Monday, October 7, 2013

Found It! Memories Of Early Days Of Geology Education

A mouse got in to an old book shelf a few days ago. Panicky cleaning up ensued and there from the back out came a treasure.. (not the mouse.. it ran away)

This well worn copy of the Petrology classic was my introduction to rocks when I started taking geology classes during my first year B.Sc. The book written in the late 1920's was still being used in the mid late 1980's and early 1990's! There were about a hundred of us packed in the intro geology class with the instructor drawing rough sketches on the black board and explaining the basics of the interior of the earth and the three primary types of rocks, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

I quickly gave up of Tyrrell and turned to other sources.. but those afternoons I do remember.. I knew that after two years of high school not knowing what I was going to do in life that I was on to something special. Geology has stayed with me ever since.

My decision to take up geology had interesting reactions from family and friends. My immediate family, mom, dad, sister and my grandfather completely supported me. Others were less convinced. I was not very good at math so engineering was out. I was not very good at biology so medicine was out. These two were the prestige courses for students.. they had high social standing and these degrees lead to high income careers. Taking a degree in pure sciences was basically admitting that you hadn't done well in the exams and thus could not hack it in the tough technical degrees.

Getting a B.Sc was for the duffers. But my relatives could not say that to me. So they were very sweet about it.." Geology?.. Yes you should take it.. someone has to do it..  we need oil.. minerals"... blah blah blah..

This condescending attitude continued until I got a scholarship to go to the U.S. Then snobbery took over. Getting scholarships to the U.S was again something that mostly only students from technical colleges like the IIT's were supposed to be successful at. Suddenly I was on par with them. Support for me was now because I had at last brought some prestige to the extended family.. "my nephew got a scholarship to the U.S... for a PhD"..

That I had really become passionate about geology and it meant to me more than scholarships and going to the U.S. completely escaped them.


  1. I've been thinking about this post! I think you're fortunate to be driven by passion rather than status ... much less chance of burnout, disillusionment. I know several academicians that really struggled after life/age revealed how trifling status-based "achievements" are!

  2. yes Hollis I agree.. In India the problem has been particularly severe.. for practical reasons people have long desired taking technical courses like engineering or medical regardless of whether they liked the subject or not.. as you point out the repercussions are felt years later..on an optimistic note, the atmosphere in India is changing with a more open economy finding a demand for a wider range of careers.. more younger students are increasingly following their passion than when I graduated..