sundara rao on computer



This is a brief story of the life and times of Lt Gen (Retd) C Sundara Rao, PVSM. He retired as the DEME in 1973. To the lay reader, it may seem that he was extra-ordinarily lucky. He was fortunate to be commissioned when the war was on; blessed to be in the EME when the British officers were leaving, and with that stroke of luck, he was sucked up to the highest level of the hierarchy at an incredibly young age. He was Commandant of a Base Workshop at the age of 37;  Commander Technical Group (Maj Gen) at the age of 45 and became the Head of the Service at 48. These figures are beyond the wildest dreams of the officers in service today.

But was it the good fortune alone which propelled his career?My experience has shown that in all success stories, destiny is only one part of the tale. The path to success is more like climbing a stair way: and not at all like getting into an elevator. What Gen Rao did and achieve after his retirement is a testimony of the metal he is made of. He learnt to use  computers at the age of 88, and the mails which he sends can put a man twenty years younger than him to shame. His memory is sharp as a razor, and he has retained his ’trade-mark’ sense of humor to preserve his emotional equilibrium. The story given below has been keyed in by the general himself, but since it is now meant to be read by younger people, we requested Nithya and Lakshmi Subramanian to tinker with the words, a bit.   …Editor





At the outset I wish to state that God has been kind to me all the time.

Young Entrant, Ready for the Call.

Since I began my career when the Second World War was in its most intense phase, I could understand the significance and importance of patriotism in a very good way.

Permit me to begin this story from April 1942.  I had just completed my 3rd year in Mechanical Engineering at the College of Guindy, Madras.  During my final year in the college, a team of Army Officers came to our college and gave inspiring speeches on the importance of soldiering. After motivating us, they interviewed about 100 of us who had volunteered to join the Armed Forces. They were tasked to select Ordnance Mechanical Engineers (OMEs). We were told that we would be granted commission with just one year of combined military and technical training.  15 of us were lucky to be chosen, and were sent to OTS in Mhow for 6 months military training.

The Gentleman Cadet standing at the extreme right in the middle row is C Sundara Rao 

 In Aug 1943, the GHQ decided that our military training period should be reduced and we were sent to the Base Workshop, Quetta (now in Pakistan) for technical training. Consequently, I was commissioned on 15th August 1943!  From here on, it was a real roller coaster journey. During the next few years, I saw the length and breadth of this country.  Before one could understand the geography and get acclimatized to the weather, leave alone getting to know the men and colleagues, I was moved out.

Lt C Sundara Rao 

Life  moved at a very swift pace after that hurried commissioning. I began my military service at  IEME Training & Raising Centre at Sargodha and the Base Workshop, Rawalpindi (both in present Pakistan) I underwent technical training on anti-aircraft Armaments as well as AFVs and Jungle Warfare training at Chindwara (Madhya Pradesh), and then posted to Station Workshop, Dimapur (Manipur Road), as a Captain. During this time, another Station Workshop was merged with ours to become 138 Mobile Workshop Company. While I was there, I had to sail with the unit from Chittagong (now in Bangladesh) for Malaysia. While we were on high seas two atom bombs were dropped on Japan, and therefore, our ship was diverted to Rangoon, Burma (now in Myanmar). After a few months, I was posted as OC Recovery Company. In Aug 1946, I sailed back to India to disband the unit at   IEME Training & Disbanding Centre, Shajahanpur (UP). Thereafter, I was again posted to 2 Airborne Division, Malir Cantt (now in Pakistan).  The whole formation was shifted to Quetta (now in Pakistan).

I took over as second-in-command to CIEME as a Major. At this stage in my life, India saw the Partition of the country. Pakistan was created, and my unit was moved in Oct 1947 to Clement Town, near Dehradun. Thereafter, Lt Col Thadani, my CIEME, was posted to JAK Force, Jammu. We parted and  a few weeks later, Capt Raghunath and I were posted to HQ DEP Command. But the things were again moving very fast.  I would not believe it, but very soon I was to be again with my CO.  Happily, I went by road with the complete 84 Infantry Wksp Coy, and reached Jammu on the Xmas eve in 1947. I became a member of the Officers’ Mess of 83 Inf wksp Coy, commanded by Maj Menon. The unit was located close to the Jammu Airport.

