A Chronicle of Enlightened Citizenship Movement in the State Bank of India

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Monday, November 15, 2010

A meal for the soul

Top chef Narayanan Krishnan who quit his cushy job to serve the needy, is the only Indian to be nominated for a major award

By Jayanthi Madhukar

On a blistering afternoon in Madurai in 2002, Narayanan Krishnan had his life-defining moment. As he was taking a stroll,  he saw an old man eating his own faeces. Shaken, Krishnan quickly went and bought idlis for the feeble man. In return, he just looked back with teary eyes. There was none of the expected ‘thank you’ or nandri.

At that time, Krishnan was a top award-winning chef, drawing at least Rs 1.5 lakh a month. Another drooling offer was on its way from Switzerland. But life was no longer the same for the 22-year-old.

Had he thanked me for my gesture, Krishnan says, I would have been still in the catering industry.

“I could not concentrate at work after that. I thought how people waste so much money on buffets and on one side, there are destitutes without any food. I got the clarity on what I should be doing and I quit my job,” said Krishnan, who took his hotel management degree from Madurai Kamaraj University.

Ever since, he has been silently feeding the impoverished on Madurai’s streets. Now, television channel CNN has nominated Krishnan for the Top 10 CNN Heroes from across the world.

Effusive in praise, the channel said, “Narayanan Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India’s homeless and destitute – 365 days per year – through his non-profit Akshaya Trust. Since 2002, he has served more than 1.2 million meals.”

Krishnan, now 29, is proud to represent  India and hopeful that with his nomination “others will get hope and confidence. I do not know who nominated me. I just want to give a humane touch through Akshaya.”

Laurels and such modesty aside, it is no easy task. Krishnan’s day begins at 4 am when he starts cooking breakfast. 

Assisting him is a team of six — three staff and three volunteers.  

By 8 am, the breakfast is over. Then he purchases vegetables and other ingredients and by 9.30 am, it is time to cook lunch. By 12 pm, he goes for the lunch distribution round that gets over only by 3 pm. By 5.30 pm, it is time to get back to the stove for dinner. The dinner distribution finishes by 9.30 pm and only then he eats with his team. After that, Krishnan takes care of admin work, using the time to answer any pending mails or letters as well. And yes, he sleeps in the kitchen to be closer to his place of work.

Krishnan’s distribution rounds vary according to the whereabouts of the needy. “Beggars are not entertained as we do not promote laziness. The feeding is for those abandoned or left uncared-for, especially the mentally ill,” said Krishnan, who has also picked up haircutting skills.  “I am a Brahmin but I learnt to cut hair, as a barber would frighten and disturb the mentally-ill.”

For Krishnan’s family it was a tough decision to comprehend. “They were thinking of taking me to a psychiatrist,” he joked. Krishnan’s request to them was simple, he asked his parents to “come to Madurai and see what I am doing. If you both still don’t want it, then I will leave.” His parents came and Krishnan took them along for the distribution round.

“Whomever I introduced them to, told them I am getting to eat only because of your son. When we got back, my mother told me ‘Till I am alive I will support you.’ Their support meant a lot to me,” said Krishnan.

Akshaya Trust is in need of donations. Says Krishnan, “We have survived because of our donors and credit that our suppliers give us. I am now building a rehabilitation centre. Five out of the eight blocks are underway. Lack of funds has  stalled the work. This is why I hope my countrymen will vote for me.”

When CNN took note of Krishnan, a blogger commented, “If we (Indians) haven’t yet heard of Krishnan then it is a collective failure.” As Indians, we may have failed Krishnan, but he has not failed the destitutes. 


1 comment:

  1. a big salute to this great Citizen! I am happy that I am able to be part of his movement through the monthly contributions made from Administrative Unit, Madurai for which I am subscribing even now.