In December 2015, Chennai was ravaged by one of the worst floods in over a century, leaving thousands without food, water and supplies. Over 400 people were killed and more than 1.8 million lost their homes with entire localities under water for over a week. During the worst phases of those floods, many heroes arose.

One of them was Santosh Muruganantham, a young man who owned a take-out restaurant in Chennai.

During the Chennai floods, Santosh Muruganantham worked without sleep for 90 hours, cooking 1,70,000 packets of food for the affected.


Even as his own house was submerged under water and his family stranded, Santosh went back out into the floods, creating a makeshift kitchen and preparing food all by himself to deliver to the stranded.

He did not sleep for four consecutive days, taking a break one hour every day as he kept on cooking. As word got out of this man's resilience, others too stepped out to join him. From children to the elderly, strangers from all over came to assist him in cooking, packing and transporting food to the needy. Inspired by their presence, Santosh aspired higher and created personal care kits for people in remote villages who could not receive any aid, ensuring the team personally delivered them.

By the time the fourth day finally came to an end and help from outside Chennai began to arrive, Santhosh Muruganantham and his team had prepared an astounding 1,70,000 food boxes and delivered them to people in need.

I had the chance to interact with this amazing individual.


How did the idea of cooking food in such quantities under such terrible conditions come to you?

When the first floods hit in mid-November, I got a call from this company called Naga Rava down south. The company offered to send a quarter ton of rava along with the money and asked us to prepare 5000 packets of upma and give it to the flood victims. We took the order, cooked for 14 hours straight and delivered it. But that night, as we sat together at our home discussing the events of the day, we actually felt ashamed. Here was a man not even from Chennai and he was going out of his way to help the affected people. We, while living here, had not really done anything ourselves for our own people.

We actually then began the groundwork for collecting funds to help cook more dishes on our initiative. Little did we know that the November floods were just the trailer, the real show was about to begin.

You mean the floods that hit in December?

The December floods affected us all. My own house got flooded and my family was stranded on the first floor. We lost phone connectivity and electricity. It was nearly a day before I got out but the first thing I did was find a rice mill and convert it into a makeshift kitchen after finding utensils and even a gas stove. We struggled in that one day but I knew many would be worse off with no food or water.

That first day, I had to work alone. No sleep, no shower. Friends outside Chennai set up Whatsapp groups and asked volunteers to chip in and slowly the community came together. I will never forget it.

During the Chennai floods, Santosh Muruganatha worked without sleep for 90 hours, cooking 1,70,000 packets of food for the affected.


College students, rich businessmen, even 74 year old men were sitting on the ground together cleaning utensils, cooking and packing upma and semiya. Anything we asked, they were ready to do. 300 volunteers along with the micro funding organization Milaap worked together to make it all happen.

I also wanted to talk to you about the unique drinks arrangement you have at Kolapasi.

We don't sell carbonated drinks at any of our outlets. I don't want to sell something that I personally avoid. Initially that worked against us because when people called to order food, they would cut the call when we said we don't serve Coke or Pepsi. I was worried my principles would shut the business down. Instead, now I get offers to start the franchise abroad with people citing the very same reason.

More importantly, I don't sell water.

During the Chennai floods, Santosh Muruganatha worked without sleep for 90 hours, cooking 1,70,000 packets of food for the affected.


We have a special bottle that costs Rs 300 and you can refill it at any of our outlets forever for free. You can also come with your own bottle if you want and fill it for free. We don't mind.   

You continue to help the community in many ways even after the floods. Can you tell us more about what you have been up to since then?

I have always been inspired by the African proverb - "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  I incorporate that into the being of my work as well. When the ruling decriminalising Section 377 came, many corporates and other sectors were still watchful about hiring members of the third gender. Not us.

During the Chennai floods, Santosh Muruganatha worked without sleep for 90 hours, cooking 1,70,000 packets of food for the affected.

Kolapasi was the among the first to hire members of the transgender community. I had met a few members when setting up my first outlet and realized they were respectable people who needed jobs. My long term aim is to set up a stand alone outlet fully run by members of the transgender community to help them gain acceptance.

During the Chennai floods, Santosh Muruganatha worked without sleep for 90 hours, cooking 1,70,000 packets of food for the affected.
Santosh Muruganatha would go on to win the Best Restaurant Chain of the Year - People's Choice at the Indian Business Congress Awards for his selflessness not just during the Chennai floods but also in everyday work.


You can watch Santosh's interview and scenes of his team during the Chennai floods here.



During the Chennai floods, Santosh Muruganantham worked without sleep for 90 hours, cooking 1,70,000 packets of food for the affected.


Author's note:
This is part of my  #BlogchatterA2Z and #AtoZChallenge where I will be focusing on Real Life Heroes of Kindness and Compassion. 

Of course, I have been tracking these lovely human beings for years now and have found children as young as six years old and old women in their eighties from across the world who will restore your faith in humanity.

Want more stories of compassion to brighten up your day? Hundreds of 'Heroes of Kindness' can be found here:

Heroes of Kindness - 2017 edition
Heroes of Kindness - 2018 edition
Heroes of Kindness - 2019 edition
Heroes of Kindness - Indian edition

8 Comments

  1. Really inspiring ❤️

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  2. I can only imagine the devastation that Chennai faced. To help the victims in such a time is truly a noble effort. Hats off to Santosh!

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  3. This is really commendable. We often think only about ourselves and our families even in normal circumstances let alone natural calamities. But Santosh has been so selfless! An inspiration indeed!

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  4. It is great to know about great heroes who are less known. I find it comforting to know that noble souls are still there who act selflessly for humanity. Thank you so much.

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  5. 1,70,000 food boxes!! That's simply amazing. It's heartwarming to see such selfless, compassionate and generous people like Santosh! More power to him!!

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  6. What an amazing story. That of selflessly serving others. Thank you for bringing this to light.

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