Celebrating Sunder

–Sethu (Sethumadhavan), IA&AS (1966)

My friendship with Sunder  goes back to the days when we were both IA&AS Probationers in Hyderabad in the mid-Sixties; we used to stay together, along with C.S.Rao,  IAS and my batch mate, in an old, typical Hyderabad house at Adarshnagar (on the Noubat Pahad hillock ) in the city. Laksminarayanan from our earlier batch was already working there as an Asst. Accountant General and since he was married by then, used to extend his hospitality to us, the avaricious bachelors. Even then, Sunder was known to be a “keen-type-probationer” (KTP), trying to master the intricacies of Government Accounting and Auditing. He also had a knack of making friends among our colleagues including our seniors. But what I remember most about our days in Hyderabad are those wonderful evenings we used to spend together visiting pubs and restaurants drinking beer and tasting the exquisite Hyderabadi cuisine. He was also adept at cooking; and an amusing incident which comes to mind is of his teaching, out of sheer frustration, our Malayalee cook who was a novice at the job, how to make stir-fry vegetables (Brahmin style, pure and simple)!
To my greatest sorrow, the last time we met was at his apartment in Tata Sherwood in Bangalore which Raji and Sunder had made their retirement home just before he left for Chennai for hospitalization after he was diagnosed with ‘the emperor of all maladies’.  In his own characteristic manner, Sunder never showed any nervousness about his life-threatening illness which abruptly and cruelly snatched him away from us, but  discussed casually about his prognosis;  and when we took leave for the last time, appeared to be more concerned about a punctured tyre on our car (while parked outside his apartment). For us,- Sreekantans, along with whom Indu and I visited him and Raji to wish him an early and complete recovery- it came as no surprise; Sunder was always nonchalant and indomitable in his own way.
During our long years in the IA&AS, Sunder and I had no occasion to work together in the same office, though we were both in Delhi when he was with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and I was working as Asst. Comptroller & Auditor General (Personnel). He was so entirely immersed in his job most of the time, so much so, his Financial Adviser (JS &FA) mentioned to me once that after Sunder examined a proposal and presented his views, there was little for others to contribute, except to sign in agreement! In fact, Sunder showed the same zeal and enthusiasm during all his various assignments, in particular while working in the Loksabha Secretariat and later with the Sixth Pay Commission.
We will all miss him for what he was: for his warm friendship and cheerful disposition, for his pride for his work and his depth of knowledge and contribution to public service, and for everything that Sunder stood for. Like all of us, he also had his measure of success as well as his share of disappointments; but indeed, he was one never to cry over spilt milk. He enjoyed life absolutely and as best as he could till his last moment; and made it a grand celebration.  We will all miss him for ever. Indu and I will always cherish his memories and pray for his soul.
Goodbye, Sunder, dear friend!
SETHU (Sethumadhavan), IA&AS (1966)

[Sethu, like Kanti, was an old and dear friend and colleague from the IA&AS, and they provided us a readymade community when we moved to Bangalore after Sunder retired].