There are times when life sets before us an opportunity for radical change. Such a moment led Narayanan Krishnan to dedicate his life to feeding the poor and the mentally disabled on the streets of India.
Narayanan was born in 1981 in Madurai, a city that is part of an urban agglomeration in India. Because he was part of a higher caste, his family made sure he received the best education. At just 21, he was a chef at a 5-star hotel belonging to the Taj Group, a hotel chain famous both in India and internationally, and his skills had been awarded several times.
In 2002, his talent was confirmed by a job offer from a hotel chain in Switzerland. It was the chance of a lifetime, something that would reward his hard work, but also his parents’ efforts. Before leaving for Switzerland, he returned to his home town to say goodbye to his relatives and friends.
He was in the courtyard of a temple near his house when he saw something that shook him. An old beggar, thin, dirty and mentally disabled was eating his own waste. Narayanan immediately bought him some food. The speed at which the old man swallowed the food, as well as the tears of happiness in his eyes, convinced Krishnan to change his plans.
Switzerland was no longer so important, as his dream had now changed: to feed people like that old man, people who needed him much more than the rich people for whom he had cooked until then. “It really hurt me so much. I was literally shocked for a second. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do for the rest of my lifetime,” Krishnan said.
As expected, his family stopped supporting him financially, so he decided to cook using his savings and donations. Every day, Narayanan would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to prepare food, which he then delivered in a donated minibus. He would travel more than 200 kilometres to feed the hungry on the streets. He also provided a hair trim and shave for many of them in order to help restore some of their dignity.
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He invited his mother to join him, to show her his work and convince her that he had made the best decision. Impressed by his work, his family decided to support him financially again. A large part of the money always went to the food needed for the beggars’ meals; he didn’t need many other things.
By 2010, with the help of the team he formed at his nonprofit organisation, Akshaya, Krishnan had offered more than a million meals. The news of his activity spread abroad, and CNN included him in their list of heroes of 2010. With the money received after getting this title, he built a home, inaugurated in 2013, to provide shelter for the people he helps. Those who arrive there receive medical assistance, physiotherapy and food. It’s not easy for him, especially since the team is constantly growing and the problems are not lacking either, but he is content.
“Now I am feeling so comfortable and so happy. I have a passion, I enjoy my work. I want to live with my people.” His message to all is a call not to let human compassion perish, a call in the very name of his organisation, which in Sanskrit means “imperishable.”