Remembering Golden Heart Shyamsundar

Cmde Subramaniam Shyamsundar, submariner and one of the finest officers from Ocean’s Best / 40th Integrated Cadets Course (40 ICC), departed on his final voyage at about 2100h on Feb 25, 2021. The officer was at home in Chennai when he suffered a massive cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the nearby Military Hospital but could not be revived. Serving as Naval Officer-in-Charge (Tamil Nadu) and Chief Staff Officer to the Flag Officer Tamil Nadu Naval Area (CSO to FOTNA), Shyam was an operational man with an unending list of naval responsibilities.

There are coursemates and then there are few 2AM friends. In every course, every group, there will be a handful whom you can dial any time of the day or night. Shyam would be somewhere on top of that list for friends, shipmates and family. He would go out of his way to help complete strangers. His big, hairy frame & baritone hid beneath it a golden heart.

Shyam leaves behind a loving family that has touched the extremities of love and trauma. For Meenakshi and their three adorable daughters Deeksha, Aneeksha & Rasika, life will never be the same again. Shyam’s parents’ grief is unfathomable. The ultimate tragedy of losing the only son, a pillar of support in greying years, bears no description.

This is not the first time tragedy has visited the Shyamsundar family. In 2013, while serving as Executive Officer of Indian Navy’s prized acquisition INS Jalashwa (ex-USS Trenton) in Vizag, Shyam lost his first wife Karpagam (Kapi for us) to a botched-up surgery. Deeksha, their first-born, then in her early teens, had to grow up overnight to take the helm as lady of the house; her younger sibling Aneeksha was just a toddler then. Shyam had a solid case to take the culpable to the cleaners. Instead, he paddled grief-stricken families on both sides to safe shores with amazing grace and fortitude. In his world, there was no distinction between service and family.

God’s hand works in strange ways. Rising from the lowest of lows, Shyam met Meenakshi, a passionate teacher who was healing from her own wounds, few years later. Sometimes dark clouds of tragedy carry within it seeds of a new beginning. And so it was for Shyam and Meena. They tied the knot few years later. A jewel from Meena’s side, Rasika, was added to the beautiful family. Kapi lived on in our thoughts while Shyam and Meena picked up the broken pieces of their life, with the best interests of the children always at heart. They have been a beacon of hope; proof that marriages are indeed made in heaven.

I was uniquely fortunate to be present at both the weddings, but missed with deep regret two untimely funerals that followed. I was on a deputation to Italy when Kapi breathed her last. The tragic news broke on our course group when a small gang from Ocean’s Best were celebrating ’25 years reunion’ — a party Shyam skipped to respond to calls of duty and family. A pall of gloom fell over the proceedings at Goa.

Shyam pulled through it all; always putting service before self. ‘A selfless workaholic who doted on his family’ seems like an appropriate description. Shyam had the uncanny ability to make any seat he occupied a hot seat. Yet, amidst all the storms brewing in his personal life, the navy never bore a single unproductive moment from this consummate professional with a Dolphin badge.

Somewhere, the big equation of life must solve itself. You can only give so much blood and sweat while taking relentless stress in return. A glass of drink or a stick of nicotine may feel like an anaesthetic, but it can hardly extend the hourglass of life. I gave up smoking four years before Kapi passed away. Today, Shyam’s reply on WhatsApp after I put out a blog about my struggle with nicotine stared out of my phone grimly when I scrolled back to a 2019 conversation: “I am also sincerely trying, buddy!”.

Shyam & me (he used to call me Pisha) spent many months chasing files in the monkey-infested corridors of ‘A Block Hutments’ in IHQ MoD, New Delhi. He was to submarine arm what I was to aviation. Despite having to pull out of the cadre rather early due to medical issues, Shyam was inextricably wedded to the submarine arm. Drawing deeply on our cigarettes, we often rued the ‘Delhi way‘ of doing business. Some cases we fought saw fruition; many melted into the acrid, soulless air of Delhi like smoke rings. Service headquarters work is hard cerebral work. I would like to think Shyam died a little each time a case hit a reef in North or South Block. This often happens to people who work with maniacal dedication. But Shyam never gave up. That streak was alien to his DNA. I sensed sometime then that maybe the dice was getting loaded against his health.

