Exceptional isn’t something you work at. It is what you already are!
If the life that has gone,has been like music, full of sweetness, full of concords, richness, delicacies and truth, then there are two ways to look at it, One is to say.” I have not lost it.” Another is to say ” Blessed by God that I have had it so long.” Beecher.
Life is to be reckoned not only extensively, but also intensively: not merely by the number of its days, but also by the amount of thought and energy which we infuse into them. Some people are born to lead and destined to inspire others by setting an example of living life to the fullest and facing their last moments with an uncommon acceptance and courage. Major T. Shyam Sundar was that kind of a person.
Childhood is a time when children are busy imbibing and emulating others. Some children display exceptional courage and unique thinking right from a very young age. Adventure was Shyam’s favorite sport right from childhood. At the age of three in trying to feel the water, while taking a boat ride on the bewitching Dal Lake in Kashmir , he fell into it, but held on to the rim of the boat thus enabling my father to lift him up in the nick of time. Coming from an Army background definitely has an element of courage and boldness coupled with the right presence of mind. In another instance, when we were on our way to Bombay VT station, Shyam had alighted in Dadar thinking we had reached. Upon reaching Bombay VT , my father boarded another train back to Dadar to bring him, only to be told by the station master in Bandra that Shyam had managed to find some other battalion moving to Bombay VT and had joined them! This was his presence of mind at the age of 11. Swimming had been Shyam’s passion and having an eczema did not dampen his spirits and enthusiasm, with treatment and permission from the pool authorities , he would get ready everyday for the swimming classes by tying up the foot having the eczema with a plastic cover…… all this without feeling conscious of others . Needless to say, he went on to become a champion swimmer . A remarkable quality for a child to have at the age of 14!
Joining the National Defence Academy was Shyam’s dream come true…..and he had the best time of his life there…..all the ragging, punishments and the tough training saw him come out with flying colors. Even a fracture was not communicated home lest the parental worries pull him down. The final year at the Indian Military Academy equipped him with all the necessary qualities and skills which made for a solid foundation. He won the best officer award in his very first rank as a Second Lieutenant! At this point of time he had helped several soldiers financially, for their education , marriages and other pressing needs.
Having led many successful operations, his expertise in leading from the front was undisputed. As a Major at the age of 27, he was leading an important operation in Kupwara, J & K. Shyam had been made the officiating commanding officer of the operation. One night while returning from patrolling , it had started to snow heavily and the soldiers had fallen into a deep pit full of snow. Without worrying for his life even for a second , Shyam spent the entire night rescuing his soldiers. All the snow had gone into his lungs making him ill. The dearth of officers saw him getting his leave sanctioned very late. Upon his arrival at home , a battery of tests was conducted , revealing a rare form of cancer- Non- Hodgkin’s- Lymphoma(of the lungs)…..stage 3…!
During his six months stay at the Command Hospital Pune… . there was not a single dull moment in any of the wards as he would go up to the patients, cheer them up, play board games with them, relive their glorious days in the forces etc . In his last days when he was declared terminally ill and it was anytime for him , he showed uninhibited courage by forgiving the higher command for sanctioning his leave very late. And the unusual acceptance of a life that was being cut short in its prime! On the last day, he had thanked all the doctors and nurses who had attended to him and all the relatives present. He asked my cousins as to how they had fared in their exams and remembered to wish a cousin on his impending marriage. Shyam made me promise him that I would complete my post graduation without going into depression. He then put my parents hands into mine and asked me to take over from him. And then he requested my reluctant father to release him , so that he could pass on……peacefully……it was only after he got the permission that Shyam left with a smile…..He had crossed over…….
It is his will power that has made it possible for me to take on my responsibilities in full swing. The qualities of courage, charity, acceptance and forgiveness is what this story is all about…making his short life an inspiration to many….. He was excellence personified….
As I reflect on his life, from childhood till his last day on this earth, tears do not flow anymore, as my fears about the unknown have been laid to rest. The way he handled his challenges, particularly his last days, has had a deep impact on my thinking. My brother was a soft spoken person, ever ready to help people. He was unbiased in all his decisions and we never heard any complaints regarding any issue, anytime, from him.
I have been facing several health issues since a long time now and I have learned to take it, one day at a time. This is life and there would be challenges every now and then. Learning is a continuous process and I am a good student. Frankly, I was quite short tempered in my earlier days, always giving my piece of mind and insisting on having the last word in any argument. One incident in particular which changed this for me was, when he was declared terminally ill, my brother had asked me to bring all the photo albums from our house, as he wanted to see them. Now, this scared me, as I thought that he would break down upon seeing them. Reluctantly, I reached the hospital armed with the photo albums. He began to open each album and cherished each memory lovingly. He actually laughed and discussed a few with me. This had me in tears. I used to go out of his room and cry in the garden, as I did not want him to breakdown. But nothing of that sort happened. He took it all very gracefully, right till his end.
I learnt that, in the end, all that mattered was, how well you loved and how well you lived! I have stopped fussing over the mundane issues since then. When faced with bigger challenges, I have learnt to separate the minor issues from the whole issue and I solve them one by one. There is immense pride filled in me, as I pen this piece, for you don’t come by exceptional lives very often and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have known this wonderful person, from very close quarters.
You can teach someone a particular skill and he may even excel at it, during some point in his life, but talent is usually inborn!
This post has been written for the #madeofgreat campaign organised by Tata Motors.The #madeofgreat campaign is the first time Tata Motors is undertaking an overall brand association campaign with a brand ambassador. It rides on a strong consumer motivation of ‘Seeking Excellence’ and ‘Self Belief’ which is showcased by the confluence of two global brands-Tata Motors and Lionel Messi. The campaign builds upon Tata Motors’ DNA of trust, authenticity, reliability, simplicity, as well as its commitment to innovation.
Lionel Messi is talent galore with conviction and is an icon for today’s youth. He is a winner who is trustworthy, reliable, pioneering, simple and driven by self-belief, which is what is at the core of Tata Motors as well. Thus, proving to be an ideal fit for the role of Global Brand Ambassador.
“What do you think of Tata Motors’ association with Lionel Messi?” The best answers have a surprise in store.