Narayanan Krishnan of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is an award-winning Indian chef-turned-social worker. While working with the Taj Hotels in Bangalore, he got an opportunity to work in Switzerland. But in 2002, just as the young chef was preparing to leave for Switzerland, he witnessed a distressing incident. He saw a man living on the street, without food, eating his feces. Getting out of his vehicle, Narayanan Krishnan quickly purchased a few idlis from a nearby restaurant and gave them to the older man, but that moment haunted him long after.
In the next few days, Narayan questioned his life choices as a chef providing food for the wealthy while people in his city were starving. Narayan dropped his plan to travel to Switzerland, quit his high-profile job in Taj, and decided to help the helpless. Since then, he has served over 22.5 lakh free meals to mentally disabled, sick, old, and homeless persons of Madurai and touched the lives of 10,000 souls.
Restoring Dignity in Humans
At first, when Narayanan Krishnan quit his job, it was a little tricky for his middle-class parents to understand him. He even started serving meals to around 30 destitute each day, utilising his savings. Then one day, determined to prove his dedication, he persuaded his parents to live a day of his life. He wanted to show them what made him give up the Swiss dream.
The same evening, an old lady came up to touch his mother’s feet. She said, “It is because of your son that I am being fed thrice a day.“ Those words made Narayanan’s parents finally take notice of his work. That moment Narayanan’s mother turned around and said, “Krishnan, you continue to feed all of these people, and I will feed you till my last day.”
From Akshaya Trust to Akshaya Home
For Narayanan and his team, the day would begin at 4 am. They would go to great lengths to serve meals to the needy. According to Narayanan, “We travelled 35 miles for breakfast, 35 miles for lunch, and 35 miles for dinner.”
In 2002, he established Akshaya’s Helping in H.E.L.P. Trust as a charitable organization to support the needy in Madurai. At that time, the trust only owned a van – a mobile caretaking unit. The van helped old and disabled people living on pavements, under bridges, and in temple crannies.
In 2010 Narayanan founded the Akshaya Trust to expand his mission.
On May 9th, 2013, the Akshaya Home opened its doors to the helpless and needy people. The home has sheltered around 1500 old and disabled persons. It has successfully reunited 400 persons with their family members. Currently, the Akshaya Home houses over 430 well-deserving human beings between 20 and 87 years.
In 2010, CNN honoured Narayanan Krishnan of Madurai. CNN selected him as one of the Top 10 in the CNN heroes 2010 List.
In 2011, he received the V-RYTM Award from Dato Vijay Eswaran.
His work inspired the 2012 Malayalam film Ustad Hotel. The movie later inspired the city of Kozhikode in Kerala to start Operation Sulaimani. A team of people coordinated with over 200 restaurants to ensure everyone in the district gets food to eat. Even those without money would get free food with dignity.
Narayanan Krishnan was also awarded Prof. Yashwantrao Kelkar YuvaPuraskar 2013. The award recognizes his outstanding work in helping the homeless, sick, mentally ill, and destitute and restoring human dignity.
In 2014, Narayanan Krishnan received the I.D.F. Karmayogi Award.
In June 2014, a 23-year-old inmate who left the Akshaya Home alleged she was sexually abused. It created some controversy, but soon the home was acquitted by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.
Even today, Narayanan Krishnan’s mission in Madurai to help the helpless continues…