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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rejecting India's Caste System

Narayanan Krishnan was a 22 year old, award winning chef on his way to Switzerland to begin working as a chef in a 5 star hotel when a trip home to Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India changed the course of his destiny.

When Narayanan saw a destitute, old, man eating his own human waste in the street because he had nothing else to eat, it changed his life forever. In that moment the recent college graduate found his true calling... "I want to save my people. That is the purpose of my life," his website says. He decided he would feed this man and others like him living in abject poverty: the forsaken, mentally ill, the homeless too weak to help themselves. With that he gave up his professional career as a chef in a 5 star hotel and began his own foundation, Akshaya Trust, to feed and help some of the poorest of Madurai's poor.

Not only does he cook for the Dalits (aka Untouchables) in Madurai, against tradition as an orthodox member of the Brahmin caste, he also feeds, cleans, cuts their hair, touches and befriends them to give them back pride they may have lost or very likely he may introduce them to respect they had never experienced until this very amazing man, rejected one of the most engrained forms of discrimination and segregation on our planet, and walked into their lives with open arms bearing both food and friendship.

There will always be people within most societies who are, for many reasons, not able to care for themselves or survive on their own. When families and governments are unable to intercede and assist them, it falls upon friends and strangers to make a decision to reach out, assist and save those who can be helped in some way. Without charity some will perish.

But the Akshaya Trust helps many who are not able to help themselves. Their website says that Narayanan feeds 400 people, 3 times per day, traveling 124 miles. Since creating his foundation in 2003 Narayanan has, to date, served more than 1.2 million meals while earning no profit for himself. He feeds those without food and in turn his mother feeds him vowing to take care of him as he takes care of others for as long as she is alive. I am so moved by Narayanan's passion and dedication. His future dream is to finish construction on a community center of sorts where he can not only feed the homeless but can offer them a roof over their heads.

For his efforts, Narayanan was recognized as one of "CNN's Heroes" which highlights ordinary people changing the world in extraordinary ways. You can read his story on CNN.com by CLICKING HERE.

If you're moved and want to help his cause you can donate (to help pay for meals or for the future Akshaya Home) via Paypal using the link on the left hand sidebar of the Akshaya Trust website.

If you prefer to support a charity that helps those who are capable and want to help themselves there are other options you can support like micro-finance organization Kiva.org.

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