On a semi- starvation diet!

Food supply arrangements were poorly organized. Our regular menu for breakfast was puri with potato curry, for lunch rice and potato curry and for dinner, chapatti with mashed or boiled  potatoes. I jumped at the first opportunity to go to Akhnoor on the orders of CIEME to work out the feasibility of lighting up the pillars supporting the bridge across the river. When the CIEME enquired why I was so keen to go there, I informed him that I could possibly purchase some eggs for our Mess!

I was moved out again. This time, within a couple of months, I joined DEP Command, New Delhi. In Mar 1948, I was nominated to attend the First Staff College Course starting at Wellington, in Apr 1948. After the course, I went as OC 2 Para Field Wksp Coy Naushera in J &K. My unit was in support of an Infantry Brigade, which had seven infantry battalions under command in an operation to link up and relieve the Poonch Garrison. With the support of my diligent officers and men, we successfully completed the task. By the end of nine months, in Dec 1948, I was posted as GSO2, Directorate of Technical Training in the Military Training Dte, Army HQ, at New Delhi. This was a newly formed Dte and was involved in tasking all training matters of the Corps of Engineers, Signals, and AOC / EME from their parent Dtes.

My Good Fortune

At that time, graduate engineers were granted 2 years and 3 months ante date on their date of commission. This was denied to me, as I was below 21 years of age on 15 Aug 1943. In fact, my seniority was accepted only from 29 Aug 1943, my birthday. I put up a representation regarding this and the entire Army Instruction was revised. According to the revised rules,the ante date was reduced to two years and my seniority date was fixed as 29 Aug 1941. Was I not lucky? This happened when I was in Army HQ New Delhi.

I was posted as OC 119 Field Wksp Coy, Jullundur, in support of 11 Inf Bde, part of 4 Inf Div .in 1950. Within a year, I was posted as OC 601 Combined Wksp, Pathankot in the rank of Lt Col. Soon I had to reorganize that unit as Stn Wksp, Pathankot. By mid 1951, I went sent as ADEME (Ops & Trg) at EME Dte, Army HQ.

One of the most interesting cases, I dealt with was regarding the establishment of an independent EME Inspectorate. Brig Reeve, the DEME, was very keen to obtain approval of this proposal. It was approved by all concerned but was turned down by the Dy Defense Minister on grounds of financial restraints. I then suggested that the case  be re-floated with the proposal to establish this Inspectorate in three phases to get acceptance. The first phase was to have the inspection of Small Arms with the existing Assistant Inspectors of Small Arms (AIAs), headed by a Colonel and this post would be taken over by the Inspector EME already working  in the EME Dte. This revised proposal was approved by all concerned and the DEME was very happy.

In 1954, the so called Jeep Scandal erupted in Parliament. When the Govt accepted to post an Army Officer in London to deal with purchases for our Defense Ministry, DEME proposed the name of Lt Col Pendse but before it was finalized the officer suffered a heart attack. DEME then put up the name of another officer but this was turned down by the Dy defense Minister. Eventually, I was selected to go to London.  So, In Jan 1955, I sailed from Bombay to London with my wife and two young sons. I was the Chief Mech Engr at the India Stores Dept, part of the High Commission of India. It was a smooth and definitely one long stay in my career till then.  By Aug 1958, it was time to sail back to India.

Lt Col C Sundara Rao in London 

 I joined as ADEME XV Corps in J&K. In mid 1959, I was Comdt 512 Army Base Wksp; Kirkee in the rank of Col. This tenure was highly interesting and motivating giving me ample scope to try out and implement many new ideas. In Sep 1962, I was appointed Dy DEME at Army HQ in the rank of Brig. I was nominated to attend the 6th course at the National Defence College, New Delhi in Jan 1966.

I took over as Dy Comdr & Chief Production Engr at HQ Technical Group EME in Jan 1967 and very soon Maj Gen and Commander.  Here, I established a Tool Library. My Chief Engrs requested me to sanction purchase of more EMER binders. Since this may not be a long term feasible process, I directed them to review all EMERs issued since 1943 in 5 year lots. Next target was to fix the maximum value of spares recommended in Base Wksp Scales as a fixed percentage of the value of the equipment. When my Chief Armament Engr put up a proposal for Base Repair Scales for an Artillery Ammunition Trailer, I found the value of spares recommended exceeded the laid down guidelines.  While I agreed that 100 % needed replacement, Webbing Straps had not been recommended. A discussion with the General Manager ordnance Factory, Jubbulpur   resulted in huge savings.