My last meeting with Shyam in Command Hospital (CHAF), Bengaluru, just after the hard lockdowns of Mar-May 2020, was another sign that perhaps his health wasn’t holding up to the stresses and vagaries higher ranks impose on conscientious officers. He had pulled down considerably. But the sparkle in his eyes, the warm bear hugs and loud guffaws were still intact. Next to him sat doting Meenakshi, ever watchful and caring for the golden heart. I never realised our promise to meet again outside the sanitised corridors of Officers’ Ward CHAF will remain unfulfilled.

In his passing, his family, the navy and submarine arm has lost an understated powerhouse; an ever-willing strokesman who always pulled the hardest; balancing work and life until the twain could be balanced no more. Stuck between the call of duty and Covid restrictions, many of us will not be able to reach Chennai before the embers on his pyre subside. Those who do, carry a million good wishes and collective prayers for the Shyamsundar family. Ocean’s Best & 40 ICC will miss those big shoulders we always relied upon.

Rest in peace, Shyam. The golden heart lives on.

Cmde Subramaniam Shyamsundar (RiP) as seen in his WhatsApp DP

With Shyam’s passing, the 40 ICC band of brothers is down six members. Five were either aviators or training to be one (Partha, Gaaru, Dutta, Sahai & Essel). Shyamsundar was a submariner. We stand with the families.

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©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2021. All rights reserved. I can be reached at realkaypius@gmail.com. Views are personal.

27 thoughts on “Remembering Golden Heart Shyamsundar

  1. Pisha..you have captured it so well dear friend. Shyam was really loved by all and was such a kind heart. Very very sad. Rest in peace buddy.

  2. Very well written KP …. capturing every bit of our Golden hearted Shyam … such a fabulous dorm mate ….will miss him terribly.

  3. Every word true about Shyam. My heart goes out to Meena and the three girls. And his old parents. With them… In mind and spirit

  4. Shocked to note. We pray to Almighty to give strength to the family to bear this great loss. OmShanti

  5. KPS… you hv almost taken out our collective thoughts and so beautifully put it here. Thanks buddy. Shyam was indeed a golden soul who was loved by all and would be missed terribly, whenever we gather… May God truly blesses the kind soul … ओम शांति

  6. I have no words to write. This is a blow to all of us OCEAN’S BEST. Shyam was a darling of course and a dear friend of all. RIP and please don’t work so hard up there pal.

  7. This wonderful eulogy is so apt for Shyam, a wonderful human being, a thorough professional, a devoted husband, son and a doting father. We will all miss him!!

  8. Perhaps one of the most jovial, helpful and a large hearted person. Never was there a gap, even if meeting after ages. KP, it is the perfect obituary. Next time the sky thunders, u know who is guffawing up there with gaaru, essel, partha, aneesh & Sanjeev. RIP dear friend.

  9. Thanks You KP for this. I will always remember Shyam as the ever positive, cheerful and “lets see what you got for me now” person during ours Mid’s and Super Mid’s time onboard the mighty Rajput, under some demanding circumstances and as one of finest OOG as a Mid, the mighty RJP ever saw, for colours. His laughter, was so infectious and straight from the heart. I smile as i write about the various friendly banters we shared at the expense of ‘Gamcha’ ,which only coursemates can. Bless You Shyam, for all the hearts you touched.

  10. KPS my bond with 40 IC has been that of fondness and brotherhood. Still have wonderful memories of the bunch at Vizag in 1991. Have had the pleasure of knowing and interacting with Shyam then and ever since. He was a fantastic goalkeeper not just for his friends but also in the Hockey field. He will be sorely missed by not just his family, coursemates and friends but also by the service. I pray to God to provide to his immediate family the strength to tide over this horrific period. They will be in my prayers. Farewell Shyam and Rest in Peace with the knowledge and assurance that you have buddies and coursemates who are here to ensure that your parents, Meenakshi and the girls have their backs covered.

  11. While I might not know Late Cmde Shyam, I know Navy, NHQ (but was fortunate to be with DOP) and the demands that are made on the officers due to work.

    My condolences to the family and may God grant sadgati to his soul.

    The obituary the you penned for him has come from your heart and its a befitting tribute to a fine officer and a gentleman.

  12. Shyam along with venky were my subbies on board suvarna for ops (by gawd) Muffet for induction of Indian army to somalia.
    Whilst what you wrote is nothing but truth but the energy and effervescence of Shyam could overcome the uud bilau singh Garry and keep all of us going in those uncertain 112 days at sea. I would rather believe that I could encourage him join the denizens of the deep, but may be venky and his brothers influence along with lcdr Harite were the beacons who urged him on.

