The call of compassion

"Jeena uska jeena hai, jo auro ko jiwan deta hai” (only a life of service to others is worthwhile). This beautiful verse from a popular 70s Bollywood song is the essence of Narayanan Krishnan’s life. A chef by profession, Narayanan gave up a high paying job opportunity in Switzerland to help India’s homeless and abandoned. In 2002, the sight of a poor man consuming his own waste shocked Narayanan and that’s when he decided to do something about it.

Over the past 14 years, 36-year old Narayanan, with the help of his dynamic team, has distributed millions of meals, thrice a day. Though there are many volunteers, he ensures he personally interacts with residents at Akshaya Home, some of who have mental and physical disabilities. Currently, Akshaya Home, which was inaugurated in 2013, has close to 450 residents. Phase two of the Akshaya Home was inaugurated in September last year and the wing opened its doors to nearly 400 more. All the women have now been moved to this wing.

Photo credit: Narayanan Krishnan's innate compassion gave him his life's purpose

 Social service need not mean sacrificing your dreams. Narayanan Krishnan is a case in point; he used his passion for cooking to serve a larger cause.

On a typical day, Narayanan and his volunteers cook fresh, nutritious meals seasoned with generous amounts of love. They also do haircuts and shave beards. Further, medical assistance _ right from dental check ups to dressing physical wounds _ is also provided. Akshaya Trust also tends to residents’ emotional scars by offering them dignity in life and in death; two-minute silence is observed to pay respects to the deceased who are then taken away to be cremated. Residents also engage in seva – housekeeping, gardening and washing clothes – and yoga. Indoor and outdoor games, crafts and regular walking and exercise are practiced too.

Akshaya Trust India (Madurai) was founded in 2002 followed by Akshaya Trust U.S.A. in 2010. Being a non-profit organisation, the Trust runs mainly on donations, which usually suffice for only 22 days in a month; per day expenses amount to an average of 20,000 rupees. In order to cover the rest of the month, Narayanan apparently rents out his house and sometimes even takes shelter for the night in the kitchen at Akshaya Home.

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