Guest-Post: The Savior of Madurai’s Mentally-Ill

Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of top accredited universities. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address.

Very rarely do we come across people who are genuinely interested in serving those less fortunate than themselves; and once in a while we stumble upon true social entrepreneurs like Krishnan, the one-man army whose battlefield is the dusty temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India. His mission – to see that the mentally-ill people who roam the streets of this bustling town never go hungry! From this quest emerged Akshaya Trust, an organization that has served over 650,000 meals since 2002 to the mentally-ill.

Six years ago, a promising career awaited this young man on the hills of Switzerland. Having completed a degree in catering and a training period at one of Bangalore’s finest restaurants. However, a chance encounter with an elderly destitute who was eating his own excreta in hunger made Krishnan rethink his goals in life. After helping the old man clean up and buying him some food, Krishnan went straight home and used his expertise and his mother’s kitchen to whip up some food which he then distributed to the mentally-ill people roaming the streets of Madurai.

Even in the face of stiff opposition from his parents, Krishnan’s enthusiasm did not waver and he was up at dawn every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year, making sure that no fellow human was forced to subsist off their own waste. Slowly, like soft water eroding a hard rock, Krishnan’s parents came around and accepted their son’s venture whole-heartedly. As word of this good Samaritan spread, volunteers joined in his efforts, and the Akshaya Trust was born.

Now the red minivan (that was donated by a friend) is a familiar sight on the by lanes of Madurai, and Krishnan’s protégés wait for him to bring them their daily bread. He never lets them down, making sure that someone else carries on with the work when he is away or indisposed. A new kitchen has been built exclusively to cater to this purpose, and Krishnan dreams of the day when he will be able to build a home for these poor souls who have been abandoned by their families.

Krishnan does not entertain beggars or the homeless, only the mentally-ill who normally do not move from place to place. They hardly recognize him even though he shows up every day, come rain or shine, with some venturing a ghost of a smile at times. Today, he is responsible for feeding 200 such souls, a far cry from the 30 he initially started out with.

Today, the Akshaya Trust is being funded through donations from local businessmen who take turns to sponsor the cost of a day’s food. Krishnan has also launched a catering venture, the proceeds of which augment the monetary budget that’s needed to keep Akshaya up and running.

In an increasingly selfish world that’s filled with people who think only of what they can gain from others, Krishnan is an anomaly who needs to be encouraged. If more people were like him, believing that even a single person can make a difference in the lives of thousands, the world would be a much better place for all of us.

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2 Responses

  1. I remember reading about one such guy years ago in The Hindu. I did find out that this is the same guy!

    http://www.hinduonnet.com/mp/2004/08/16/stories/2004081601500100.htm

    Great job, of course!

    But as a next step, it is probably time to find out (not necessarily by Mr. Krishnan) how such people actually end up on the streets rather than a caring asylum for the mentally challenged.

  2. I completely understand your concern. However, it is important to recognize that we need innovative approaches at all points along the line. Just because they are an end result of something more systemic, does not mean that ventures like these are any less valuable than those that actually attempt to nip the problem at its bud.

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