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A Companion to the Forgotten
December 17, 2010 3:26 PM   Subscribe

I think I have something in my eye. SLYT

(via CNN) Narayanan Krishnan: feeding the hungry, nourishing the soul
posted by bwg (37 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Official site.
posted by Gator at 3:36 PM on December 17, 2010


I'm sorry if this reveals something bad about me. It probably does. But I found his feeding people with his hands disturbing, when they had hands that can feed themselves. I found it overly intimate, as if he were violating them.

Maybe that's just my queasiness, though.

But it doesn't sit totally okay with me. I'm sorry if this harshes anybody's glow about humanity. That just happened to me in a different thread so I feel weird running the possibility of doing that to someone else in a different thread.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2010


These people desperately need to be touched.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


Wow.
posted by kenaman at 3:45 PM on December 17, 2010


Yes, he touched upon that in his message -- that as a Brahmin, he's "not supposed" to touch these people at all, but he's making a point of breaking that taboo in favor of showing them love. The idea of the caste system is so foreign to those of us who haven't been immersed in it, it's really incomprehensible. But if you can imagine what it must be like to be taught that you're the lowest of the low your whole life, and then have someone from the top of the food chain -- someone you're not supposed to touch, who you've been taught is too good to be touched by the likes of you -- take you in his arms and show you such tenderness, it's mind-blowing.
posted by Gator at 3:55 PM on December 17, 2010 [25 favorites]


Yeah, this is pretty much like Jesus and the lepers. He didn't need to touch them to heal them, but He did it to love them. I'm really defensive of my own personal space but the intimacy in this video was just awesome.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Having traveled through some of these places, the degree of poverty and hunger is so monumental it literally seems unreal - like walking through a film set. To live there, and set oneself to helping even a tiny fraction of those suffering, shows a sense of compassion and strength of character that I'm sad to say, I probably do not possess.

Inspiring. Namaste, good man.
posted by elendil71 at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


When somebody is that desperately thin it stands to reason that they are incredibly weak. He may have been feeding them with his hands because they weren't able to use their own.

Excuse me, it's terribly dusty in here. I need to find a tissue.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:05 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


But I found his feeding people with his hands disturbing

Don't worry about harshing the buzz, Llama. I was disturbed too at first, and then I realized that many of these people might be too physically weak or mentally debilitated or some combination thereof to do it for themselves. As alluded to in the clip, the Hindu caste system certainly seems to play a role in creating this crushing poverty, not just in terms of haves-and-have-nots socioeconomics, but by grinding down the "untouchables" psychologically until they no longer have the will to live and fend for themselves. Realizing this managed to disturb me even more.

My hat is definitely off to this man, for whatever he manages to accomplish through his work.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, he felt like the real deal. I got misty. Yeah there was definitely something about the guy's manner that made me think that maybe he likes being Mr. Generous a little too much sometimes, and was maybe over-doing it for the camera a little, but he's feeding people who've been left to die and breaking a major taboo to do so, so I forgive him for potentially not being perfect. He's doing more than I am.

What I find more unsettling is the CNN logo in the bottom. Every time a news organization with that much influence does another story bigging up a solution that probably reaches a few dozen people at most I get really upset. The framing implies that extreme poverty is just something brutal but natural, caused through tragic lack of a friendly man with a mustache to hand-feed you oranges, and not concentration of the common wealth in a few well-protected hands or some nutty idea like that. Everyone just needs a patron!

That he's violating the caste system partially saves the story from that particular pitfall, but then... even with that... the logo adds a disturbing finger-waggy feel. Like, Oh those nutty Indians with their artificially enforced extreme economic divides! What a wacky and entirely foreign concept to us Westerners! La dee daaaaa...
posted by Mike Smith at 4:07 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was more inspiring that I feared it would be, but my god, those sparkles at the end. I could have done without the sparkles at the end.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 4:08 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry if this reveals something bad about me. It probably does. But I found his feeding people with his hands disturbing, when they had hands that can feed themselves. I found it overly intimate, as if he were violating them.

He is violating people who are starving, destitute and possibly mentally ill, living amongst refuse on the side of a road by putting food in their mouths? Give me a fucking break. In countries which aren't America people regularly touch and care for one another free from all lawsuits and beanplating and ruminations on "violation" "boundaries" and "personal space," or feelings of disturbance at the sight of one human being putting food into the mouth of another. That he is a brahmin is even more remarkable.

