Prof KK George | Mathrubhumi file photo
As Prof KK George (1940-22) passes away, Kerala loses its most knowledgeable expert in public finance (as the press rightly reports), ardent conservationist, human rights fighter, and promoter of alternative media (which the press grossly ignores).
George was a passionate trekker. His early career as a banker and subsequent life as an academic did not however allow him much free time but indeed enough to scale the Anamudi peak. He supported the Silent Valley agitation, was involved with the Save Periyar (river) movement, and most recently signed the public petition against the K-Rail project.
George was an intellectual mentor to many, including me. I remember him as my only colleague in the School of Management Studies, CUSAT who expressed environmental concerns during the early 1980s. We worked together in the anti-nuke movement in Kochi. George was active in the teachers' organisation but went ahead even when the organisation hesitated. Together we were 'honoured' with a show-cause notice by the university when we protested the wrongful expulsion of a student, PJ James, now a prominent CPIML Red Star activist.
The young had many things to learn from him. Whatever be the cause, George insisted on getting the facts right and doing adequate homework. The two-volume report on anti-nuke authored by Prof MP Varghese owes significantly to the ideas and inputs of George. He used to say that a researcher should spend at least a year formulating a PhD proposal. I could afford only six months and he offered me in-house hospitality in his CDS room. All kinds of 'characters'- from K Venu to John Abraham- would descend there. George, not only put up with all attendant 'risks', but happily conversed with them (such stories find a place in his recently published autobiography too).
George's presence was relaxing. He engaged others always with a smile and was kind and humorous. When he was looking for a research assistant I recommended a pioneering student Naxalite. After a couple of days of employment, George told me: "Ram, your friends are born into this world to do great things like staging revolutions and setting up communes. It is not fair on my part to make them calculate C-D ratios of banks."
George was not a prolific writer in the mainstream media. But he never turned down an offer to write in alternative journals or to speak to a budding journalist of a somewhat obscure online journal.
It would be difficult to say if George was a leftist. The Congress-led UDF viewed him as pro-LDF, which he was not. Nor did the LDF consider him as their man. It was the shared perspective on federal relations that brought George and LDF together. Perhaps, George identified himself relatively more with critical left thinking.
As an intellectual, George was inclusive, non-hierarchic, upright and unassuming.
And that matters most.