Inspiration Information — Narayanan Krishnan

by aaron on August 15, 2010

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” –Mother Teresa

Just over a year ago today, I posted a story (courtesy of CNN heroes), about Jorge Muñoz — “the Angel of Queens” — a school bus driver who spends all his free time and salary feeding the homeless and hungry.  It is a beautiful story, full of sacrifice and compassion.  It is also the very first Inspiration Information post I ever wrote.  In honor of that anniversary, I would like to briefly revisit Jorge’s story, as well as share a new (and surprisingly similar one)…

Jorge is a man who came to this country as a Colombian immigrant, seeking brighter opportunities.  A man who works long hours, who pays a mortgage, who provides for his family.  And then, when the day is done, he cooks.  He drives the city.  He hands out food to over 150 starving people, every single night without fail.  Of the $700 per week Jorge makes as a bus driver, he spends almost 70% on food and gas to feed the homeless.

On the exact opposite side of the Planet, a 29 year old Indian chef has also dedicated his life to the same selfless mission as Jorge.  Meet Narayan Krishnan:

At the age of 21, Narayan was a talented chef fresh out of culinary school with an already award-winning career at a five-star hotel and job offerings pouring in for elite positions in Switzerland.  Success and money were assured, not to mention a wealth of experience traveling the world cooking the food he so loves.  In other words, Narayan was on the path of dreams toward that Emerald City he’d worked so hard to reach.  And then something shocking and unexpected happened.  On his last quick visit home before jetting off to Europe and infinite possibility, Narayan glanced momentarily off the yellow brick road of his life.  And there, in plain sight he saw an old man, clearly homeless and mentally ill… eating his own feces for food.

I am reminded of the young Siddhartha Gautama, the perfect Brahmin prince, who spent the first 30 years of his life sheltered in the protective bubble of his palace.  Who wandered alone into the city, and for the first time saw a man who was hungry.  Then a man who was old. And finally a man who had died.   And in these startling experiences with human suffering, Siddhartha was struck with the overwhelming clarion cry of compassion… and he knew in an instant he must change his life.  (Siddhartha later became the spiritual icon we now know as the Buddha).

Likewise, this brutal image of human despair resounded in Narayanan Krishnan with all the sonic force of a hammer striking a bell.  He too knew he had to change his life.  Within minutes he was helping this poor man, providing him food.  Dignity.  Within a week he had quit his job, canceled his ticket to Switzerland and moved back home.

This was 2002.  Within a year, Krisnan founded a nonprofit — Akshaya Trust — after the Hindu myth of the Goddess Annapoorani’s “Akshaya bowl” which feeds the hungry endlessly, magically replenishing after every meal.  And every single day since that fateful one on the street, Krishnan has fed over 400 destitute people 3 fresh cooked meals, 365 days a year.  Without pause.  In spite of weather, sickness, limited resources.  Krishnan simply refuses to stop.  People rely on him.  And over the last 8 years he has provided over 1.2 million meals, all personally prepared and hand delivered by him and his small team.

His day begins at 4 am.  Picking out the freshest vegetables and ingredients at the local market, then cooking the hot meals which he often hand-feeds to the handicapped or incapacitated.  He covers over 125 miles of city in a donated van.  And beyond the food, he brings his trusty comb, scissors and razor to clean up and boost the esteem and pride of those he serves.  In his own words:

“The panic, suffering of the human hunger is the driving force of me and my team members of Akshaya.  They may be paranoid and hostile because of their conditions, but this only steadies my resolve to offer help.  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.”

Krishnan and his team sleep on the kitchen floor of Akshaya’s modest headquarters.  He takes no salary, and sponsored donations to cover the $327 daily cost of operations usually covers only 22 days out of the month.  His parents support Krishnan and his team by providing them food — an beautiful karmic circle of kindness.  Without their support, the nonprofit would flounder.

And in spite of the difficulty, the constant and unending ocean of need, Narayanan is happy.  He doesn’t regret for a second the golden path he left behind.  As he says himself, “Now I am feeling so comfortable and so happy.  I have a passion, I enjoy my work. I want to live with my people.”

The simple, humble humanity of these two men never ceases to astound me.  Whenever I am flooded by the crashing tsunami of negativity and fear that often forms the tidal sweep of contemporary culture and politics, I need only look to people like Jorge and Narayan to remind me of the unwavering spark of inspiration and hope that I (and we as a race) are so readily capable.  It is these quite champions, these everyday heroes, who give me the positive perspective to make a difference in the world.  To stand tall against the oncoming waves of desperation and despair and offer a rock of strength and refuge.  An island of compassion.

The darkness is not lessened by one brilliant light, but rather a million tiny candles.  So hold yours high.  Burn them bright.

One comment

[…] man with the world’s biggest heart this year must be Narayanan Krishnan who has devoted his life to caring for the homeless untouchables in […]

by Inspiration Information — Year in Review |Twin Ink on December 31, 2010 at 8:52 pm. Reply #

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