He has donated his entire salary to charity for the 35 years he worked as a librarian. His retirement benefits and his share of family property were all used for social causes.He did odd jobs in a hotel or a laundry to meet his daily needs. No,it wasn’t easy for him as he was born into a rich agricultural family and wasn’t used to such life.
He has slept on pavements and railway platforms to find out what it is like to be poor, without a roof over your head.
During the Indo-China War when Nehru urged people contribute to the defence fund, he donated his gold chain to the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
He does not wish to own anything as he believes that we don’t take anything with us when he leave this planet.
He runs an organization `Paalam’ that serves as a bridge between donors and beneficiaries: it collects money and materials from those willing to donate and distribute them among the weaker sections.
He is P. Kalyanasundaram. The United Nations Organisation adjudged him as one of the Outstanding People of the 20th Century’. An American organisation has also selected him as the `Man of the Millennium.
‘The Union Government has acclaimed him as `The Best Librarian in India’. He has also been chosen as `one of the top ten librarians of the world’. The International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, has honoured him as `one of the noblest of the world’.
The story of P.Kalyanasundaram
Born in August 1953 in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, Kalyanasundaram studied Tamil at St Xavier’s College. At that time he was so bothered about his shrill feminine voice that he even wanted to commit suicide at one point. It was then that he met Thamizhvaanan, writer of self-improvement books, whose advice he never forgot: “Don’t bother about how you speak. Strive to make others speak good about you.” He had found his calling: child welfare.
While an undergraduate at Madras University, Kalyanasundaram started the International Children’s Welfare Organisation to help slum children. This was his initiation into social service. His resolve was strengthened in 1962. At the height of the Indo-China war, he made it to the columns of local newspapers when he donated his gold chain to the National Defence Fund.
Kalyanasundaram thought the publication of the news in Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil magazine, would encourage more donations. But when he met the editor, S. Balasubramanian, he was dismissed as a publicity hound and challenged to prove his sincerity within five years.
Kalyanasundaram began by apportioning his salary as a college librarian: Rs.40 for personal expenses, Rs.100 for children’s welfare. The five-year period soon ended but he did not stop. After that social service became his life. At one point, he decided to donate his entire salary and met his daily needs doing odd jobs. The anonymous good Samaritan worked thus for 27 years.
In 1990, however, the truth was out. When the University Grants Commission gave him over Rs.1 lakh as arrears of his salary, Kalyanasundaram gave it to the district collector for the higher education of orphans. Though he didn’t want it to be publicised, the collector gave it wide coverage in the media. It was only then that his life’s work was noticed. Recognition in the form of a spate of awards followed. The gold medallist in library science, even donated the entire amount of Rs. 30 crores that he received with the Man of the Millenium award.
For 45 years, Kalyanasundaram’s social work focussed on children. However, in 1998, after retirement, he decided to expand his service and, thus, Paalam was born. One of the first things he did was to direct the money he received as retirement benefit to social cause.
Paalam serves as the link between donors and beneficiaries. Assistance is not only monetary. Children are helped in pursuing education, medical attention is provided to the needy, blood donation camps are organised and blood samples are reached to hospitals during emergencies, the unemployed, elderly, sick and handicapped are rehabilitated, and free counselling is provided.
“We cannot sustain ourselves, unless we contribute to the society in someway or the other. I strongly feel if even one person does his bit towards social good, there will be some change.” – – P. kalyanasundaram