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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

FOOD FOR SOUL


Moved by the plight of India’s poor, Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Poverty is the worst form of violence!

What would you do when you see an old man, suffering from unbearably acute hunger, eats his own waste in an act of sheer helplessness? Some of us may feel immense pain and compassion, some could be indifferent, a few would feel anger at nature or those who left him suffer such a plight while others might curse the system or even God for his suffering. Narayanan Krishnan, an award-winning chef, gave up his elite job in Switzerland and decided to spend the rest of his life feeding and serving not just that old man, but many more destitute and helpless people who could not care for themselves! Chances are, you might not have heard about this man!

We all know that following our heart and doing what we love will bring a smile to our face. But what if following our heart leads us into the hearts of others and doing what we love gets us the love of several others! That gives one an experience of inner happiness and a sense of fulfillment never felt before. It brings a smile to our heart! That was what happened to Krishnan when he brought some food for that helpless old man and when the old man held his hand with longing eyes, Krishnan had found his calling!

Born into a stable and supportive family in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, he suffered none of the dehumanizing experiences he now strives to fight for. He graduated from Madurai Kamaraj University in 2002 with a degree in Hotel Management and Catering Science, and was well on his way to a successful career as an award-winning chef. Though that incident with the old man changed his life, seeds of compassion were sown in his heart very early. As a college student he often provided food to the hungry people along the roadsides of Madurai. When his father was once hospitalized, Krishnan shared the food he had brought with those in need. For Krishnan, these were highly emotional experiences that deepened his concern for the magnitude of human suffering endured by the poor and fueled his intent into positive energy towards providing them with food (material and spiritual) along with care and love.

When he had first fed the old man, he saw him consume the food at an inhuman speed which he had never seen before. It opened his eyes to the extent of unfathomable human suffering that exists around every one of us. That was when he decided that he would help people who could not help themselves. You would be pained to know how many people with mental disabilities or elderly people who can no more contribute to a family are driven away from homes and even worse abandoned in public places like markets, bus or railway stations. Krishnan committed himself to the care of the helpless, forsaken, mentally ill, old, sick, roadside destitute living and dying (or left to die)on the streets of Madurai. He decided that he would provide them healthy food, love and an opportunity to rehabilitate. He did not just want to alleviate their hunger. He wanted to restore their dignity!

He started off by buying food from roadside shops and vendors near the bus stand, railway station and other areas in central Madurai and provided it to about 25 people who were in desperate need. As the number of people he started serving grew, the effort and costs involved were getting out of control as well. It was when he connected the dots and it all came together beautifully! He was a master chef himself and it dawned on him that it would be more efficient, economical and most importantly, more fulfilling if he could prepare the food himself. That was how Akshaya’s Helping in H.E.L.P. Trust was formed in 2003. The name was chosen to signify that human compassion should never decay or perish.

The Trust has grown in stature and reputation steadily from its inception and has gradually increased the number of people it serves. Word of mouth, coverage in press/media and other forms of support have helped the foundation over time. From Krishnan’s meager start in 2002 until August, 2010 over 1.5 million meals have been served without missing a single meal – every day, three times a day, 365 days a year! That’s over eight years without holidays, vacations, sick days or mornings that are just too overwhelming to go to work today. Every day is a work day for Krishnan and the Akshaya volunteers. And it is not just food they provide. Krishnan carries a comb, scissors and razor and is trained in eight haircut styles. He gives a haircut along with a fresh shave to provide extra dignity to those he serves. And in addition to all this, he is also working towards building the Akshaya Home. The Akshaya Home is their long term goal and is intended towards providing safety, shelter and an environment for rehabilitation to the helpless homeless. He has a long way to go but he for sure will get there.

When Krishnan’s parents heard of his ambition to help the helpless they were not very amused. One day Krishnan invited his mother to join him on his daily trip. When she came back home she said: “You feed all those people, the rest of the lifetime I am there. I will feed you”.  And even today Krishnan says: “I'm living for Akshaya. My parents are taking care of me.” I have been following him and his story for a while now and his simplicity, dedication and resolve have moved me tremendously. To me, he is a man who has dedicated his life to remedy the greatest type of poverty that exists in this world: The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for!

Krishnan’s efforts were recognized by CNN (Watch the Video) and he was acknowledged as a: “CNN Top 10 Hero for the Year 2010”! And many more such awards ensued. But his greatest recognition every time is in the smile of the people he serves and the fact that he never goes to sleep before at least making one human being a little better or happier everyday makes me believe that true happiness comes only in making others happy!




References and Links in case you want to offer your support:






15 comments:

  1. wow.... He's doing an amazing work. Here too I see some people like that. I feel pity. Sometimes he just act so weirdly that I get too scared. He lives on the footpath. His bedroom, kitchen, bathroom is that footpath. Common people can do their bit but govt too should come forward to help such people instead of wasting crores of money in setting up speakers on the traffic signal (just what mamta banerjee did, she spent 10 crores for this!). She could have used those money to help such people who are living on the footpath and under the overbridges. Are speakers important than human lives?? Kya hoga is desh ka!

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  2. an inspiring man and a very noble act

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  3. I had read about him in another blog last year, but reading about such people who serve selflessly again and again only inspires the one who reads.

    Loved your language and writing. Do visit my blog too.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story of an amazing & little known Indian hero.

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  5. I feel so sad when I see little kids begging and when I see other beggars. My hunger dies down when I see them asking for food.
    Such a great post :) We should all work and help such helpless people!

    Take Care :)

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  6. Thanks for this post..very touching. Funny that I should suddenly find Akshaya..I was looking them up today ( Bangalore chapter) & couldn't find a proper website details

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  7. @Sneha: I totally understand your frustration. I guess until the Government and we as a society as a whole come together to help these people, people like Krishnan are their saviors.

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  8. @Sujatha: Yeah.. :) He is really very inspiring. I was really moved to see what all he does and his love for that. :) I was happy that such men do exist!

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  9. @Zephyr: Thank you very much. Yes.. It is really very heartwarming and inspiring to read and follow the lives of such people who make a difference to everyone around.

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  10. @Ramakrishnan: Indeed.. he is little known which makes me sad. But I hope sooner or later, more and more people will know about him and support his cause.

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  11. @PhilO: Definitely. We should all do our best to help people around us. Even a little act can go a long way in helping change someone's life.

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  12. @Maitreyee: Wow.. that is an interesting coincidence. Glad to be of some help. :)

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  13. Truly inspiring and moving. Here's a man who was never afraid to do what his heart desired :D
    Thanks for making this post, and thanks for putting it up on indivine for me to find :)
    And they say angels live in heaven, i say they're right here on earth for us to find. You've written about one such angel :)

    Could you give a post of mine a read, and a vote too if you like it? I'd be grateful :)

    http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=90039

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  14. @Story Teller: An inspiring story indeed. Your blog looks great. Lots of interesting things to read about. Good stuff. :)

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  15. he is a such a great human being we ever seen and he is inspirational to everyone us.......

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