As we lost Sindhutai Sapkal, here’s her inspiring story of becoming the mother of 1000+ orphans. The story of Padma Shri awardee shows how true heroes are able to fight against every challenge that life throws at them.
Sindhutai was considered unwanted and called ‘Chindi’, which means a torn cloth. Irrespective of what society thought of her, Sindhutai had shown immense courage to change the lives of many underprivileged kids.
She was only 9 when she was forcefully married off to a 32-yo man. But, even after being crushed and chained by the shackles of child marriage, young Sindhutai never lost hope. Instead, her passion to help the helpless and wronged aggravated.
Recently, Sindhutai shared her life story with HoB to inspire millions to create a life of purpose and dignity:
“I’ve never known a mother’s love–I was an unwanted girl child. I wasn’t educated, and when I was 9, I was forced to cover under my ‘ghungat’ as she married me off to a 32 year old stranger. No tears were shed for me; only sighs of relief.
At my sasuraal, my husband and in-laws hit me every chance they got. I spent hours toiling in the cowshed, cooking and cleaning the house, only to forcibly please my husband at night. At 20, I was 9 months pregnant, but then life took a turn.
I had a fight with the district collector for fleecing me of my wages, but he couldn’t stand a woman speaking up. So, he convinced my husband that I was pregnant with another man’s child. My husband kicked my womb, beat me till I was unconscious and threw me into the cowshed, hoping I’d die.
But that night, all by myself, I gave birth to Mamta–I cut the umbilical cord with a stone and went back to my mother’s. But she refused to even look at me.
So, with nothing but a baby in my jholi, I became a beggar. For 3 years, I sang on trains and begged on streets. But every time Mamta cried out of hunger, I knew she deserved a better life. I decided to give her up for adoption.
I was so heartbroken. Until after a while I met a little boy named Deepak who was bleeding in a corner of Pune station–his parents had thrown him away. I forgot about myself and started taking care of him. I begged everyday and fed him. Slowly, groups of abandoned kids followed me everywhere I went–I became their ‘Mai’.
I spent every penny on raising them. I gave speeches in villages in exchange for food and donations and with that, I sent them to study at government schools. Villagers would often bring me orphaned children and say, ‘Iska koi nahin hai, Mai’. I took them in, and over time, I was known as the ‘mother of orphans’.
We struggled for years– from sleeping on streets to having no food, we endured it all. But the kids never left my side. Years later, when Deepak inherited some property, he insisted that all of us move there– that’s where we built our first orphanage. Even Mamta, who I’d been in touch with, started helping us out and became their Tai.
Over time, my kids grew up to be successful doctors, teachers and lawyers. I attended their graduations and did their Kanyadaan; their families became mine.
Today, I’m a mother to over 1,000 children and have 4 adoption homes. I know what it’s like to grow up without a mother’s love, to not have it when you need it the most. But for all the love I never got, I’m thankful–how else would I have become ‘Mai’?”
Not only over 1000 children, Mai actually adopted her own husband, who abandoned her once. At the age of 80, her husband came back to her apologetically. And, she accepted him as her child stating she is only a mother now!
Sindhutai Sapkal was conferred a Doctorate in Literature by the DY Patil Institute of Technology and Research in 2016, the Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2017 and the Padma Shri in 2021.
At IFORHER, we are in awe of Sindhutai Sapkal as she has given a ray of hope to so many orphaned kids. We hope her story would inspire many to come forward and support the underprivileged and vulnerable. R.I.P ‘Mai’!