Sindhutai Sapkal: Abandoned woman who became mother of 1,400 orphans
Sindhutai Sapkal was 10 years old when she got married to 30-year-old Shrihari Sapkal alias Harbaji, a cowherd from Navargaon village in Warda District. When she was 20, her husband later abandoned her when she was 9 months pregnant.
Sindhutai Sapkal gave birth to a baby girl on 14 October 1973 in a cow shelter outside their house that night, all by herself and walked several kilometres away to her mother’s place. But her mother refused to shelter her. She started having suicidal thoughts because of the abandonment she suffered.
Stranded with no money to take care of herself and her baby, Sindhutai Sapkal started begging on railway platforms for food. During that time, she realized that there were so many children abandoned by their parents and she adopted them as her own and started begging even more vigorously to feed them.
Touched by the plight of these children, Sindhutai Sapkal decided to become a mother to anyone and everyone who came across to her as an orphan. She has devoted her entire life to orphans. As a result, she is fondly called ‘Mai'(mother).
Sindhutai Sapkal has nurtured over 1,400 orphaned children. Today, she has a grand family of 207 sons-in-law, thirty-six daughters-in-law, and over a thousand grandchildren. Many of the children whom she adopted are well-educated lawyers and doctors, and some, including her biological daughter, are running their own independent orphanages.
One of her children is doing a PhD on her life. She has been honoured with over 273 awards for her dedication and work. She used her award money to buy land to make a home for her children. She is truly the definition of a selfless mother. she used her hard life experience to transform the lives of many orphans.
At the age of 80, her husband came back to apologize to her. She accepted him as her child. She proudly and affectionately introduces him as her oldest child. In person, Sindhutai Sapkal exhudes unlimited source of energy and remains a source of inspiration to others.
What makes her so special is that she has no negative emotions towards her mother or ex husband who abandoned her when she needed them the most. she doesn’t blame them for the things that happened to her on the streets either.
A Marathi-language film Mee Sindhutai Sapkal released in 2010, is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
Sindhutai Sapkal was born on 14 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 as she could not afford a real slate because due to her family’s limited financial resources.
Abject poverty, family responsibilities and an early marriage forced her to quit formal education after she successfully passed the 4th standard.