Prashant was a member of the Sathya Sai Center of Louisville, Kentucky, working toward a doctorate degree at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. On alternate weekends, he drove 285 miles or more than 4 hours, to his home and wife, Padma, in Louisville, Kentucky. In late April 2011, Alabama experienced devastating tornadoes. High winds and torrential rains cut off power for many people and businesses. Without power, food, gasoline, or water, the Huntsville townspeople were asked to leave and return only when the city was ready and safe for occupation again.  

Here is Prashant’s account of that day of utter devastation:

Up close to the tornado’s destruction

I was looking forward to getting away from all the problems caused by the tornadoes and to be with my wife Padma who was in the mid-stage of a pregnancy. I left in my car to drive to Louisville. The tornado, as inconvenient as it was, had bestowed upon me a much-appreciated, additional opportunity to travel home to my wife. On the highway, due the devastation from the tornado, there was a circular detour around Huntsville. This detour brought me face-to-face with the reality of the destructiveness of the tornado. Houses were torn down, roofs blown away, huge trees uprooted, cars upturned, and power lines and poles lay helter-skelter on the road. There was no sign of any life. All residents, young and old alike, had left town for safer grounds.

Inspired to Serve

Seeing this devastation and the effects of the storm that had left a city completely shattered, was shocking. My thoughts changed rapidly from joy at getting home to determination to find some way to help the townspeople.

Once in Louisville, I contacted the local Sathya Sai Center. The center, which began in 1998, had about 30 members. I asked if they could donate any sorely-needed items to help the people of Huntsville. All it took was one e-mail to fellow center members, and help poured in. Blankets, sheets, clothing for children and adults, canned food, crates of bottled water, tarpaulins to cover the open roofs, makeshift tents, and toiletry items of every kind were brought in by the Sai Center members. The response was overwhelming. All that it took on my part was to open my mouth and ask the members of my Sai center to help me help the tornado victims. I guess when our intentions are motivated by love and responsibility, the Universe will always find a way to support us. We will always unite in love!

My car and trunk were completely filled, leaving me just enough space to sit comfortably and keep the windows clear for safe driving and proper vision. With Joy in my heart I drove back to Huntsville, and delivered the items to a local church spearheading the relief effort. The supplies were then distributed directly to needy families by the church volunteers. We all felt satisfied that the task was accomplished without delay.

Consider selfless service as the best spiritual discipline... But do not believe that you can by means of service reform or reshape the world. You may or may not. That does not matter. The real value, its most visible result, is that it reforms, reshapes you.

Sathya Sai Baba, 21 Mar 1967

An eye-opening experience

Having come into the fold of Sri Satya Sai Baba, whose motto is to "Help Ever, Hurt never", I have in the past been involved in several service activities in Puttaparthi and Bangalore (India). The village service project conducted (annually) under Sai Baba’s loving command, was an eye-opener for me as to the condition of villages in and around Puttaparthi, which lack basic amenities that we take for granted. However, the sight of the tornado devastation was a shocking eye-opener to the fury that Mother Nature can unleash. In a matter of minutes, lives are changed forever, if not lost, irrespective of whether in a developed, developing, or under-developed nation. It was only natural for my heart to awaken to the responsibility of responding to the needs of those so severely impacted by the tornado. In life, there are always many different situations and events we face: there are pleasurable events we enjoy but sometimes, hidden to us, are terrible heart-wrenching aspects of life that we are not exposed to often, but really need to see. In retrospect, I feel that it was Divine Will that sent me deliberately on this detour showing me the devastating aftermath of the tornado. My initial instinct was to run away and escape it! But, come to think of it, the beauty and purpose of our lives lies, not in resisting the Divine Will but in joining hands with it and in rising to the occasion. We may not change the World, but we are left changed!


Sathya Sai Baba Center of Louisville, KY

Editor’s note: As a happy postscript, Prashant and Padma’s baby boy, Pranav Sai, was born 3 months later, on July 29, 2011.