Being received by Brig (later Lt Gen) HS Banga at the Corps Mess in Secunderabad 

In Oct 1970, I assumed the appointment of DEME (now DGEME).During the 1971 war I toured the field units extensively, and saw the liberation of East Pakistan. I was awarded PVSM in recognition of my work. After a 30 year long, passionate and a eventful career, I hung up my uniform in 1973.

Presenting a memento to Field Marshal SAM Manekshaw. This lamp designed by 509 Army Base Workshop, Agra Cantonment has the formation sign of each of the Formations commanded by the legendary soldier.  

 My Second Career

As Managing Director, Bharat Heavy Plate & Vessels Ltd, Visakhapatnam I settled down in a place for three years together in one place, . The next 3 1/2 years provided me great opportunity to introduce many innovative and money saving ideas.

Since I was so used to movement, I left the above job, and joined Enfield India Ltd, Madras in 1977 as Executive Director, BULLET Motorcycle manufacturing division of the company then as the Executive Director (Planning & Development) at their corporate office.

Machines fascinated me. A bike aluminum crankcase was a gravity die cast component which was heavy and required a lot of machining. I helped in developing a pressure die cast replacement which was much lighter and required less machining Understanding the user difficulty on the centre stand of the bike, I ensured that there is a small lever which could be pulled to make the stand easy without having to lift the weight of the vehicle. I had an Electric Hoist installed with a flat platform to hold two bikes saving labor and cost. I installed Slotted Angle Racks with shelves at various heights to store the components to house all the components in one store reducing space. I developed a Grinding Machine to grind three different diameter parts of the crankshaft in one setting. This speeded up production and had more accuracy in the finished component. I brought in a honing machine that honed the inside of the front Forks to a much better finish. With this rich experience, I joined as Adviser in Brooke Bond India for their automobile division.

In 1987, at the age of 65, I shifted gear by changing track again! I was the Adviser to Enfield Agro Base Ltd, working for agricultural products and importing foreign expertise into our country. Finally in 2002, I retired from active life. I now live a happy and contended life, watching TV and playing around with the computer.


 The story of how I became a paratrooper

Having returned to India from Burma I was disbanding my unit at Shahjahanpur (UP) in 1947 at the IEME Trg & Disbanding Center. One evening in the Officers’ Mess I met Col Worthington (later DEME) who asked me where I wished to be posted after disbanding my unit. I told him that I wished to be posted to a field unit. When he suggested a posting to 2 Airborne Div, I said OK. When I reported there to Maj Wonaham, offg ADEME he told me that as I had volunteered to become a paratrooper, I was posted to AB Div at Mali Cantt, outside Karachi (now in Pak). There was a young, fair looking officer standing close to Maj Wonaham.  When I looked up I realized that he was a Lt Col. That is the first time I met Lt Col SP Vohra (later Maj Gen-DEME). That’s how I went to 2 AB Div and became a paratrooper.

Capt C Sundara Rao with his newly acquired Para Wing 

My first jump was exciting and exhilarating. Before I fully realized what was happening, I landed on the ground to do a back roll. One of my course mates was Maj Bhagawati Singh. At the end of the training he was posted as AQ 2 AB Div. Only then, I realized that he was IC 1, Maj Bhagawati Singh (later Maj Gen) and a course mate of FM Manekshaw.

A Word about the Editor

 The task of the editor is not as simple as it seems. In fact, in some ways, it is more tedious than writing!

The above piece has been edited by Nithya Subramaniam guided by her mother, Lakshmi. Nithya is a Graduate and Post Graduate from IIT Bombay. However, while she was in Powai in Mumbai, she realized that her first love is to play around with words. She has been bitten by the ‘writing bug’ and it is most unlikely that she will be able to settle down to a ‘ten to six’ routine in an executive chair. She is cut out for creative writing, and it is my belief that she will finally settle down in front of the computer! Given below is a recent picture of Nithya, and I beseech you to wish her Godspeed.