This guy is awesome. He doesn't say anything revolutionary but he genuinely exudes love and enthusiasm.
posted by fire&wings at 4:11 PM on December 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Mike Smith: "What I find more unsettling is the CNN logo in the bottom. Every time a news organization with that much influence does another story bigging up a solution that probably reaches a few dozen people at most I get really upset. The framing implies that extreme poverty is just something brutal but natural, caused through tragic lack of a friendly man with a mustache to hand-feed you oranges, and not concentration of the common wealth in a few well-protected hands or some nutty idea like that. Everyone just needs a patron! "

His story is part of CNN Heroes. Attention from that show has had a fantastic effect on many of the people it has highlighted over the years. Looking at his website, kindly linked by Gator above, we find that his program has been running since 2002. So nine years as of June 2010. In that time, they've served over 1.5 million meals, and as of September 2010, 400 people have been given three freshly cooked meals every single day. Which I think is pretty darn impressive.

CNN's Heroes program typically raises a lot of awareness for smaller organizations that haven't had a lot of international recognition. People donate money and supplies from all over the world, and often, CNN's efforts lead to local activism and government recognition and/or support.

The show isn't about "everybody just needs a patron." It's about highlighting people who have driven organizations that have proven that they don't need a patron to make a big difference in other people's lives.
posted by zarq at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2010


Oh, and bwg, thank you VERY much for posting this. :)
posted by zarq at 4:58 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much for posting this.
posted by mewithoutyou at 5:04 PM on December 17, 2010


This man is extraordinary, and makes me feel ashamed of myself that I am not doing far more than I ever have every single day of my life to help others. He touched me, that's for sure, and I'm glad for it.

Time for me to start volunteering again.
posted by perilous at 5:04 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I forgive him for potentially not being perfect. He's doing more than I am...What I find more unsettling is the CNN logo in the bottom.

I think, sir, your contrarianism has run amok.

He is not perfect, I am sure. For he is a man, and whom is perfect? I know only this --- I am nowhere near as good as this man, in many senses of that word. To reflect upon the discrepancy between how he's dedicated his life and how I have mine is something I find quite humbling. So much so that I confess I find it somewhat surprising and depressing that this is not the universal reaction.
posted by Diablevert at 5:28 PM on December 17, 2010


re: Him touching them.

At the start, he mentions seeing an old man eat his own excrement. I'm guessing the amount of toilet paper available to most of these folks in nil. They probably have another way of wiping, if you ponder it. Water cleanliness is also likely significantly different than in, say, the U.S.A.

Through no fault of their own, they live in filth.

When I was watching this, my western bias was thinking "oh, I'm glad they're not having to put their hands anywhere near their mouths" when he was feeding them.

See? Western bias can totally mess with your perception no matter what conclusion you end up drawing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:31 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


In that time, they've served over 1.5 million meals, and as of September 2010, 400 people have been given three freshly cooked meals every single day. Which I think is pretty darn impressive.

Mea culpa. Thank you for the context. He has definitely helped more than a few dozen people. That's beautiful.

I still think it's disingenuous for a multi-billion-dollar media corporation to use its influence to imply that if we want to address poverty then we should all start making soup. That's bullshit.

It's not at all contradictory to see both the beauty and bullshit here. They come from different sources.

Diablevert, I believe you misunderstood my comment. The "not perfect" thing was defending him.
posted by Mike Smith at 5:49 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still think it's disingenuous for a multi-billion-dollar media corporation to use its influence to imply that if we want to address poverty then we should all start making soup. That's bullshit.

No, it isn't.

If every member of the middle and upper class in America spent one weekend a year in direct service to the poor, two things would happen: one is that more of the destitute would receive the compassion and material support they need to try and get better. The second is that the wealthy would no longer be able to create this false idea that everyone who is suffering right now is suffering because they deserve it.

If you're trying to move to a more just society, the first step is to make people realize that there is injustice to fight. The second is to show them that they can succeed. This clip, regardless of its source, shows both.
posted by notion at 7:07 PM on December 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


Unless you can demonstrate to me you are somehow doing more than this guy is to help people your criticism carries minimal credibility. He is a part of serving 1.5 million meals over 10 years and you castigate him for touching people?
I forgive him for not potentially being perfect
Well, that is a relief.
posted by jcworth at 7:28 PM on December 17, 2010


Unless you can demonstrate to me you are somehow doing more than this guy... your criticism carries minimal credibility

Unless you're saying one can criticize CNN (which is all I was doing) only after personally feeding 400 people, please consider re-reading my comments, because at no point did I suggest that what the man is doing is anything but heroic.
posted by Mike Smith at 8:01 PM on December 17, 2010


Sorry Mike, probably too fine a point for me to pick at... What struck me in your comment was "I forgive him for not potentially being perfect". When I reread your comment per your request I think that I picked at that one aspect of your comment without holding it inside of the larger context of what you were saying... That was boorish of me and I apologize. Perhaps you can forgive me for not being potentially perfect too, what the hell. I found myself having a strong reaction to people criticizing this guy, in part because I know in my heart that he is a better person than I will ever be. I hope I don't use that as an excuse to not do SOMETHING though... Hope you understand. jcw
posted by jcworth at 8:20 PM on December 17, 2010


I forgive him for potentially not being perfect. He's doing more than I am.

