In 2002, Narayanan Krishnan, a gifted young chef from Madurai, India, was working for an exclusive hotel group preparing haute cuisine for the ultra-rich. But when he went home to visit his family, something he saw shocked him to his core.
“I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food,”he told CNN.
Krishnan knew he couldn’t go back to the gourmet restaurants he’d been working in when his own countrymen were starving to death. So he decided to stay in India and begin fixing meals for that man, and for the countless others who could not care for themselves.
The following year, he founded the nonprofit group Akshaya Trust. The organization is named for the “Akshaya bowl” from Hindu mythology, a bottomless bowl that can feed the hungry forever—just as Krishnan hopes his group will do.
Each morning, Krishnan and his team rise at 4 AM, and seek out the homeless throughout a 123-mile radius, armed with packets of hot vegetarian meals that Krishnan has prepared by hand. He brings the meals to a crowd of about 400 regulars, and gives them free haircuts and beard trims when they need it. In the years since starting the nonprofit, he’s served over 1.2 million meals.
His recipients are nearly all mentally ill, and do not have the capacity to thank him. Nonetheless, Krishnan receives great pleasure from the work he does.
“I get this energy from the people,” he said. “The food which I cook … the enjoyment which they get is the energy. I see the soul. I want to save my people.”