Nithya Subramanian 

  1. jawahar Docca says:

    My dad served with the gentlemen concerned however he gets no memtion in his biography.Conveniently forgotten i presume.Blame it on age.

  2. hello Sir or Mama(?) thanks to Indu I learnt that
    you attained the ripe young age of 90 recently!
    with difficulty I accessed your web and after I READ
    what was written about you there I HAD A HAIR RAISING
    experience.The person I knew was so modest and
    nice That I failed to know the exalted status was in.
    Kindly accept my and sulochi’s
    warmest greetings on your entry into the nonagerian
    rank. When I reach that age You will already be a centurion!
    Looking forward to that.We are in Bangalore!
    Krishnamoorthi venkatanarasimha!

  3. Samay Ram says:

    Dear Surjit,
    It is a fallacy to believe that people past sixty are not computer savvy. I learnt computer from my grand son at the age of 59 and have been using the computer since then. I typed the final scripts of three of my books myself.So those who are shy of using the computer ,let me assure them that it is never too late. Of course I cannot claim the same proficiency as you have.
    With Kind regards.
    Maj Gen Samay Ram.

  4. Vinod Kumar says:

    Gen Sundra Rao has been one of our more’ colourful and full of life ‘ DsEME. What I remember of him is his visit to Appentice Training School at Bhopal( now Disbanded), may be sometime in1971. Other than the usual Tech part, I remember the picnics we all went to and the happy time we all had there. It was very nice reading his brilliant career both in the Army and outside. Please convey our Good Wishes to him.
    Lt Col Vinod Kumar

  5. Col DS Madan says:






  7. Pritpal Bhatia says:

    Thanks for sharing. It is a really inspiring story

  8. Ram Gupta says:

    Well done!

    I’ll like to wish Gen Rao “Many happy returns of the Day”
    The IIT educated lady has done well, covering the old soldier;s life. I hope she continues to use her new found talent..

    With Regards

    Col RL Gupta

  9. Loganathan Rangaswami says:

    Dear Surjit,
    Thanks for the mail. I have just my good wishes to the General

  10. Vijay Raghavan says:


    Gen Sundara Rao got me into Paras in 1973, while I was his LO from HQ 11 Corps.

    Though most details are known to Parawalas, nice to see them again.

    Col Vijayaraghavan

  11. Srikanth Joshi says:

    Dear Sir……

    Many happy returns of the day……..

  12. Lt Col Harindar Singh Bedi says:

    Dear Sir,

    Here’s wishing you many happy returns of the day with many more to come.

    I remember your visit to the then EME School , Secunderabad when I was doing my YO’s in the sixties.

    One feels inspired on going through your life-sketch. The fact that you are keeping yourself ‘occupied’ with the computer after your ‘second’ innings is an inspiration indeed for so many like me who are heading into their sunset years!

    God bless you, Sir.

    Lt Col H.S.Bedi
    New Delhi

  13. Colonel Y V Tuli (Retd) says:

    It is amazing to read the life story of Gen C Sundra Rao , esecially those 30 years spent by him in IEME/EME, which should give the present Eagles a glimps of the then history of the Corps. Having spent over 40 years in IEME/EME myself, I feel unlucky to have never served under/with him. My serving days from early 1948 to late 1987 unfortunately never crossed his path. Yes, I could have served under him had he been posted to 119 Inf Wksp Coy IEME in Jullundhar Cantt to replace Major B T Nagrani a few months earlier.
    May I request Ms Nithiya Subramaniam to probe and find out from the General if he remembers any thing more about Major B T Nagrani and his days in 119 Inf Wksp Coy IEME. The e-mail this to me.
    I am 81 years old and one of my grand-sons is a Manager in Hetel Taj, Mount Road, Madras. I am expected to go there during Jan/Feb 2013 to participate in the GJ of the OTA. Then I would like to pay my humble regards to the General if some one provides me his residential address.

  14. Lt Gen L.M.Rajgopal says:

    I am personally aware of Gen Sundara Rao’s carrier since I had been his staff officer during his tenure as DEME and I later became a DG EME, a post which he held 16 yrs earlier!

    I also know Surjit who has edited this resume of Gen Sundara Rao, since we have served together in the Corps. I am still in touch with the Gen thro’ email, though I am in USA now.

