to militancy. Two promoted officers, U.K.Basi and Mangla Prasad, were also posted to Jammu, from Chandigarh and Lucknow. The number of Directors swelled to ten, as five Directors were already in place at Jammu.
It was in early 1993 that Mr. Krishnanunni came on a special mission to Jammu Office to explore the feasibility of shifting out some officers, in a humane approach move. He was then Dy. DG H/q NR while Mr. S. Dasgupta was Dy. DG HoD GSI Northern Region. Instead of calling all the officers for the meeting at one place, he preferred to visit each one of them himself. I conducted him to each officer accommodated in five different rented buildings in three localities of Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Nagar and Trikuta Nagar. I kept briefing him about individual officers, especially expedition assignments undertaken by some till 52 years age. In the end myself and Mr. Seva Dass took him around the city, as this was his first visit to Jammu, culminating over nice cup of coffee at sprawling lawns of Hari Niwas Palace, with scenic commanding view of the city.
He left next morning flight after completion of his onerous mission. There was no transfer from Jammu of any officer as a consequence of his favourable report.
2. Nov 1993, Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage:
It was in November. 1993 that he came on inspection visit to Jammu Office, this time accompanied by his spouse. He was HoD NR already. He wished to pay obeisance at Vaishno Mata Darbar, 13 km ascent of nearly 3500 ft gradual climb by trekking or horse ride from Katra base, utilizing the intervening holiday of 14 Nov. I offered myself and accompanied the couple. With a night halt at Bhawan we could join aarti conducted at the mouth of the holy cave early next morning. The usual pilgrim rush was not much as it was Diwali night on 14th and had hassle free Mata darshan through the conventional natural cave, a rare privilege due to heavy rush. The pilgrims normally are taken in and out through two manmade sub parallel tunnels of nearly 60 ft. length each in NNE & NE directions. The natural holy cave of nearly same length is along limestone strata strike of N550W - S550E, has varied dimensions with a perennial cold water brook flowing out and washing pilgrim’s feet for most part of cave floor. The narrow entry to the Shrine Cave is by way of crawling, in a prostrating posture to the deity.
We descended down to waiting vehicle at Katra after Devi Darshan and brunch. He was excited to see Vaishno Devi Dolomitic Limestone (Sirban Limestone of Wadia) section both ways, especially stromatolites which are exposed at three levels. We could also squeeze through narrow short vertical open ended cave at Adh Kwari which is half way between Katra and Vaishno Mata Bhawan. Polished cave walls with stromatolites shining in electric light are thrilling scene for any Geologist and aware pilgrim. Polishing itself is a great story. It is physical body polishing by millions of pilgrims who visited during over a century when the holy caves of Vaishno Devi and Adh Kwari were discovered and worshiped. One has to descend down in the rat hole dry cave and then climb out after covering about 25 ft.
On 15th after reaching Jammu, I invited them for dinner at our place. Both thanked me and my Madam profusely for taking the family head away from the family on Deepawali night. It is only on their reminder the thought occurred to me as I never had thought that way as my wont throughout my career.
The courtesy was doubly returned by the couple at Lucknow in May 1994 when the duo hosted dinner parties in batches to many senior officers who had come for the Mid Term Review Meeting. The picture of Sahib himself serving spirited drinks in tray left indelible image in my memory, while Madam cooked delicious food for large number of guests.
This unique trait of taking so much pains of returning courtesies is a rare virtue. Rarest of the rare among top bosses!
3. Ladakh Visit, 2000:
A trip to Trans Himalaya is the cherished desire of many and the joy is many fold for a Geologist. Leh in Ladakh is most preferred destination on account of developed infrastructure and unique attraction of cultural heritage of Buddhism in the form of magnificient monastaries, stupas and gompas at and around Leh. Well organized Folk Dance Programs with exotic colorful attires by young men and women keep you spell bound. We had the chance to witness one at Nimmu while returning from Likir Monastry. Glacial terrain physiography with text book features are a rich bonanza coming as bonus. It is also a challenging rarefied milieu where one should never forget the eternal adage – ‘Nobody is Gama in the land of Lama!’.
It was on 22nd August, 2000 that Krishnanunnis; Sahib, Madam and younger son Nitin, reached Leh in a gypsy, escorted by Dr. K.C.Prasher and S.N.Verma in another vehicle, also a gypsy jeep. Gypsies had been procured by GSI for Himalayan terrains recently and were considered the best mode of travel in rough mountainous areas that time. The party had come by road via Manali, Rotang Pass, Bara Lacha Pass; making two night halts en route which took care of acclimatization part.
Dr. Prasher, a veteran Expedition Geologist of Lahaul-Spiti Belt took care of geology and management part. I was already camping at Leh along with Vijay Kr. Sharma (alas he is no more with us), who had come about 20 days before me to undertake a short term item on ;Geoenvironmental Studies of Leh Area. The study yielded virgin and fruitful data, the highlight being that Leh area, as must be the case with other similarly placed areas, has abnormally low TDS values in the range of 40-50 mg/lt in its waters. That factor too is a health hazard, as are the high ranges of Total Dissolved Solids greater than 500 mg/lt in potable water. We were armed with yet another new gypsy. I had planned my visit to Sharma camp to coincide with visit of Krishnanunni Sahib for obvious reasons. An advance planning is required to visit Leh, as even air tickets are big issue in peak season.
I knew that reservation of suites had been made for them at Circuit House Leh which I had already inspected and found it deficient in many ways, compared to the accommodation we were camping at. Our camp was the double storey lush structure with vast surrounding garden meant for comfortable stay of Buddhist highest figure His Holiness Dalai Lama. As Dalai Lama had not visited Leh for many years, it was let out on contract for tourists. Sharma had scouted and found out the place at very reasonable and affordable rent. I had to use all persuasion skills to bring the party to Lama’s house; promising that you just have a look and if you don’t approve, we will take you to the Circuit House which was two km ahead. On seeing the accommodation, Sahib reacted ‘it must be quite costly and that I will pay for me and my family’. I said where from we will pay, all will pay for themselves. Further, it is cheaper than the Circuit House. Sahib and family were lodged in Dalai Lama Suite and we had three separate rooms for four of us, including Sharma. It was an unforgettable sojourn at Leh for a week during which we could witness much more than a common tourist.
The average height of Leh is 11000 ft and that of Khardung La to North by 40 km serpentine road through Ladakh Granitoid Complex (LGC) stands at 18000 ft where we felt ourselves at the Roof of the World.
Glacial Moraines of all categories are present in text book exhibition in Leh – Khardung La Valley with colossal load of moraine deposit fill cover upon the Granite base serving as the acquifer for water source to Leh population. It is the glacial melt of Khardung La Glacier that feeds the morainic acquifer in which a number of tube wells have also been sunk.