August 20, 2015
About 10 years ago, 52-year-old Durai Sundaram was the head of the information technology wing in a leading bank in Australia. Now, he is an in-demand counsellor for students – both in schools and colleges – in Coimbatore.
This is the story of Durai, who made the paradigm shift from an unsatisfactory corporate life to a soul fulfilling career as counsellor.
“You either must want to have a lot of money. Or you must thirst for power. When you are not made for doing both, you have to change track from a corporate life,” said Durai.
Durai was born and brought up in Coimbatore. His is a middle class family and his father was a teacher in the engineering division of CSI School. He did his B.Tech in electronics at the prestigious PSG Tech. He went on to do his M.Tech in industrial management at IIT-Madras.
He spread his wings to go to Australia where he gradually rose to head his department in 20 years. “I headed the negotiations with IBM in 2002-03. My organization also recognized my skills in negotiating. But I was not satisfied with my job,” Durai said.
He joined Wesley Mission, a not-for-profit organization, to do good for children. Coming back to India with enough money in his pocket to lead a comfortable life, Durai took up the case of a mildly autistic 13-year-old boy whose parents were divorced. “This was about five years ago. I had enough money; not a lot of it, but enough to meet my needs. So I took up this case of the boy so that I could help him,” he said.
The boy’s mother was clinically depressed. He also missed his father and had feelings of abandonment. His grandmother wanted custody of the boy. “After I intervened, things became better. I advised him on beating his negative feeling. Now he is in eighth standard and is doing well in school. I am still in touch with him,” said Durai.
Four years ago, Durai’s sister Latha Sundaram started Aram Foundation and Durai began pitching in for the NGO. “Now I met about 25,000 students in a year in schools and colleges. I give public speeches at educational institutions after which students approach me for help,” Durai said.
Durai also uses technology to help children. “When I am in Australia, children contact me via skype. I don’t take any money for my services. When I go to towns near Coimbatore like Salem, I get accommodation. That’s about it. I do all of this with my own money. I pay for my flight charges to Australia and back from my own pocket,” he said.
He realized early in his career as counsellor that some children cause problems because they come from a dysfunctional background. “Today, I take up cases of child sexual abuse to advising children on how to act at work after finishing college,” he said.
Recently, he even conducted a session at Le Meridian in Coimbatore. “I have even been to the jail in Coimbatore a couple of times to meet prisoners in a bid to help them reform themselves,” Durai said.