Man of the Millennium – Life of KalyanaSundaram

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While many ‘newsmakers’ are catapulted to almost celebrity status overnight for doing hardly anything of acclaim and people are ready to stoop to any level get publicity, here is an attempt to honour Mr Kalyana Sundaram, who has done some extraordinary and selfless work in the society. We could not find any record of his life history on the internet and therefore we decided to document and honour his wonderful life.“Man of the Millennium”, Mr Kalyana Sundaram runs a Charitable Trust called Palam (Bridge) – A connection between the donation from the affluent and ones who need it. Mr Kalyana Sundaram aka “Palam” (his charitable organisation) Kalyana Sundaram has donated his entire salary from first day of starting his job as librarian till last day of his service (including the Rs 10 lakhs/ Rs 1,000,000 pension money) to charitable causes. He worked as waiter/cleaner in a local restaurant to sustain his simple daily life.He is a bachelor (who felt marriage would be a distraction) and has dedicated his life to serve society. Man of the Millennium Kalyana Sundaram

His childhood

He was born in a tiny village of Melakaruvelangulam in Nangunari taluk in Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu to (parents) Paalvannanathan and Thaiammal on 10th May 1940. This tiny village did not even have the basic facilities such as a primary school, medical facility or electricity.

Why he chose a life of service to mankind?

Kalkandu Editor Tamilvaanan Mr Kalyana Sundaram was disappointed with his high pitched, female voice and was so depressed that he wanted to kill himself. As a young kid, he read ‘Kalkandu’ a tamil magazine and was especially fond of author/editor Tamilvaanan and his writings. He used to write letters to the author and the author would reply to his letters and one day invited Mr Kalyana Sundaram to meet him in Chennai. When they met Mr Kalyana Sundaram told him about his voice and how bad he felt about it. Innocent as he was, he even asked for suggestion from the author to give him ideas on how to kill himself.

Mr Tamilvaanan told him that his was not his disability because all that matters is what people say about you. He further added, for people who make fun of you, make them talk about your great deeds. He went back to his village with great motivation and decided he will start helping fellow human beings.

Donation to National Defense Fund during the India China War

When the India China war broke out in 1963, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made a public request on radio for people to donate to the National Defense Fund. Mr Kalyana Sundaram was a student in the Madras University was moved but had very little to spare and so he gave away his gold chain weighing 65 grams to Mr Kamaraj, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Mr Kamaraj was so moved by this gesture that he announced him as a national treasure and blessed him to have a great future.

Mr Kalyana Sundaram meets ‘Ananda Vikatan’ editor

After his donation to the National Defense Fund, Mr Kalayanasundaram met the editor of ‘Ananda Vikatan’ Magazine -Mr Balasubramanian. The editor warned him the path of service is a challenge and not an easy one akin to a constantly burning fire where people are forever lost in it. He also challenged Mr Kalayasundaram saying that providing for other people, using ones ancestral resources (money from parents or grand parents) is not true service. Although Mr Kalyanasundaram had been doing this for 10 years, this was not a true measure of philanthropy. He said “when you start working let’s see if you continue giving to others”. This fired up Mr Kalyana Sundaram and set him on a path of service for man kind his entire life.

1992 floods in South Tamil Nadu and the Father of 10,000 children

Floods ravaged South Tamil Nadu districts in 1992 and people lost everything. Donations started pouring in for the flood victims. Mr Kalyana Sundaram chose a demographic of kids who had lost their books, school uniforms and stationary. He traveled to several villages and donated books, school uniforms and stationaries to 10,000 children. The legendary carnatic singer M S Subbulakshmi was so moved by this extraordinary philanthropic deed she invited Mr Kalyana Sundaram to her house and felicitated him.

Kalyanasundaram with MS Subbulakshmi
The legendary carnatic singer M S Subbulakshmi with Mr Kalyana Sundaram

Serendipity –The second meeting

When the legendary carnatic singer M S Subbulakshmi was offered a payment for her performance in editor Balasubramanian’s family wedding, she requested him to donate it to Mr Kalyana Sundaram organization and gave the forwarding address.
Mr Balasubramanian had by then completely forgotten about his first meeting several years ago. He personally wanted to give the check to this organisation since the acclaimed, nationally renowned singer M S Subbulakshmi had recommended them.
Ananda Viketan Balasubramanian

When they met, Mr Balasubramanian felt that he had met this person before (recognising the voice) and Mr Kalyana Sundaram had to remind him that it was his advice and challenge back in the day that had changed him. Mr Balasubramanian was moved to tears and was overwhelmed by the achievements of this one man.This led to the editor publishing a cover story in ‘Anantha Vikatan’ on Mr Kalyana Sundaram and his work.

Superstar Rajinikanth adopts Mr Kalyana Sundaram as his Father

This article in ‘Anantha Vikatan’ touched Superstar Rajinikanth and his wife Latha. Mr Rajinikanth announced Mr Kalyana Sundaram to be his adopted Father. He and his wife Latha invited him to stay with them forever. After 15 days of the hospitable treatment, Mr Kalyana Sundaram requested them to let him go since he felt imprisoned and there were people who needed him.

Donating his entire body

When the ultimate question of death kept cropping up in Mr Kalyan Sundaram’s life and he decided that this too must be done in true Kalyana Sundaram style! He went to the Dean of Tirunelveli Medical College and told him on his death he would like to donate his entire body for scientific research.


Man of the Millenium

He was awarded the Man of Millenium award along with a prize money of Rs 30 lakhs (Rs 3,000,000) for his outstanding act of donating his entire salary from first day of starting his job as librarian till last day of his service and also the 10 lakhs (RS 1,000,000) worth of pension money to charitable causes. No prizes for guessing where all the money went.

His other awards included “UNO’s Outstanding People of the 20th Century” and “Life Time of Service Award from Rotary Club of India in 2011”

Albert Einstein said this about Gandhi and will be very apt for Mr Kalyana Sundaram.

Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that
such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth”

Tamil documentary on Mr Kalyan Sundaram’s life