    I wish the Gen a very happy birthday and a very healthy life. I am only 83 yrs young now and I try to emulate Gen Sundara Rao and Mr Kushwant Singh, for leading a ‘positive’ and active life!

  15. Brig R LOGANATHAN,UYSM (Retd) says:

    Dear General, I wish you many many more HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY, in good health and all the HAPPINESS with the Family.I had the pleasure of meeting you some years ago.I am a Paratrooper and so was my father Mag-Gen RANGASWAMI,VrC Bar, of the AMC.With all good wishes and warm Regards. LOGO

  16. Sqn Ldr V Nagarajan says:

    Gen Sundara Rao’s life is indeed a very interesting and colorful one.
    May God bless him with many happy returns of the day.
    I wish that every service office must write such autobiography?

  17. Brig NS Vasavan,VSM says:

    Stirring Memories.Pride to be an Indian Soldier always & Ever.Fortunate to have been in Our Great Army when such Senior Officers were serving,
    Any Day/night willing to get back into the Uniform.It’s Not the Money but a tremendous amount of satisfaction,Love & feelings of achievements that lure me back to Indian Army.Infantry,Armoured Corps,Artillery,Sappers & Miners,ASC, AOC.,AMC……..SIGNALS,,,what a great comradiere,Generals Like him are the cause

  18. Lt Col Ranjan Bakshi says:

    Simply Awesome. A happy birthday to you sir and it was a pleasure reading about your life. Keep smiling and working and give us the strength to handle our life in as beautiful way as you are doing and have done. Regards Ranjan Bakshi

  19. My Dear General……. Many Happy Returns of the Day and many more to come. To refresh your memory I happen to be the Son of Late Lt. Col. K .Ramaratnam ASC whom you have inter acted during the WW 2. I Pray to GOD Almighty to keep you safe. Namaskaram. Capt Shankar Ramaratnam.ASC

  20. S.Manickavasagm. says:

    May God bless you with happier and healthier days. May you serve as a beacon to those who seek light and guidance.

  21. Brig. M.N. Seshadri says:

    May I wish you a great future and many more birthdays ahead. I have always been charmed by your cheerful , always smiling, and positive lookn. And I consider myself very fortunate to have known Gen Sundar rao for a long time .
    Thank you sir for all the encouragement you have been giving not only to me but many of our colleagues,
    Also thank you sir for the sterling guidance you have been giving to opur AFVOA

  22. Kanwal Dhingra says:

    Thank you sir, an exhilarating journey into the times of famous Sundara Rao .He was the DEME when i got commissioned. You haven’t touched upon his evergreen romantic self. May be another day!

  23. Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh says:

    Dear Surjit,

    Very interesting life story of Lt Gen C Sundra Rao. Thanks for sharing.

    It is mentioned there in that “I began my military service at IEME Training & Raising Centre at Sargodha and the Base Workshop, Rawalpindi (both in present Pakistan).

    My family belonged to a village near Sargodha, Chak 85 North, about 4 miles down stream
    near the Canal running close to Sargodha City. I studied in Khalsa High School Sargodha, in class 4-5. When the Partition took place I was in Class 10, in Lahore.

    The only military establish I knew at that time in Sargodha area was a Remount Depot. Our village land touched the Southern boundary of this Depot.

    I would be interested to know if the General could describe where the IEME Raising and Training Center was located in Sargodha!!

    Regards and best wishes.

    Harbhajan Singh

  24. Jagwant Singh says:

    Very interesting. Excellent editing. Thank you Sir.


  25. Ajay Chandele says:

    Great story of a great man !
    The entire corps has nothing but respect for him.

    Three decades in the Army followed by equally distinguished second innings.

    We wish him another decade and more.

    During my last year in service,had visited Chennai.

    Promilla and I met the General and Mrs Sunder Rao at their residence. We were overwhelmed by their warmth and hospitality. Took some photographs which we cherish.

    Earlier in the day, had visited OTA and met the young cadets who were commissioned into EME.

    And the thought that straitght away came to mind–I was a 2/Lt when Gen Sunder Rao was the DEME,and now I was the DGEME. Any chance of being around when one of these cadets who were commissioned today becomes DGEME ?

