Indian Librarian Has Been Donating Every Penny Earned to Charity for 35 Years

Meet Kalyanasundaram, an Indian librarian with a heart of gold. During his 35 years of service, he donated almost all the money he earned to orphanages and children’s welfare funds. Now that he is retired, Kalyanasundaram donates his entire pension to those who need it more than he. Although he has no material possessions to his name, he considers himself one of the richest people in the world.

The 73-year-old retiree, from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, started to think about helping the poor and underprivileged at a very young age. He lost his father at the age of one, and his mother struggled to raise him all by herself. As he grew older, his shrill, high-pitched voice troubled him to such an extent that he became depressed and suicidal. But his life turned around when he met a local motivational writer, who told him, “Don’t bother about how you speak. Strive to make others speak well about you.”

Kalyanasundaram took the advice seriously, and decided to dedicate his life to the service of others. The humble man insists that the reason he started helping people was to make himself happy.


“People think that I started doing charity when I was young by donating clothes and helping people study, and they attribute it to a public cause, but I insist it was for a private one,” he said. “The place where I lived was a tiny village with no provision for roads, buses, schools, electricity, and there was not even a shop to buy a matchbox from. I had to walk 10km to school and back and walking all that way alone can be a pretty lonesome experience. Hence, I had this thought that if I could motivate most of the children to come with me to school, it would be great fun as well.”

He got his first major opportunity to make a difference when he was a student, during the Indo-China war, when he heard Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s plea for people to donate to the defense fund. Deeply moved, Kalyanasundaram visited the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and offered a gold necklace as his contribution. “I was probably the first student to have done such a thing,” he recalled.


After college, Kalyanasundaram began work as a librarian, but he didn’t use his salary to improve his lifestyle. Instead, he would donate most of his earnings to charity. Out of the 140 rupees that he earned every month, he would keep 40 rupees for his personal expenses, and would donate the remaining 100 rupees towards children’s welfare. And to be able to continue to do so, he decided never to get married or start a family, because he would have to spend money to support them. He also took up part-time jobs to be able to donate more. Over time, as his salary increased, he kept donating proportionately higher amounts.

Kalyanasundaram was so moved by the suffering of the poor that he slept on railway platforms and pavements, so he could experience for himself what they went through. Over the years, he has received several awards – a gold medal in library science and the Man of the Millenium award – amounting to about 300 million rupees (approximately $4.5 million) – and he has donated every bit of it, keeping nothing for himself. After his retirement, he was awarded a pension of one million rupees (approximately $15,000), all of which he donated as well.


‘Paalam’, a nonprofit founded by Kalyanasundaram, serves as a link between donors and beneficiaries. Apart from monetary assistance, the organisation helps children with education and medical attention. They also organise blood donation camps, free counselling, and rehabilitation for the sick and handicapped.

“One can get money in three possible ways,” explained the frail old man, who now lives in a small house in Chennai. “First, through earnings; secondly, through parents’ earnings, and thirdly, through money donated by someone. But there’s nothing more fulfilling than being able to donate money for charity out of your own earnings.”

Sources: The Better India, DNA India

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