Culture

CNN Hero: An Interview with Narayanan Krishnan

Narayanan Krishnan – This year marks CNN’s fourth annual global search for everyday individuals whose efforts are changing the world. The finalists for the CNN Heroes 2010 were announced on September 23rd 2010. Dutiee.com reporter Usha Bhende caught up with CNN Hero finalist Narayanan Krishnan. The transcript of the interview is below. Krishnan’s story is quite amazing.

Usha: Krishnan, when did the idea of feeding the homeless and hungry occur to you?
Krishnan: It was in 2002 when I was visiting my parents in Madurai, India. This was just before leaving for Switzerland for a job as chef in a Five Star restaurant.

Usha: Why did you opt to quit your job and feed homeless people?
Krishnan: On my visit home, I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food. This really hurt me. I was literally shocked for a second. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this was my calling and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Usha: How did you start?
Krishnan: I started by making 30 food packets for the poor and homeless in June 2002 by using my savings of $2500. When I saw that it was helping the needy, it gave me great inner satisfaction. I plunged into it by forming the Akshaya Trust in January 2003. We cooked fresh wholesome vegetarian food and started feeding these people three times a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. From 6,300 meals in 2002, we grew to serve 36,000 meals in January 2010. With help from my tireless team, by August 2010 we have served 1.5 million meals without missing a single day.

Usha: What are the costs associated with this?
Krishnan: Our operational cost currently is about $327 a day, but sponsored donations cover only 22 days a month. The shortfall is subsidized with $88 that I receive as monthly rent from a home my grandfather left me. I live with my parents. I strongly believe that no good work will ever stop for want of any resources.

Usha: Can you describe a single day at work?
Krishnan: My day starts at 4:00 AM when along with my team we cut vegetables, grind spices and cook breakfast for about 400 people. Then it’s back to the kitchen to make preparations for the mid-day meal which we serve. After a short break we get busy preparing dinner. We cover about 200 kilometers daily in a donated van and hand-feed these people. Sometimes we need to attend to the sick people or give them a shave, a bath and a haircut.

Usha: Did you face any problems along the way?
Krishnan: Oh yes! Initially these people were hostile and paranoid, but now they do appreciate our help and look forward to the meal times.

Usha: What are your future plans?
Krishnan: To build a dormitory to provide shelter for these homeless people.

Usha: How would you like the public to contribute?
Krishnan: We welcome any financial contributions. We encourage you to come and see our work and spread the word. We also need help in dealing with the Bank and local Government department. We need someone to manage the food vendors. All volunteers are welcome. To me merit is of paramount importance and compromise is not acceptable.

Want to get involved? Visit the Akshaya Trust website to contact Krishnan

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Usha Bhende

A free-lance writer and editor for books, journals, brochures, web-mags and websites. Her interests range from human interest stories, sports to Social causes and NGOs, transcripts and content-writing.