“The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.”- Albert Einstein
If someone asks you to donate a part of your salary to the poor and needy, what percentage would you agree to give? Most people would agree for 5 to 10 %. Isn’t it incredible to find a person who donated 100 % of his salary to the poor and needy for 35 long years of his service till his retirement? Even after retirement, he worked as a waiter in a hotel in exchange for two meals a day and a meager salary so that he could continue to donate to orphanages and children’s educational funds. Not only that, he also gave his monthly pension and gratuity of Rs 10, 00000 to the needy orphans. He was rewarded a sum of Rs. 30 crores as a recognition of his services towards the orphans by an American organization; however, he gave the lump sum money in charity. He donated his ancestral property, jewelry, assets and everything that belonged to him. He is the only person in the world to spend the entire earnings for a social cause.
It is my privilege to present Mr. Kalyanasundaram, Librarian at Kumarkurupara Arts College at Srivaikuntam, Tamil Nadu. He was born at Melakarivelamkulam in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu on 10th May 1940. He lost his father, who was a landlord when he was ten months old. It was his mother who inspired him to serve the poor and help all living beings. She would tell him, ‘Even if you have all the money in the world, you will not be happy. ’Before eating his tiffin in school, he was asked to share it with his friends. The village in which he lived had no provision for roads, buses, schools, electricity, or shops. He had to walk 10kms to school and back. He used to help the needy children by paying their school fees of Rs 5 and providing them with school uniform. Mr. Kalyana Sundaram was disappointed with his high pitched, female voice and was so depressed that he wanted to kill himself.
During the Indo China war, when Kalyanasundaram was a student, he donated his gold chain to the national defense fund. After his graduation, he wanted to pursue his master’s in Tamil language. Since he was the only aspirant for the course, the college authorities asked him to opt another subject for specialization. But he insisted on Tamil only. Impressed with his dedication the founder of MTT College assured him admission in his college and also took care of his educational expenses.
A newspaper editor asked, ‘Till now, you have been donating what your mother and grandmother gave you, not what you earned. When you start working, can you donate your entire salary for at least five years?’ Taking it as a challenge, he created history.
Nobody knew what he was doing till 1990. It remained a secret as he didn’t want to publicize what he was doing. When UGC pay scales were implemented he got Rs 120,000 as arrears. He donated the entire amount to the district collector to be used as scholarships for the education of orphaned children. This news was sent to the media. That’s how people came to know of a person called Kalyanasundaram.
Floods ravaged South Tamil Nadu districts in 1992, and people lost everything. Donations started pouring in for the flood victims. He traveled to several villages and donated books, school uniforms, and stationaries to 10,000 children.
A gold medalist in library science, he also holds a master’s degree in literature and history. He was adjudged as the best librarian in India. The International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, has honored him as one of the ‘noblest of the world’. He also received Man of the Millenium award and Life Time of Service Award from Rotary Club of India in 2011. 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.”
Kalyanasundaram lives a simple life in his small house in Saidapet, Chennai. He never married for the simple reason that he wanted to devote his entire life to the service of the poor and needy. To meet his expenditure, he taught Gandhian studies from 5 pm to 7 pm, after which he worked as a waiter from 8 pm to 11 pm. The hotel paid him Rs 600 as salary along with free food.
When Rajinikanth came to know of this, he met him and presented him with 101 sovereigns. There itself, he gave away the 101 sovereigns to 101 needy children. On seeing this, Rajnikant adopted him as his father and invited Mr. Kalyana Sundaram to stay with him. But he couldn’t stay with him for more than a month and requested them to let him go, since he felt imprisoned and the poor people needed him. He declared that after death he would like to donate his entire body to Tirunelveli Medical College for scientific research.