    Rest my dear brother in peace, for time is not to far when we shall catch up with u. Hoping to catch up good ole times with a fag in one hand and glass in another.

  13. A golden heart officer, whom I saw with smile always in HQENC corridors in 2013-14. Very sad to know the untimely passing of Shyam. May his family get all the strength to bear the loss and peace to departed soul. Om Shanti!!

  14. Dear KP,

    I love it the way you dole out timely intercepts on the current affairs. Sadly, this time it is on passing of our Dear Shyamu, as I fondly called him. He is a power-pack with amazing gusto and drives(is because he has deep etches on each of our memories that can never erase with passings). I have amazing fond memories of him since the childhood of NAVAC. His overzealous do-or-die nature, his infectious thickly baritoned laughter and his selfless attitude of helping any soul not even remotely related to his life’s agenda formed his distinct character. I am deeply moved by his demise and pray for his early and peaceful tranquility beyond the struggles of this world and into the presence of God. Waheguru…

  15. It’s tough when coursemates leave us, especially when they are also good human beings. They take a part of ‘us’ with them. This obit brings to life a wonderful person ❤.
    God speed

  16. My senior with a golden heart, ever smiling, enthusiastic, jovial, approachable and a person who brought a smile every time we interacted. Every word written so nicely about him is true. Om Shanti. Sadgati.

  17. What a lovely writeup. Had seen him around at the submarine parties many years ago. My heartfelt condolences to the family. May they get the strength to bear the loss.
    May his soul RIP.

  18. KP you said it so right as always. While I was reading his images at academy flashed before my eyes. Of little I know him beyond academy he reminds me of a very passionate guy. His distinctive baritone could be recognized from distance and probably got us in trouble during own movie watching escapades. As everyone has said I also remember him as someone who was ready to help anytime. Have definitely lost one of the best human beings. May he Rest In Peace. Thank you KP again for penning this down so beautifully.

  19. Very Sad News. We pray almighty to give strength to the family to bear this great loss.
    Bhavpurn Shradhanjali to the departed soul.

    Captain Anant Yadnik (retd)

  20. I did not know who Shyam was.Never heard of him.Until now. Grateful for making us want him to be back again. Such is your reminisce.

  21. I had the most unenviable opportunity to see through many things to facilitate Shyam sirs’ journey from the time of his passing to the retort; collecting the potful of ashes that the retort mercilessly reduced that father figure to and consigning him to the seas – the one place where his heart truly lay.
    Loss of one of the finest officers I’ve come across. Both in uniform and out of it, an extraordinary human being who deeply cared. Can’t come to terms with this…. What to say but that his time on earth is done… May he rest in peace!

  22. Whoever has served with Shyam sir once will never forget him, whether junior or senior. He had a heart of gold. He was my NO on Sindhuvijay, where I was a non specialist officer. He would come to the ward room, look at the gloomy face of the OOD and tell us in his signature style ” Bugger handover the OOD duties to me and go out, enjoy. I have work to do onboard anyway.”. He was a big hit with the men too. Any break time, he could be seen with men sharing a smoke and joking with them.
    Will really miss him and his laugh. I think god also want good people with him.
    May his soul rest in peace.
    Cdr Ninad Deshpande 《Retd)

  23. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful human being. Shyam will forever remain in our collective memory with fondness. As Shyam proceeds on his final patrol, all I say is Aum Sadgati

  24. Saddened to hear the tragic news. KPS sir – a befitting tribute penned by you for a golden hearted Shyam sir. Will always fondly reminisce my interactions with sir in academy and later in Navy. May the almighty grant the noble soul eternal peace.
    Satnaam Waheguru

  25. Thanks KPS for the appropriate tribute which he would have loved. My association goes from NAVAC to his MIDs time during my watchkeeping period as Sub Lt. How he pulled us up as a team in handball tournament in fleet was amazing. In NHQ A block hutments he was an oasis in the tough working desert. Bumped into him in Vizag where he served twice in Coastal security and was instrumental in taking so many cases for the oil & gas industry. Never displayed any hardship in personal life though I tried to discuss his children growth phase. Amongst many of your course mate friends he was one who could pull my leg. Spreading happiness around was all he knew and did till last. thanks again for making him alive in our memories. god bless his family.

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