Abandoned by her husband, she chose to nurture thousands of orphans – Meet Sindhutai Sapkal
India is the second most populated country in the world and a significant part of the population are kids. Since a major part of the population of India suffers from financial adversities and other societal problems, many kids become destitute or orphans. Thousands of children loom around the streets of India as orphans. In every public place one will find children asking and begging for alms, they are totally vulnerable and easily fall prey to predators and slave recruiters. But the destiny of orphan kids in the Indian city Pune is somewhat different as they have Sindhutai Sapkal as their mother.
Sindhutai Sapkal, also known as Mother of Orphans, is an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for her work for raising orphan children. Fondly called Mai (mother), Sindhutai Sapkal is credited with adopting and nurturing over 1,400 orphans, helping them get an education, married, and settled in life. Many of the children that she adopted are well educated lawyers and doctors, and some, including her biological daughter are running their independent orphanages. One of her child is doing a PhD on her life.
Nicknamed ‘Chindhi’ meaning torn cloth, she was an unwanted daughter from a very poor family. Her family was too poor to buy her a slate for school. So, she learned to write using thorns on thick leaves. She was married at the age of ten, to a man three times her age. A victim of domestic violence, Sindhutai Sapkal had a difficult marriage and gave birth to three sons by the time she turned 20.
Sindhutai was abandoned by her husband when she was nine months pregnant with her fourth child. Her baby was born in a cow shed and she had to cut the umbilical cord with a sharp rock. Sindhutai went to her family for support but was refused shelter. Deterred but not defeated, she started begging on railway platforms to feed her newborn daughter. She thought about suicide, but chose not to.
When I was out myself on the streets begging for food and fighting for survival each day, I realized that there are so many orphans who have nobody to go to. I decided to take care of them and raise them as my own.
When she was a beggar, she began to connect with the many, many orphan children in the street. She was shocked to see the numerous abandoned children struggling for survival and she resolved to take care of them as her own. It became her mission in life to care for these children, and that she did, working as hard as she could and finding support wherever possible along the way. Today, Sindhutai Sapkal is a proud mother nurturing over a thousand destitute children, providing them with food, shelter and most importantly love.
If I wasn’t there for my baby, she would have met the same fate as the rest of the abandoned children on the street. I know how it feels when you are left alone. So, when I came across children who needed help, I knew I must do something for them and I’m proud that I could be a mother to some of them.
Sindhutai Sapkal donated her biological daughter to a trust, only to eliminate the feeling of partiality between her daughter and the adopted ones. At the age of 80, her husband came back to her apologetically. She accepted him as her child stating she is only a mother now, proudly and very affectionately introduces him as her oldest child.
Till date she is honoured with more than 273 awards for her compassion and dedication. All the money she gets from these awards is used to build orphanages and care for more children. Sindhutai Sapkal’s work is totally backed and funded by private donations and other help from various walks of life.
The Marathi film ‘Mee Sindhutai Sapkal’ released in 2010, is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
It is not necessary that a woman who gave you birth will be your only mother; a mother can be someone who adopts you and takes proper care of you. Sindhutai Sapkal has proved that a mother’s love has no cost. She poured out her motherly love and affection on orphans, she took them under her wings, she gave them food and shelter in whatever way she could.
The Enigmatic charisma of Sindhutai Sapkal makes her an inspiration for most of us, especially women, who are scared of society, people and their perception. The measures and travails of her own life never let her spirit down. Sindhutai Sapkal truly epitomizes the fact that victory lies ahead of our fears.
Image credit: prahaar