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Narayanan Krishnan: The Story of A Chef Who Dedicated His Life to Feeding The Homeless

Narayanan Krishnan, an award winning chef at the Taj, a five star hotel in India, was on his way to take up a job in an elite hotel in Switzerland after being shortlisted from thousands of hopefuls.In 2002, Krishnan witnessed an incident which had lead him to give up his dream job and dedicate his life to provide support and food to the homeless and destitute people in his home town of Madurai, India.


"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."

Krishnan was visiting a temple in the south Indian city of Madurai in 2002 when he saw the man under a bridge. Krishnan quit his job within the week and returned home for good, convinced of his new destiny.

"That spark and that inspiration is a driving force still inside me as a flame -- to serve all the mentally ill destitutes and people who cannot take care of themselves," Krishnan said.

Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003. Now 29, he has served more than 1.2 million meals breakfast, lunch and dinner -- to India's homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused.

"Because of the poverty India faces, so many mentally ill people have been ... left uncared [for] on the roadside of the city," he said.

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.

"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 un-supportive 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, 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."

Cooking for over 450 homeless people a day, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner Krishnan has spent the last 12 years of his life serving more than 1.2 million meals to the people of India.

"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."

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