Born on 28th August 1942 at Tiruchirappalli, South India, V.Sundaram had his education in Simla and New Delhi. He took his B.A. (Hon.) Degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 1961. He also took his M.A. Degree in Economics, with specialization in Industrial Economics, from Delhi University in 1963. He worked as Lecturer in Economics in Delhi University for two years till he joined the Indian Administrative Service (I.A.S.) in 1965. He was allotted to Tamil Nadu Cadre and has served with distinction in several high positions in Tamil Nadu Government from 1966 to 1994. He sought his voluntary retirement from the I.A.S. in 1994.
His record as Development Administrator in Tamil Nadu has been outstanding. He was the first Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust. He was the architect responsible for undertaking and completing all the Port Works relating to the creation of breakwaters, the Oil Jetty and the Coal Jetty in Tuticorin Port. On account of his dynamism and vision, Tuticorin Port was put on the Maritime Map of South East Asia.
As Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Agro-Industries Corporation, he made the branded sun-flower oil ‘SUNOLA’ an all India consumer product. As Chairman and Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Small Industries Development Corporation Ltd. (SIDCO), he was responsible for establishing the Tirupur Industrial Complex in a record time of 12 months in 1991-92 and innumerable export oriented Baniyan and Hosiery units owe their growth and development to his macro planning and long-term vision.
In the field of Social Welfare, he has been devoted to the welfare and rehabilitation of the physically handicapped, particularly the patients suffering from leprosy. As Director of Social Welfare, he established 10 Homes in Tamil Nadu for the rehabilitation of vagrant beggars afflicted with leprosy and leprosy patients languishing below the poverty line.
He has been Commissioner and Secretary to Government in the Departments of Institutional Finance, Rural Development, Food and Consumer Protection, Public Works Department (PWD) and Personnel and Administrative Reforms (P&AR). As PWD Secretary he inaugurated the era of privatization of the Power Sector in India. The East Coast Highway from Chennai to Cuddalore launched with tremendous speed and efficiency with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank was his brain-child. Likewise the Four-Lane Highway from Chennai to Vilupparam, with full financial assistance from the World Bank, was taken up and executed without any cost and time over-run.
After coming out of the Government in April 1994 he has held several responsible positions both in the public and private sector. He was Administrator of the World Bank assisted National Highways Project relating to four-laning of the National Highway from Cuttack to Kolkatta with Headquarters in Bhuvaneshwar. He was Secretary-General of Hindustan Chamber of Commerce, Chennai for two years.
Till January 2010, he was working as Associate Editor of News Today (a daily in English from Chennai) and Malai Sudar (a daily in Tamil from Chennai). As a fearless journalist, he has contributed, over a period of 5 years, more than 2500 articles in the field of economics, literature, art and culture, religion and philosophy, apart from politics and public affairs He is known for his forthright, hard-hitting and fearless journalism. His watchwords are S G S T—Stern Grim Scorching Truth! He is known for his independence and courage of conviction. His motto is: “without courage there can be no truth and without truth there is no other virtue”.
As a lover of books he has a large private library, full of rare and antiquarian books. He has authored several books and monographs.
a) Growth with Equity (1987)
b) Essays and Reviews (1993)
c) District Administration (1993)
d) Essays in Welfare Administration (1993)
e) Rama Setu—Historical Facts and Political Fiction (2007)
f) Bandemataram Album (2007)
g) Salutations to Guruji Golwalkar (2007)
h) Paramount cry for a Hindu Nation (2008)
i) Tamil Scholars and Savants (2011)
j) Elegies on Padma (2012)
Dr ‘Indira’ Parthasarathy, the highly decorated and internationally known Tamil novelist and man of letters reviewed Shri Sundaram’s book Essays and Reviews, which was released in 1993. “What strikes me most after reading this modestly entitled book ‘Essays and Reviews’, is the immense versatility of the author. He is totally at ease dealing with marbles as well as metaphysics. This anthology features articles on wide-ranging subjects such as History, Biography, Literature, Social and Economic Development and also a few Autobiographical sketches. The recurring theme in all these topics is what appears to me Sundaram’s nostalgia for the past and his anxiety about the future. In short, he is obsessed with what he describes as ‘Madame Time’. … He is Proustean in his objective approach to the past, as golden moments gone for ever; Carlylian in glorifying heroes of a bygone era as men of nation’s destiny and Hegelian, in elevating history to replace God. To him, it appears, history is the arbiter of all values and rightly so. Sundaram is a poet at heart. It is reflected in all his writings. If poetry is a “Style in Thinking” as Eliot says, there is ample evidence in his anthology that Sundaram has his own distinctive and imaginative way in approaching his themes. All the essays in the anthology announce the arrival of a multi-dimensional scholar and also a poet --- Could this be a contradiction in terms --- with an instinctive genius, for discovering the “astonishingness” in the most commonplace things which Mrs Mathuram Bhoothilingam aptly describes as “The Spirit of Wonder”. ”
Dr ‘Indira’ Parthasarathy gave this final literary verdict to Shri V. Sundaram’s book. In an era of ‘aesthetic abundance’ unfortunately ushered in by democracy and technological explosion, looking for needles in haystacks has become the full-time occupation of a Conservative reader, who still clings to the old-fashioned belief that quality is all. I don’t feel ashamed to confess that I am a Conservative in regard to my reading habits and I am immensely happy, now that I have found a needle.”
