An Exceptional Life – A Story That Has Touched Millions Worldwide


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…!

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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.

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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.


  1. Hi Kavita a very touching post. The first thing I felt about your brother upon reading this post is not only is (sorry I am unable to use was for a reason) he #madeofgreat but in a lot of ways he lives on with you not just in spirit but in thoughts and actions too.
    It is very nice of you to have shared details about the wonderful brother of yours
    Indeed an excellent post.With your permission
    Here is my answer
    The association of Tata Motors with Lionel Messi is that of two greats. Lionel Messi has been exceptionally talented who with his hard work, determination and sacrifices has got better and tougher in his chosen sport so is the Image, reputation and quality of TATA Motors that have transformed brilliant ideas into masterpieces of engineering and created a brand and products that we are so proud of as Indians. Lionel Messi has transformed his body and the mind body co-ordination into a masterpiece of precision and excellence it would not be wrong to say that Lionel Messi is the TATA Motors of sports where as TATA Motors is the Lionel Messi of vehicles both giants in their own spheres driven by the drive to excel and lead by example. So Lionel Messi is the best choice for becoming the brand Ambassador for TATA Motors

  2. The story of a Legend in herself – that’s how I will describe it in a short sentence. Very well written with words well chosen which enhance the simplicity yet greatness of the person. Salutations and very happy for you to have got inspired and bringing out your best in life. We are all proud to have such Legends in India.

    My answer: Tata is a name which any and every person can rely on for its honesty, commitment and perseverance. Lionel Messi is a legend who has carved his name in history books with total dedication to the game, simple living and improvisation which is seen with each game he plays. The association of Tata Motors and Lionel Messi as their Brand Ambassador will definitely give an edge to the Tata group over its competitors solely because the brand Ambassador also holds the same reputation of not letting his fans down ever, like Tata Motors who have given the best to the world over the decades. Its an exemplary association par excellence.

    You can choose my answer as the Voucher winning comment if you feel I described it all well.. 🙂 Please remember to post it on the Indiblogger contest page today as soon as you have 3 comments here..

  3. Such a noble soul Shyam was…hats off to such a person! I am sure he had that positive aura around him, that made sure we remember him (like you did here)!
    So nice of you to mention him and inspire us!

    Talking about Messi, he too has such an aura, which compels many of us to like him…in fact, love him! He would be a great asset to Tata Motors’ reputation and will bring in brand loyalty for the company.

  4. I applaud the person that Shyam was, from my heart. Truly #madeofgreat and a gem of a person.

    As for the expression of views towards the question, I would like to answer through a stanza or two of verse:

    ‘What drives us from within is what makes us great’
    Belief in oneself, the zeal to put up a brave face,
    In the face of adversity, to stand strong against fate,
    That’s how life is – it’s an excellent goal to chase!

    To create a name for oneself, from the soil your feet dampen,
    To let critics enhance your effort, not let your spirits dampen,
    It’s the journey that counts, more than having scaled the peak,
    To persevere so that it’s your actions that have the loudest shriek!

    To sum up, I feel that this age-old adage rings true whenever I think of this beautiful alliance of an Indian Global Brand – Tata Motors and a Global Argentinian Sportsperson – Lionel Messi

    “Our Similarities bring us to a common ground; Our Differences allow us to be fascinated”

    That realization is truly #madeofgreat. 🙂

    If you decide to choose my comment, you could tweet to me @stiryoursouls and I’d be happy to communicate the credentials.

  5. This one is really emotional. One is that I lost the opportunity of getting into Indian armed forces and feel the adventurous heat on a regular basis. Another one that of losing an exceptionally inspiring soul Shyam. While reading about INA experience, tears started flowing down my cheeks. Exceptional writing! My best wishes for the contest.

    • Thank you, for your kind words Gowthama Rajavelu. Shyam was an exceptional guy, no doubts. I understand your feelings about not having made it to the Armed Forces. But the one experience that you shared in your post, will surely inspire and motivate many. kudos to you too.

  6. Generally, I don’t take write-ups and movies personally but now I can’t help writing this comment in tears. He saved many before he fell ill, a real hero! We shall never find answer to why this should happen to nice hearted souls. I know you’ve been through it and I can imagine how stronger this phase must have made you that you could write about your feelings.

  7. Of the thousands of thoughts moving around the Messi-Tata Motors association, here’s a new insight. Messi is also the ambassador for UNICEF for his noble deeds for the betterment of children across the globe. That’s something that truly touched me, more than the football
    legend in him. On the other side, our Tata Motors could think of making several Indian middle class dreams alive with their Nano. Definitely there’s a touch of humanity behind this. Their association sound to me like humanity meets humanity!

  8. Your brother Shyam lived a beautiful and rich life! I am sure he is in heaven making people smile there 🙂
    Reg your question, The wonderful association between MEssi and Tata Motors is obviously a great partnership since it is based on doing the best that both Lionel Messi and Tata Motors can do today – create the best sporting performance and best cars respectively! Can’t think of two better people to come together 🙂
    Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
    Vince Lombardi