A survivor of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake shares her experience

My name is Laxmi. As a child, I lived with my family in Gujarat. On January 26, 2001, an earthquake hit our lives. I saw our apartment collapse right before my eyes. I could only see dust and debris everywhere. I heard a lot of people moaning and saw them running in search of their beloved ones. I was also among them, searching for my mother and my elder brother. Both of them were trapped in our apartment, which was then nothing but bricks and rubble. On that day itself, I lost both of them, as well as my home and my friends. Needless to say, for a 13-year-old girl, it was devastating.


My father was not a witness to this incident. He was at work at the time witnessing another tragedy, the total destruction of his business. He did not know how to console me or himself, other than sharing this with our Amma. With everything in our lives destroyed, we travelled to Kerala and reached Amma’s ashram during the first week of February with the ashes of my mother and brother.{news} Amma called us into her room. She consoled us and she wiped away my tears. She hugged me and told me not to worry about anything, that she would always be with me. In that moment, I stopped feeling that I had lost my mother. I realized that Amma was the only one who could take away my sorrow. Amma discussed about my studies and decided to enroll me in Amrita Vidyalayam in Kodungallur. She told me that I could study in Amma’s institutions for as long as I needed. She told me that whenever I needed any clothes—or anything at all, for that matter—that I should just tell her.

All this time I was experiencing Amma’s vast love and compassion. A few months later, when the North Indian Tour came around, Amma asked me to come along so that I could continue to be near her during this critical time in my life. She made me realize that I was not alone.
Soon, my father went back to Gujarat in order to try to rebuild his business. And I continued my schooling. Since I had some difficulties with my academics in Kodungalloor, Amma suggested I attend the Amrita Vidyalayam Secondary School in Parippally. The school is located right next to the ashram’s Amrita Niketan orphanage. Many of the children who attend there live at Amrita Niketan and, therefore, have either lost their parents or were abandoned by them. Other students have parents who are financially unable to care for them. While I attended the school there, Amma told me that I should talk with the orphans and listen to their stories. This helped me to overcome my feelings and to understand that I was not the only person suffering. In fact, there are many kids in situations worse than mine.

After a year, something I never expected happened: my father re-married and informed via phone. At the time was finishing my 11th standard exams and was quite devastated. As I was still recovering from losing my mother and brother, his marriage really shook me. I went to share my feelings with Amma, but before I could even speak, she hugged me, wiped my tears and told me, “Dear daughter, don’t worry, Amma is always with you.” Her words gave me enough hope and confidence to move forward. Yes, Amma is there with me always.

When I finished my basic schooling, Amma encouraged me to get my BBM (Bachelor’s of Business Management) degree at the Amrita School of Arts & Sciences at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. Once, again, my education and accommodation were provided by Amma totally free of charge. With Amma’s grace and support, I successfully graduated.

After my graduation, I wanted to work for one of the ashram’s institutions, but, to my surprise, Amma instructed me to work outside. Since I believe that no place is safer than Amma’s ashram, I asked Amma many times, if I could please work at Amrita itself. However, Amma was particular that I should work outside. Amma told me, “My dear daughter, Amma wants you to work outside so that you will gain a better understanding about the outside world. I want you to be strong and independent.” Her words gave me strength and, with the confidence she had instilled in me, I soon found a job with a multinational company. When I first began working there, Amma advised me about my accommodation, my travel—even about day-to-day things. She also told me to save as much of my salary as I could for my future.

When I shared my wish to get engaged to the person of my choice, Amma called him and his family to discuss the matter, just like a girl’s parents do. Amma said that when we were ready, she would conduct the wedding for us. The happy day was today: May 13, 2014 during a public darshan. Sadly, my father was against the marriage and didn’t attend. However, Amma was my family support on this day.

After reaching the ashram, Amma lovingly called me and personally selected the ornaments and sari for the wedding. She attended to every detail just like my own family would. The ashramites took care of me and I felt like I was at home again. All the sadness of my father not being there was removed by the love and support of Amma and the ashramites.

The wedding was such a joyous occasion in my life. The whole ashram, Amma, the senior Swamijis and the ashramites showered us with blessings, best wishes and prayers. Traditionally, the father would take the daughter’s hand and placing it in the groom’s hand, give him the responsibility of his daughter. In my case, Amma who is the Universal Mother and Father, lovingly performed this rite, gave my hand to Bimal. After the wedding, Amma made an announcement requesting everyone present to pray for our family and to give their blessings for our new life. It was so touching for everyone present to witness the depth of Amma’s love and compassion; that even in starting a new married life, Amma was showering us with spiritual blessings. Amma even told us to take our honeymoon vacation in Singapore.

Amma has given me so much love and care that, even though I lost my biological mother, I have never felt alone. Every moment I feel Amma’s presence, and that gives me so much strength and happiness. Amma has transformed my life and the lives of so many others. All these experiences given by Amma has made me feel like the luckiest person in the world. They say that where there is love, that place is heaven on earth. This has been my experience: Yes, Amritapuri is the real heaven on earth.

Laxmi Soni

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Fortunatey, I have never experienced a natural earthquake in my life. But I am a bit older then Laxmi and I do not have a job nor a degree.
    Some “earthquakes of life” are even more devastating than natural earthquakes.

    Unforunately, people have no respect for others’ problems, so you cannot speak with anyone about your difficulties.
    Most of the people on the spiritual path (or supposed to be) consider their master just as the genie of the lamp. Do you know what it is? It is that lamp that you need to rub to realize your dreams. For most people on the “spiritual” path, their master is just like this. But they do not know.

    Really spiritual people are extremely rare in this selfish and shameful world.

    Best wishes and respect to Laxmi. I wish her the best.

  2. Congratulations Laxmi. My Divine AMMA is great she is unversal mother who is omnipresent. Luv u MAA

  3. Yes. This world is full of selfish people who have no time for others problems. But just like the beautiful lotus comes out of dirt and mud Guru comes in our life in this world. And once a Guru comes no earthquake of life can shake us because we come to realise that foundation of this world is God. So we are safe in God. Now all the selfish people just seem like actors who exist to make us spiritual. It is all Gods play.

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Darshan, interesting