Helping Dignity

Helping Dignity

Narayanan was born in 1981 in Madurai, Tamilnadu, India. He thought his life was pretty well mapped out after becoming an award winning chef with the Taj Hotel Group in Bangalore, and being short listed for a fantastic job in Switzerland.

But one day, in 2002, when he was walking around the streets on the way to a temple in his hometown, he saw something that would change his life forever.

He saw an old homeless man under a bridge who was so hungry that he was eating his own excrement.

Narayanan was so shocked to see a person driven to these extremes. He quickly went and bought the man some food; the poor man devoured it in minutes and shed tears of joy for this small gesture. 

That day changed young Narayanan’s life, he immediately resigned from his job to devote his skills and time to the homeless in his hometown. Because of the extreme poverty in India, the poor mentally ill people are left totally uncared for, and have to live on the streets along with many other homeless people.

They tend to live under the many bridges or around the temples. Many of these people do not know their origins or even their names, they are not capable of begging or asking for help. They can often be hostile and paranoid but this was not going to stop Narayanan from trying to help as many of them as he could. 

CNN Hero Narayan Krishnan

CNN Hero Narayan Krishnan

With his $2000 savings and the rent from a home left to him by his grandfather, he set up a kitchen with a few volunteers and started to cook for the masses. He started by providing a healthy vegetarian breakfast, lunch, and dinner for around 400 people a day.

He would go out in his donated van along with his fellow workers and deliver the food to wherever he could find these destitute people, often covering 125 miles a day in extreme temperatures. Many of them started to depend on these food deliveries every day and it made a huge difference to their lives.

At first, Narayanan’s parents were not supportive of him, as they had invested a lot of time and money in his education. But he asked his mother to spend a day with him to see what he was doing. She soon changed her mind and was in awe of her son’s compassion. ”You feed all these people; the rest of the life time I am here, I will feed you.” 

Narayanan continued with his work for the homeless, and then started to also take a comb, scissors, and a razor on his daily excursions. He had mastered six haircut styles, so would give a shave, wash and a haircut to any that would like it. He felt that this gave some of his people a little pride in themselves.

Now he was ready to take his plans one step further in a huge way. He founded the Akshaya Trust in 2003 to feed the homeless and mentally disabled in Madurai. Akshaya means ‘undecaying or imperishable’. To feed around 400 people three meals a day cost around $327 a day. But the original donations only covered around 22 days out of every month, so it was important to raise awareness.

Akshaya Trust

Akshaya Trust

By 2010, the Akshaya Trust was ready to build a home for some of the homeless people being fed every day. It took a long time as a lot of money was needed, but the home opened in May, 2013.

It has a medical facility, along with many dormitories and of course, a large kitchen to provide all the daily meals. 

Narayanan Krishnan is a very special young man. To date, he has provided over a million meals, been voted one of CNN’s Top Ten Heroes, and had a feature film made based on his story.

But to him, the only thing that matters is feeding and housing his friends on the streets. ”Now I am feeling so comfortable and so happy. I have a passion. I enjoy my work. I want to live with my people.”

I am sure Narayanan will go on to build more homes and feed many more millions before he thinks he has done enough for his people. 

Jo Tempest.




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