Serving people is her motto!
V.S Kalyana Sundari, 70, describes her best moment in life when she met Mother Teresa and she hugged and blessed her. She is a Master’s athlete and when I interviewed her, there was much more to write about her social service than her sports achievements.
I start to ask her about her journey in sports, and she sums up her achievements in a few sentences, “From childhood, I liked sports, mainly athletics. Every year, I made sure that I won at least 1 award in it. After a certain age, I enrolled in the Master's Athletic Association and the journey continued. Everyone in my family was very supportive. However, I generally focus on the state level. Travel and finance pose a problem for the national level and international level competitions even if I am eligible.”
It is however her social work that has brought her much satisfaction. Daughter of IAS officer, V.S.Subbiah, and posted in Cuddalore, Kalyana Sundari was in Std. 10 when the Indo-Pak war broke out. To help wade through the brewing financial crisis, fund collection was happening in many places. At one of the places, Kalyana Sundari donated her 1 sovereign bangle in the collection hundi. While her mother was annoyed, her father consoled her and explained better options.
Growing up, she got to know of NGO Kakkum Karangal that used to accept leftover food from functions like weddings, etc. In an effort to help them, she collected clothes and provisions from her friends and neighbours. Seeing her commitment, in 1992, she was appointed as the Vice-president of the institute. Soon she contacted known people and personalities staying nearby for more help. “My father’s friends, P.A.Ramiah, IAS, helped procure a grinder. Singer Yesudas used to stay closeby. One day I stood at his gate and requested his help for providing fans for the home. Very soon, he got us fans and he himself came and supervised the installation,” says Kalyana Sundari.
A meeting with R.Nataraj, IPS, in 2009, further expanded her scope of service. He asked her if she could help with some services at the Puzhal prison. Soon Kalyana Sundari found herself procuring books for the prison library. “When I went there, I understood that there were a lot of inmates who wanted to study or wanted to educate their children. So we provided them with books and also arranged help for the studies of 4 - 5 children. Till now we have sourced and provided around 350 books. We want to donate more. However because of the lockdown, I have not been able to do so,” explains Kalyana Sundari.
She also arranged for many facilities at the women’s prison and has conducted cultural functions at the prison along with the Aatma dance troupe and Samartiya dance troupe. She also does storytelling sessions at the Juvenile home at Saidapet. “I tell them lots of moral stories, of the importance of families and stories of famous personalities to motivate the children,” she tells.
Meanwhile, she started her NGO - Deepam Madar Sangam and conducted many activities through it at the women’s prison and at schools and colleges on sexual harassment. “I launched the campaign ‘My body, my right’ after the rape of a child at Ayanavaram. Till date, I have conducted awareness sessions in 20 schools and 5 colleges. I also include parents in the sessions,” she adds.
Apart from her social service, Kalyana Sundari is also an avid numismatist with a collection of 1300 coins, and also an artist. “I want to sell my paintings and use the money for charity,” she wishes.
So I ask her what has been the most inspirational incident in her life and she recalls, “My meeting with Mother Teresa! In 1996, I went to Kolkata to participate in an athletic event. We contacted her organisation for a meeting and they asked us to come that afternoon itself. We hurriedly wound up the events and reached her institute. She came and we all gave our visiting cards to introduce ourselves. That time I was still associated with Kakkum Karangal and my card had its mention. So she called for me, took me inside, made me kneel, and prayed over me. After which she said that I will face innumerable difficulties in my work and there would be a lot of struggle, but I should continue to do my service. I had an ecstatic feeling. Indescribable.”
So, how is she keeping herself fit in this lockdown? “We get information on how to keep fit, from the Masters association. I do that sincerely every day,” says Kalyana Sundari. Kalyana Sundari is a resident of Thiruvanmiyur and can be contacted at 80561 38167.