Sometimes the best things are done for suspect motives. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter, if the deed is good. Without jealousy, pride, and vanity, many a mediocre man would never become a good one.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy deserves beatification for sainthood by every church on this good earth. That, and this video should be required viewing for every K-12 student in America. Thank you for posting this.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:15 PM on December 17, 2010


zarq: "Oh, and bwg, thank you VERY much for posting this. :"

To zarq and everyone else who said thanks, I say my pleasure; if anything demonstrates the idea of the Christmas spirit (setting aside any religious aspects), this man's work does, and all year long.

He's a saint in my book.
posted by bwg at 11:31 PM on December 17, 2010


I am deeply impressed at how this man embodies the spirit of giving while breaking cultural mandate.
posted by fake at 6:09 AM on December 18, 2010


Just a few cultural pointers. You always eat food with your right hand because you wipe your bottom with your left. Most people will wash their hands with soap afterwards, but the left hand is considered dirty regardless. It is like this in a lot of cultures. The way he feeds them is how my mother, father, or loved would feed me if I was sick or to show they cared. Also some of these people are technically his elders despite the caste differences. You could consider him feeding a feeble grandparent/parent. You greet people by putting you hands together and saying Namaste so you don't have to touch them. Touching someones feet is a sign of respect. You see him touching one man's feet in a part of the video. Mainly because feet are considered dirty. Putting your feet on someone is considered rude. (Someone has probably written about the importance dirty/clean in Indian culture. )These people don't exist even the peripheral vision of most people walking by. The fact he noticed and decided to do something is amazing.
India can seem like a strange place particularly from a western perspective. I was born in the U.S, but I visit India to see my relatives every few years. In the U.S. we have our poverty locked up in ghettos or poor rural areas that we can't see in our daily life, but India the wealth disparity is in your face. One of my uncles on my mom side is fairly well off since he owns a lens factory and his house was in a nice area of Hyderabad. I would consider it a low level mansion even by American standards. His house servant family lived in what amounted to a concrete shack on the property. I walked around the neighborhood a few times. I would see mansions even bigger than my uncles and in the empty lots right next it would be a bunch of "tents" were folks would lived. Particularly in the last 10 years India has change alot due to the increase in wealth, but the problems are still just as pronounced if not more so.
After while you sort of harden yourself to the poverty. Giving some food or money of the street can get you swarmed by beggars who may or may not needed. Then you have situations like in Slumdog Millionaire where beggars are used to collect money for thugs. That's not to say charity is rare, most of my relatives who are doctors run free clinics when they can. The others either give money or time to educational or food relief efforts. I am always to happy to see these stories, but there is always more that needs to be done. My only hope is that people stop hardening of their heart to problems right in front of their faces. You can always do something, whether it is supporting a charity, supporting policies that empower the poor, or giving some of your time.
posted by roguewraith at 7:53 AM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by desjardins at 8:56 AM on December 18, 2010


That this man is exceptional, breaks my heart.
posted by Xoebe at 9:04 AM on December 18, 2010


I knew a woman from Sri Lanka who talked about feeding her teenaged children with her hands as a sign of love. (Not whole meals, just as gesture, to remind them she loved them.)

This is a beautful post. Thank you.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:26 AM on December 18, 2010


Thank you for posting this.
posted by ladybird at 10:47 AM on December 18, 2010



I'm sorry if this reveals something bad about me. It probably does. But I found his feeding people with his hands disturbing, when they had hands that can feed themselves. I found it overly intimate, as if he were violating them.

Maybe that's just my queasiness, though.


It's just your cultural upbringing, which we all suffer from.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:46 AM on December 18, 2010


Sorry to repeat what others have said, but: thank you for posting this. I was touched.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 12:12 PM on December 18, 2010


I really liked this, but I was disturbed by the (insert detail of what he was doing), and by the (insert a detail of the way it was presented), which really (reduces my need to feel) (validates my aloofness) invalidates its moral worthiness.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:19 PM on December 18, 2010


Enlightening.

Loving the poor: beautiful, touching.

Doing that on CNN and being surrounded by cgi stars like a saint, not so much.

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them."
posted by anonymous sockpuppet for Jesus at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2010


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