In 1998, when KKN Kurup became vice-chancellor of Calicut University (CU), the varsity was going through a turbulent phase — a spate of retirements had resulted in staff crunch. But the spirited history scholar was determined to fight the odds. His passion for work and strength of character helped him turn impossibilities into possibilities. The university went through a phase shift with the addition of many chairs and distant centres in Thrisssur, Wayanad and Vadakara. His idea of a knowledge exchange between educational centres and villages is applaud-worthy. The author of multiple books on Kerala’s history, Kurup is the first to publish a comprehensive work on Pazhassiraja, a regent of Malabar in Kerala in the late 18th century. Pazhassi Samarangal, Tippusulthan and Keralathile Karshaka Samarangal are some of his work. His research findings on the maritime history of Malabar is also much acclaimed. KKN Kurup recalls the path he traversed.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
I was getting into the job at one of the most challenging period in the history of Calicut University. I studied at this university (MA and PhD in history) and started my career in 1971 at the MA department here. My passion was much stronger than the challenges and it helped me overcome hurdles. The first thing I had to do was to systematise the administrative procedure by dividing the work, sector-wise. It drastically reduced the time of university procedures and students greatly benefited from this.
During my tenure, the university started three extension centres and a plethora of students were admitted to computer science and MCA courses. Instead of 30 part-time MCA students, the varsity absorbed around 500 full-time MCA students. During my stint, a chair each was allocated to Marxian and Islamic studies. I also published previously scrapped research pieces of the Sanskrit department. An engineering college was also started and it is the only engineering college where a BTech in printing technology is offered.
Tell us about the Knowledge to Villages project you floated.
Knowledge to Villages was my dream and I tried to realise it by starting Kunjali Marakkar Centre at Vadakara, Johm Mathayi Centre at Thrissur and Batheiri Centre at Wayanad. They were all situated at remote locations and drastic development was made possible. I had this strong notion that no technology was complete till its benefits reached the most deprived citizen. This concept helped generate the idea of distributing more than a lakh of banana saplings to tribal hamlets in Wayanad. These were developed at the Biotechnology Centre of the University. I still remember a man asking me who would cut the banana bunches when they grew. I was stunned. I told him that the bunches belonged to him as he was the cultivator thereby accomplishing the objective of the project, which was aimed at empowering the masses to see fruits of their labour.
What are the activities of Malabar Institute of Research and Development?
MIRD was my brain child and soon after I completed my term as VC, I began to strengthen the activities of MIRD. Set up in 2002 in Vadakara, Kozhikode, it is an organisation of scholars and ordinary citizens who work to embolden the masses through creative and scholarly interventions. MIRD conducts seminars, discussions and debates often in social science. We believe a social scientist is a social engineer and the best way for him to work is through effective arguments. MIRD provides a platform for that.
What are your future plans?
I am now very much engaged with the activities of MIRD. I would like to publish more books in the coming years. I published a poetry collection last month. At present, I am working on the contributions of Mahavi Kuttamath to sanskrit poems.