I first heard of Narayanan Krishnan when Desi mentioned him in passing as one of the 2010 nominees for CNN Heroes–a rising star at an Indian five-star hotel’s restaurant headed for a job in glamorous Switzerland, who one day just gave it all up to feed the old and the destitute and the hungry. The news that he cooked and served vegetarian meals was cherry on the icing.
I love stories like these and I ran to my computer to read more. The real heroes, to me, are not the rich, the successful and the famous but those who, in however small or big a way, work to make this world a better place. For the last few years India has been in the throes of massive change, and as the rich get richer, and the middle class grabs its share of the spoils, there is little attention or consideration for the poor who make up the largest share of the country’s population but just do not have the tools to barely survive.
Think of this: more than 40 percent of India’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day. There are no social safety nets for the poor– no food stamps, no shelters, and no soup kitchens. You could be a two-year-old born in a family of eight other siblings and parents without work, or an 80-year-old man tossed out on the street by the children you thought would care for you, and you’d be on your own with nowhere to turn.
Narayanan had his revelation when he was visiting the temple town of Madurai in south India and saw an old man eating human waste. He started feeding the man and decided that was what he wanted to do. At 29, Krishnan has served more than 1.2 million meals through his nonprofit Akshaya Trust , which he set up in 2003. According to the CNN website, he feeds the homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused.
Photo: Akshaya Trust
Here’s more from CNN:
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.
Krishnan carries a comb, scissors and razor and is trained in eight haircut styles that, along with a fresh shave, provide extra dignity to those he serves.
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. They may be paranoid and hostile because of their conditions, but Krishnan says this only steadies his resolve to offer help.
You can vote for Krishnan here.