Sapkal, who is very affectionately known as the “Mother of Orphans”, is an
Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for her amazing
work in raising orphaned children in India. She was conferred a doctorate in
Literature by the DY Patil Institute of Technology and Research in 2016. As I
Pen down my viewpoints about Sindhutai, I feel Motherhood need not be felt only
through having a biological child rather adopting or serving so many orphans in
the society makes you feel you are a mother and a complete woman. Let me in
detailed manner take you all to a world which is full of selfless service and
great service to mankind especially to deprived children.
Sapkal was born on 14th November 1948 at Pimpri Meghe Village in
Wardha district Maharashtra to Abhimanji Sathe, a cowherd by Profession. Being
an unwanted child, she was referred to as Chindhi (Marathi for “torn piece of cloth”).
However, her father was keen on educating Sindhutai, much against the wishes of
her mother. Abhimanji used to send her to school under the pretext of cattle
grazing, where she would use the ‘leaf of Bharadi Tree” as a slate to write on
it, as she could not afford a real slate because of her financial constraints.
Extreme poverty, family responsibilities and an early marriage forced her to
quit formal education after she successfully passed the 4th
standard. She was married at an early age of ten, she was married to shrihari
Sapkal alias Harbaji, a 30-year old cowherd from Navaragaon village in Wardha
District. She gave birth to three sons by the time she turned twenty.
At an early age,
she revolted against many injustices inflicted on Villagers, like she put a
successful agitation against a local strongman who was fleecing the villagers
on collection of dried cow dung used as a fuel in India and selling it in
collusion with forest department, without paying anything to the villagers.
This agitation was brought to the notice of district collector and on realising
when she was right, he passed an order which the strongman of village didn’t
like. Stung by the insult at the hands of a poor woman, he managed to convince
her husband to abandon her, when she was beyond nine months old pregnancy
period. She gave birth to a girl child on 14 October 1973 in a cow shelter
outside their house that night. But look at the irony of the situation, her own
mother refused to give shelter to her own daughter in this distressed state.
She didn’t lose hope instead of committing suicide she started begging for food
at Railway station.
was struggling in her life, to make her ends meet, she realised one grave issue
of children in large numbers begging abandoned by their parents. Seeing this situation,
she started vigorously begging for food in the Railway station for those
abandoned children by their parents, and she adopted all those children as her
own and she became mother to everyone who came across as an Orphan. She later
donated her biological child to the trust Shrimant Dagdu Sheth Halwai Pune,
only to eliminate the feeling of Partiality between her daughter and adopted
later went on became the Sindhutai or Maai or the mother of the orphans to the world,
took shelter in a crematorium that night where a dead body was being burnt.
Unable to control her and her daughter’s hunger pangs, she picked up the flour
offered to the corpse (Pind-daan), after its relatives left, kneaded it, and
baked a bhakri (Chapathi) over the fire of the burning corpse and ate. Life was
not treating her the way she should have been treated with, only with miseries
of life. Her life was full of struggle, she spent most of the times in Railway
stations, singing and begging for food and she immediately shared the food with
those who had nothing to eat.
says “I used to be scared of men when I would alight from the trains late at night.
I was only 20. I often contemplated committing suicide.” “But one night,
extremely tired, I got down from the train and sat in a corner, a very big roti
in my hand. I heard a beggar cry and say that he was sick, dying and had no
one. He wanted someone to put two drops of water in his mouth. I walked up to
him and said,’Baba why die just with water? I have a roti, you eat it, drink
water and then die”. She fed and gave him water too. The beggar survived. “He
did not die, and that set me thinking” ‘If a little help from me could save his
life, why do I want to die? I can help people survive’. That day changed my
was very scared of being picked up by menfolk in the night time, show would
often spend the night at cemeteries. “People were afraid to come there at night
and sometimes, people who saw me would scream ‘bhoot bhoot’ and run away. Their
fear would keep me safe. Zindabad shamshaan”, she says. To her surprise one day
she found a sixteen-year old boy by name Deepak on a railway track. “I felt my
daughter too could have met such a fate, and took him under my care. He became
my first son”, she says. Now to her surprise she become the mother of sixteen
adopted children. Her brood was growing. So, after three years, she gave away
her own daughter, Mamta to shrimant Dagduseth Halwai Trust of Pune. “I feared
my children would feel that I loved my own daughter more than them says
Let me throw
some light on her Accomplishments—
A winner of
over 750 Awards including one from the President Pranab Mukherjee, Sindhutai
continues her endeavour of travelling from Village to village to give lectures
and earn money. “Bhashan hai to ration hai”, says the 69-year old brilliant
orator. “I share my experiences with people and tell them that I have learnt to
love despite all odds, they must learn to live too. After the speech, I spread
the pallu of my sari and beg for alms to feed and educate my children. Till
date, the government has not given me any grant. The present Government felicitated me. After
fifteen years of homelessness, her children got the first roof on their head
when a few tribals Sindhutai had helped, gave her a part of their land to live
on. When people began asking her for receipts for the money they gave her,
Sindhutai realized she had to register an NGO, Savitribai Phule Girls Hostel
under the foundation, Vanvasi Gopalkrishna Shiskshan Evam Kreeda Prasarak
Mandal in Chikaldhara in Amravati.
quite amazing to see that today her children run NGOs and Deepak her first
adopted son who refused to leave her on growing up, has named the second one,
Mamta Bal Bhawan, after her daughter, Mamta. Sindhutai has also formed a cow
shelter, Gopika Gai Rakshan Kendra to save old cows that are being sent to the
slaughter houses. She brings them to the shelter and takes care of these cows.
various voices which are so inspiring to me and many of you while reading those
emotions expressed by various people—
the food, Education and medical expenses of the children—all depend on Maai’s
speeches. The day she stops speaking, Money will stop coming in”, says Law
graduate Vinay Sindhutai Sapkal”.
never seen God but for us Maai is God. I was one and half a year-old child when
Maai saw me lying on the dead body of my mother at a railway station. She
adopted me and performed the final rites of my mother, a stranger to her. She
paid for my studies and got me married to a software Engineer last year”, he adds.
Unlike in other orphanages, sindhutai’s children stay with her till they get a
job and get married. A few people handle her work too.
Ananth Mahadevan’s film on her life, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, received four
National awards.” Her life seemed so unreal say Ananth Mahadevan.
proudly say, “today, I have 282 sons-in-law and 49 daughters-in-law. In these
42 years, I have raised 1200 children”. When Sindhutai is asked where she gets
the courage to do all these acts, she says in a mild voice-
beta. And from hunger. Hunger gave me courage.”
I want to
pour my thoughts over and over but need to conclude by taking a biggest lesson
of my life is that I will value my life which gave me food, shelter, education,
and most importantly a family which is fully supportive of my Actions,
irrespective of my mistakes in my life so far. My honest confession is that I
will work towards a bit when I see a child begging on the streets for alms, by
bringing some change in their lives, at least thinking and acting upon. A truly
Inspiring story in my lifetime. Salutations to Sindhutai Sapkal.
Maa, Tujhe Vandan
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