  26. Rajendra Prakash says:

    Thanks for your interesting mail.

    Rajendra Prakash

  27. SK Jain says:

    Pl send Gen Rao’s email ID

  28. Air Vice Marshal Hamid Shahul says:

    Please Pardon me that I forgot to thank Nithya Subramanian for her excellent editing and presenting before us a wonderful human being, General Sundara Rao. He is an embodiment of Goodness and a beautiful human being. You have done justice to this great personality, Gen Sundara Rao.

    Thank you Nithya for this Excellent Profile of a Fine Human Being and a Great Soldier. .

    our Best Wishes. Warm Regards.

    Hamid Shahul.

  29. Retired EME Officers' Association - Hyderabad says:

    Dear Sir,
    Wish you a very very Happy Birthday and many many Happy Returns of 29th Aug. Have a grrrreat day and grand celebration.
    With warm regards,
    Brig(Retd) T V Ramakrishnan
    Retd EME Offrs’ Assn, Hyd

  30. Air Vice Marshal Hamid Shahul says:

    My dear general Sudara Rao Sir,

    May I wish you, Mrs Rao and the rest of the family our fondest greetings on your attaining this sacred age. I have always been mentioning to you when ever we met during Seminars or meetings, you were very Blessed as God has given you the most wonderful nature and you have abundance of love in your heart to share with every one. I would like to remind you about my young nephew Capt Asif who left the plum job and joined the IMA and commissioned in the EME. When you met him and your kindness overwhelmed him . Such kind ways are not seen in our ranks today. Bitterness, communal politics, Hate has become a common virtue today . You have set an example to every Soldier, Sailor and an Airman to emulate. Truly in Shakespear’s words you have all the Five elements so well mixed to make you a most Beautiful Human Being endowed with Sterling qualities. May God Bless you and keep you happy free from sickness, and pain. May you be blessed with good health, I Pray, Amen.
    Warmest Regards from USA as I am with children here.
    Air Vice Marshal Hamid Shahul,
    Former Chairman,
    Airports Authority of India.



  32. General Rao has been a role model for all of us from the marron berret family.He has set a very high standard of life for us all.
    We wish him many happy returns of the day.He should remain healthy .Cheers to him & happy landings.
    17Para fd regt.

  33. Being very senior to us, one did not know him well.I was posted as a capt in 505 ABW from 1971 TO 1974…I was asked to accompany DGEME Gen Rao for Shikar. He treated me so well, i took lot of his photos. He is a very good shikari..and shot many birds/ partridges etc..When Shikar was over, he gave me one third share of shikar…partridges, birds etc to take home and party.This kind and generous act will always remain fresh in my memory

  34. Lt Col Kulbir Singh says:

    Wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY and many more happier and healthy days , hoping you enjoy life to the fullest.

    As a young Capt, I was LO to you, during your visit to 608 EME Bn when it was just inducted into the Sylhet sector in Bangldesh. Still relish those memories of the war.

    Kulbir Singh

  35. Cdr Seshagiri Rao Devaguptapu I.N says:

    Dear Sir, We wish you many happy returs of the day. Have a wonderful day sir. You may not know me but I followed you and admired about your achievements. Wish you all the best health and happiness. I am in Besant Nagar Chennai. Namaskarams.

  36. MajVSChitrapu says:

    Gen SundarRao garu It’s just fantastic.It’s not you who is lucky, but the Army to have you -an young paratrooper as it’sDEME -at such an young age – (without any career planning& with no godfather in the vicinity. )We too are proud to be born in. The same era, and we are proud that you are our patron.long life to you &mam,Saroja joins me in her pranams,sir ,we ‘ll look you up soon regards ,c. H. I. T. R. A. P. u,thank you sir for this mail,& congrats for long,memorable innings we are sure all your girlfriends(both indian&british) too must be very,very proud of you,wish you an eventful time ahead,byesir,

  37. Lt Gen KK Khanna says:

    Dear Sir, Wish you many happy returns of the Day, 29 Aug.
    It is good to have friends like Gen Surjit Singh.
    Wish you all the health and happiness.

  38. Maj Gen (Dr) SC Jain says:

    sir is the apt example of -
    “Find purpose means will find ways”

Leave a Reply to Samay Ram