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Stone man

A. R. K. Arun digs deep to collect fossils


HE IS CALLED Kal Manidhan (Stone man). And, true to his name, he is wedded to stones (never mind the fact that he is a bachelor). A. R. K. Arun simply loves his nickname.

He even terms his brief bio-data as "The stone diary of a living fossil." Arun's love affair with stones (and later fossils) started when his father brought him a little stone when he was a kid (he still has the stone).

The stone story

"My brother gave me a book on rocks and minerals when I was in class nine. My love for fossils started then. Slowly, I began collecting them," he recalls. Now, he has ammonites, ant fossils in amber, parts of meteorites, volcanic lava and... the list goes on.

He has added quite a few fossils to his already-impressive collection after his recent explorations in Ariyalur. Button-size ammonites from Ariyalur and `vesticular' basalt brought from his friend in South Africa are the latest in the collection.

Wooden fossils occupy a prominent position in his collection. A fossil of Dadoxylon, the non-flowering conifer tree (the predecessor to the Xmas tree) and a giant cartwheel ammonite are some of the treasured things you can find in his home.

Area of interest

Arun's area of interest, however, is `cenomaniam marine transgression' (in fossil lingo). That means, the destruction of marine life due to groundwater `petrification'. During the Cretaceous period (about 136 million years ago), a large number of marine invertebrates existed. "I was interested because I wanted to know how so many species turned extinct. Also, as I was told that not much research had been done in this area, I started to explore," he says. But, why fossils? Pat comes the reply. "Only through fossils can you get to know the past. They contain a lot of historical information. Each one has a different story to tell. So, whenever I go to some place, I look for them."

Fossils are also indicators of geological change and provide information about the availability of oil and limestone, he adds. How difficult is it to collect fossils?

"I have worked for days together just to get a small fossil in Ariyalur. Sometimes you end up getting nothing. I keep travelling. Also, this is a costly pastime. Sometimes, you have to buy fossils from abroad," he explains.

Rare collections

The oldest in his collection is a small portion of the meteorite Odessa that hit Texas 4.5 billion years ago. Arun also has carefully preserved the saligrams that he got from the Gandhaki River in Nepal.

"These Saligrams also have a story — that the Himalayas was formed out of the Tethys Sea during the Lemuria continental era."

"These fossils tell you that nothing in this world lasts forever," he says philosophically. Arun has also hosted a website on palaeontology (the branch of geology that deals with life forms from the past) — www.surf.to/arkarun.

So, what's next? "My aim is to start a museum of fossils," he says with a smile. For details contact: (0422) 2477810.

M. ALLIRAJAN

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