.“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
― Mother Teresa
Narayanan Krishnan was a bright, young, award-winning chef with a five-star hotel group, short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland. But a quick family visit home before heading to Europe changed everything.”I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food,” Krishnan said. “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 the rest of my lifetime.” he adds. Lamenting at the colossal waste of food Krishnan said, “Throwing parties at banquet halls to honor people. So much food is wasted. Hundreds of people will come, but only a handful will eat the food.” Narayanan quit his job as a chef to become a full-time social worker of sorts. He said, “Believe me; I had never seen a person eating so fast, ever. As he ate the food, his eyes were filled with tears. Those were the tears of happiness.”
“That spark and that inspiration is a driving force still inside me as a flame — to serve all the mentally ill destitute and people who cannot take care of themselves,” Krishnan said. He founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003.Krishnan said the name Akshaya is Sanskrit for “undecaying” or “imperishable,” and was chosen “to signify that human compassion should never decay or perish. The spirit of helping others must prevail forever.” Also, in Hindu mythology, Goddess Annapoorani’s “Akshaya bowl” fed the hungry endlessly, never depleting its resources.
Krishnan’s day begins at 4 a.m. He and his team cover nearly 125 miles in a donated van, routinely working in temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He seeks out the homeless under bridges and in the nooks and crannies between the city’s temples. The hot meals he delivers are simple, tasty vegetarian fare he personally prepares, packs and often hand-feeds to nearly 400 clients each day. He says many of the homeless seldom know their names or origins, and none has the capacity to beg, ask for help or offer thanks. “The panic, suffering of the human hunger is the driving force of me and my team members of Akshaya,” he said. “I get this energy from the people. The food which I cook, the enjoyment which they get is the energy. I see the soul. I want to save my people.”
The group’s operations cost about $327 a day, but sponsored donations only cover 22 days a month. Krishnan subsidizes the shortfall with $88 he receives in monthly rent from a home his grandfather gave him. Krishnan sleeps in Akshaya’s modest kitchen with his few co-workers. Since investing his entire savings of $2,500 in 2002, he has taken no salary and subsists with the help of his once unsupportive parents. “They had a lot of pain because they had spent a lot on my education,” he said. “I asked my mother, ‘Please come with me, and see what I am doing.’ After coming back home, my mother said, ‘You feed all those people, the rest of the lifetime I am there, I will feed you.’ I’m living for Akshaya. My parents are taking care of me.”
Despite the demands and few comforts his lifestyle affords, Krishnan says he’s enjoying his life.”Now I am feeling so comfortable and so happy,” he says. “I have a passion, I enjoy my work. I want to live with my people.” Akshaya opened the doors of the Akshaya home on May 9th, 2013. Starting on May 7th, 2013 Krishnan and team have rescued 450 residents. A lot of work has been done in the five short months since Akshaya has been operational. The residents get medical attention, physiotherapy, freshly prepared food. Akshaya’s work is not just about mental rehabilitation of our residents but also the physical rehabilitation of our residents.
“We feed the homeless, mentally ill, destitute, and old people who are ignored by society. People are suffering without food to eat. If we do not give them food to eat, they will die out of human hunger. To serve such people keeps me going day in and day out. They should feel psychologically that they are also human beings and they deserve human care. The food gives them the physical nutrition, love, and affection shows the mental nutrition. The ultimate purpose of life is to give. Start giving and you will feel the joy of giving. This keeps me going” by doing this. simple thank you, which by the way is not even on Krishnan’s priority list, he never stops and thinks what he wants or what benefit or exposure he gets a for ability the lack they Many of the people Narayanan’s helped are mentally disabled therefore and take is more the common theme practiced. “’I don’t feed beggars. They can look after themselves. The mentally ill won’t ask anyone for food or money,” says N Krishnan who has been feeding them thrice a day for the past seven years. I change the menu for different days of the week. They will get bored if I serve the same food every day,” he says with an enthusiastic and infectious smile.
Though a Brahmin, Krishnan does not believe in upper or lower caste. He hugs them, feeds them, cuts their hair, shaves them, bathes them and provides healthcare if needed. When he learnt that local barbers refused to serve these people, Krishnan went to a salon and learnt 12 styles of cutting hair! He always carries a comb, razor, shaving brush and soap with him.” I believe that unreached people who die on streets should be cremated with dignity. I believe that everyone has 5.5 liters of blood and we all are equal”.
For Narayanan, Akshaya home is a key element in the Trust’s long term goal. Fortunately his dream is slowly becoming a reality. A 2.74 acre of land has been purchased on the outskirts of Madurai. Software giant Infosys and TVS were so impressed with his work that they donated three acres of land to him in Madurai. Krishnan hopes to build a home for his wards there. He has built the basement for a woman’s block which will house 80 inmates.
The home will have separate dormitories for men and women, dining and kitchen facilities a clinic, and an Acute Care Unit. It will provide living, healthcare and support facilities to 100 men and women. After it is completed, it will help in making its residents self-reliant. They will be taught to volunteer in the kitchen, to make pickles, etc., and to perform other useful chores in running the Trust. Five out of ten planned blocks have already been sponsored. In addition to sponsoring of remaining blocks, funding is also needed for medical equipment, staffing and operating costs. The Trust depends solely on public donations. There are no Government Grants, endowments, or other income-producing projects.” In its ninth year of operation, the Trust has served over 1.2 million fresh and hot meals-three meals a day, every day to 400 destitute and helpless people. It serves fresh food every day. And most important, it has complete transparency, and accountability.”
Apart from his father and mother Krishnan’s sister Shweta, who has earned M.Sc.in Micro-Biology in Madurai is also helping as a volunteer. Krishnan is happily married with Harini in Madurai.
Krishna has become larger than life, because of his divine thoughts and actions. He also performs the funerals of unclaimed bodies in Madurai. He collects the body, bathes it and gives it a decent burial or cremation as the need may be. He gets calls, both from the Municipal Corporation and general hospital for the funerals. If I were to define a pilgrimage in India, I would say with pride “Akshaya is the place where God can be seen in the form of Narayanan Krishnan.”