- author, Divya Jayaraj
- position, BBC Tamil
Can you believe that America’s Bill Clinton wanted to meet a person born in a Kadakodi hamlet of Kalakkadu Panchayat, Tirunelveli District, Nanguneri Taluk, Tamil Nadu? He is Balam Kalyanasundaram!
Social worker Balam Kalyanasundaram has already received many awards for his social service. Currently he has been selected for Padma Shri, one of India’s highest awards.
‘Palam Kalyanasundaram gave all the money he got during his life for the poor, such as his native property worth fifty lakhs, thirty lakh rupees earned by working in the college throughout his life, and the work gift he received after retirement’, the official website of the Palam organization states.
When BBC Tamil contacted him, he said, “I was born in a well-to-do family in Kalakadu area in 1939. My mother is my world. She once told me strongly that no matter how much comfort you have in life, you should always live by helping other living beings and not wanting money. Since then, helping others has been my passion. It became a passion. I started helping the poor students who studied with me by saving the money my mother gave me as a child. I was only 14 years old then,” says Palam Kalyanasundaram.
As he continued to speak, “In 1963, there was a war between India and China. At that time, Prime Minister Nehru had asked the people of the country to provide whatever material assistance they could. I went to donate my Batu Sawaran gold chain as a wartime financial aid. The officials there praised me and sent me to inform the journalists about this. In a press company, “The funding you have provided is commendable.
But it seems to be your family property. Have you helped yourself by earning anything?’ That question made me think a lot. It was only after that that he decided to give all the money he earned during his life to the poor,” he says.
Also, I have bagged gold medal in many courses including MA (Litt.), MA (His)., MA (GT). After that, from 1971 to 1998, I worked as a librarian at Kumaraguru College, Sri Vaikunda, Tuticorin District. In those 35 years I earned a total of thirty lakhs. I did not take a single rupee from it for myself. I gave it all to those in need. He told the BBC that I worked as a supplier in hotels at night to earn money for my own expenses.
As he continued to speak,
“At some point, the outside world came to know about the help I was doing. Many people believed in the social service I was doing and started looking for me and started funding. Therefore, I founded an organization called ‘Palam’ in 1998 and have been running it till now. For those who want to help people, I started being a bridge for those who needed help,” he says.
In 1999, the United States honored him with the ‘Man of the Millennium Award’ in appreciation of his social service to help the poor, saying that the world would not have seen such a man in the last thousand years.
It should be noted that this award is given only once in ten years. Along with this award, the US also gave him a cash prize of 6.5 million US dollars (30 crores in Indian currency). According to the official website of Balam organization, he donated all the money for the welfare of children.
Rajini and Bill Clinton
Actor Rajinikanth, who heard about him, adopted him as his father and took him to his home. But Palam Kalyanasundaram, who stayed there only for a few months, returned to his place.
He said, “Rajini, his wife and children have a lot of love for me. I have all the happiness in life but it is a big shortcoming that I don’t have a father. So he took me home saying that you should be with me and solve that shortcoming.
I was looked after very comfortably in that house. But after going there, I could not see the people who came to me for help every day. It made me very sad. It was as if I had lost my nature. So I stated my position and said that I am going back to my place. Even though Rajini was upset about it, he understood and sent me away,” he says.
He further said, “In 2005, the then president of the United States, Bill Clinton, came to India to see the damage caused by the tsunami in India. At that time, he told the press that he wanted to meet two people apart from politicians. One of them was Abdul Kalam and the other was me. But then I went to town because I had an urgent job. “Bill Clinton only saw Abdul Kalam and turned away,” reports Palam Kalyanasundaram.
Talking about his life journey, he said, ‘I didn’t get married till the end because I thought that marriage would be an obstacle to serving people. Currently I am living in a rented house in Saidapet, Chennai with my pension money. I never expected that I would get such fame and name later because of the decision I made in my youth.”
It has been announced that his autobiography will now be made into a film. Amitabh Bachchan will act in Hindi and Rajinikanth in Tamil. It is noteworthy that Palam Kalyanasundaram has already announced that he is going to give the royalty amount that is going to be given to him for that film to the people.
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