Narayanan Krishnan was in high spirits. Soon the chef in the Bangalore Taj Hotel was to fly to Switzerland to work in a 5-star restaurant.
During his walk that evening through the streets of his hometown Madurai in Tamil Nadu, the 21-year-old Krishnan’s eyes caught sight of a bony, bearded man lying on the road, eating dirt. Krishnan walked up to that old man. Purchasing hot idlis and vada from a nearby hotel, he offered it to him.
Within minutes, the man had gulped it all down. With a contented face and smiling eyes, he folded his hands to say ‘Thanks’. When Krishnan extended his hand, the wrinkled man took it with his dirty fingers and kissed it.
That was the defining moment for Krishnan. Back home, he began to seriously ponder his ambition of going abroad to make money for himself. “Why not feed the hungry in my own town?”
That incident changed Krishnan’s life. With his savings and the monthly rent he received from his grandfather’s house, he started cooking and feeding over 30 destitute people every day.
Seeing his good work, many good-willed people gradually joined him. Those who could not afford to give their time gave their money to feed the poor. With the generous donations, Krishnan built the 24,000 sq. ft. Akshaya Trust Rehabilitation Centre on 3.5 acres of land the following year in 2003. Today, it shelters and feeds some 450 homeless, elderly and the mentally-disabled every day at a cost of 20,000. Managed by generous young people, it gives them shelter, medication and care. Many of these destitutes are abandoned by their children, and 80 per cent are from north India.
Thrice a day, Krishnan takes hot food in a Maruti Omni van to feed eagerly-awaiting destitutes near the temple. On the way back, he purchases food materials. Krishnan considers the destitutes as his own. He bathes them, gives them haircuts and shaves those who require it. In the past 18 years, Krishnan has fed more than 2 million destitutes. It has become his mission.
In 2010, he was chosen as one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes. Based on Krishnan’s story, in 2012, a Malayalam film, Ustad Hotel, was made.