Shri T.V Venkatraman I.A.S, formerly Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu and an outstanding scholar and writer in English and Tamil wrote a very perceptive foreword to V. Sundaram’s book titled ‘Essays and Reviews’ which was released in 1993. Here are a few excerpts from his foreword. “The finely crafted collections of ESSAYS AND REVIEWS places the reader at the cross roads of the best that can be had on twentieth century history, oriental literature, Tamil literature and cultural dialogue between India and liberal West. For these essays and reviews range across different cultures and disciplines in order to highlight some of the sociological, literary and cultural factors which have helped to shape the modern sensibility. In fact some of Shri V. Sundaram’s historical essays are a timely response for making sense of contemporary affairs, from a truly international perspective.”
“ … I would claim three main merits of Shri V. Sundaram’s collection of Essays and Reviews. First, he has a sense of history. For intellectual questions draw not only upon the present but also the past, recalling the pleasures afforded by the celebrities who are gone, tracing their influences whether in matters intellectual or in subject and style. In any discussion of style Gibbon and Macaulay are bound to figure as prominently as Winston Churchill, G.M Trevelyan and Barbara Tuchman. Secondly, it gives me great pleasure to commend Shri V. Sundaram for maintaining the tradition of the Scholar - Civil Servant of British India. Finally, Shri Sundaram’s volume is an interdisciplinary approach to life and literature, lending a wholeness to the variety of Shri Sundaram’s Essays and Reviews.”
V. Sundaram is a lover and keen student of Carnatic Music. He is a trained Mridangam Player. He has a large collection of rare Carnatic Music records. He has a rare and magnifent collection of rare audio voices of great statesmen and men of history, scholars, philosophers and poets of international fame. A keen collector of South Indian art, he has donated several bronzes and other art objects to the Madras Museum.
V. Sundaram is married to Padma who comes from a family of distinguished Sanskrit scholars. He hails from Ennappadam village near Palghat, Kerala. His wife Padma Sundaram hails from Tondikulam Village, near Nurani Village near Palghat Town, Kerala. She is the great-grand daughter of Palghat Parameshwara Bhagavatar (1809-1891) who was the State Musician (Aasthana Vidwan) of the Travancore Kingdom. History has it that he taught music to Swathi Thirunal (1813-1846), King of Travancore. This apart, Padma is a scholar in her own right. She is currently engaged in a research project relating to the system of Gotras and Pravaras.
As Director of the Anna Institute of Management in Chennai, in one of his famous orations in 1982 he observed: “When the public sit in judgment on any Public Servant, they are bound to ask 4 questions. Was he a man of judgment? Was he a man of vision? Was he a man of courage? Was he a man of integrity?”
V. Sundaram’s message to all young civil servants is: “Do not worry if you are not in the limelight for in the limelight there are more bad civil servants than good ones”.
Among many other things, V. Sundaram has been greatly influenced by the writings of Hans J Morgenthau (1904-1980) and Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
He has kept the following quotation from the writings of Morganthau on his working table for guidance everyday: “To be able to work in the service of a great idea, on behalf of an important goal; to be able to commit every nerve, every muscle, and every drop of sweat to a work, to a great task; to grow with the work, to become greater oneself in the struggle with one's betters' and then to be able to say at the end: I die, but there remains something that is more important than my life and will last longer than my body: my work. That is my hope, which is worthy of tremendous efforts, that is my goal, for which it is worth living and, if need be, dying.”
The other quotation is from Sir Winston Churchill. In order to stoutly defend the deathless cause of public interest, V. Sundaram sought voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1994 at the age of 51. At that time he quoted the following words of Sir Winston Churchill and told the Press that they were his sounding signals and guiding lights: “The only shield to a man’s honour and dignity is his conscience, the sincerity and the rectitude of his actions. Armed with this shield, he shall always march amidst the ranks od honour, whichever way the fates might play.”