For The Youth
The Inspirational Story Of Sindhutai Sapkal written by Archana Shitole.
A mother can never be defeated. A woman can never be defeated. But she needs to keep her heart strong and learn to forgive
– Sindhutai Sapkal
Sindhutai Sapkal or ‘Mai’, is a social worker in Maharasthra, India.
She is a social activist who works fervently towards the welfare of orphaned children in India. Having built a grand family over the decades, she now has one thousand grandchildren who are offsprings of the children she had previously adopted! Most of her ‘children’ are doing very well in life- some are lawyers, some are doctors and so on. In fact, one of her children is pursuing a PhD on Sindhutai’s life. Some of them are even running their own independent orphanages, and proliferating her good deed and spirit. This holds true even for her biological daughter!
Born on 14th November 1948 (Children’s day!), Sindhutai belongs to Pimpri Meghe village in Wardha district, Maharasthra. Her father was a cowherd by profession. The family had meager means, and Sindhutai was an unwanted child. She was often referred to as ‘Chindi’, which is a Marathi word that stands for a torn piece of cloth. Her father seemed to be her only source of hope, for he wanted to provide her with an education much against the wishes of his wife. Sindhutai would go to school on the pretext of cattle grazing and use leaves instead of slates to write on, owing to the paucity of finances.
Her family issues eventually caught on and she was forced to get married at the tender age of nine. She completed her formal education until Grade 4, and then had to quit. Her journey though, had not even begun yet.
Sindhutai’s husband was 21 years older than her, and he too was a cowherd from a neighbouring village. She gave birth to three sons before she turned twenty years of age. In a village- level feud, Sindhutai spoke up against a local strongman who was conning the villagers. When her agitation bore fruit, the strongman was humiliated and disgruntled against the poor woman.
He played tricks which led to Sindhutai suffering harassment at the hands of her husband, who eventually abandoned her even though she was 9 months pregnant with his child.
She went on to give birth to a daughter soon after this incident. She was homeless and helpless; even her own mother refused to shelter her. Determined to not give it all up, Sindhutai resorted to begging on railway platforms for food. While begging, she came across many abandoned children who would also beg for food. She realized that they were worse off than her. She started adopting them as her own and began begging more actively to feed them. Any orphan she would come across, she would embrace him/her as her own. One can only imagine the strength it must have taken for her to shelter so many others when she herself had limited resources. What’s more- to eliminate any feeling of partiality amongst her children, she left her biological daughter to the care of the Shrimant Dagdu Sheth Halwai trust, Pune.
Sindhutai had found her calling. She knew she wanted to help others life her. Her own painful journey was a lesson to her, which made her empathise with other unfortunate children. She devoted her entire life to her orphans. She loves, nurtures, and protects her children despite the fact that she has no steady means of income. She has no idea how she will attain her next meal, but her selflessness remains beyond description. She gives speeches at various institutions across the globe to earn money for her children. It is disheartening to know that her work is still not officially recognized, nor are her orphanages provided any grants by the government.
Some time back, her (then) 80 year old husband came back to her and sought forgiveness. Stating that she can only play the role of a mother now, she took him back but as her child! She would introduce him as her oldest child to all. Her husband is no more now.
Her noble work has been honoured with over 700 awards- the money she gets from these awards and honours, she invests in her children and their home (Sanmati Bal Niketan). She has also been conferred a Doctorate in literature by the D Y Patil Institute of Technology and Research Pune in 2016. The 68 year old mother remains positive, bright and enthusiastic in spirit. She exudes power and grace.
A film in Marathi, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal was released in 2010. It is a biopic on Sindhutai’s life and it was selected for a world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
Sindhutai is a huge inspiration to us all.
She proves that one person CAN make a difference, and that we don’t need to have our hands full to give to those in need.
#SheInspiresMe #Inspirational #EmpoweredWoman #Diwali
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