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A mother for orphans: The legend of Sindhutai Sapkal will continue to inspire

Friday January 7, 2022, By Diversity Digest

2021 Padma Shri recipient and renowned social worker Sindhutai Sapkal, who passed away on January 4, will be remembered for her monumental work in social service. A mother who adopted thousands, she was an exemplar who showed that one needs steely grit and a large heart to improve the lives of others despite a tumultuous and impoverished life.

Married at the age of 12, her husband abandoned her at 20. Driven out of her house, she gave birth to a baby girl in a cowshed. Turned away by her mother, Sindhutai spent days singing and begging in public places, as she had no other means to fend for herself and the child. However, her hardships arising out of the abandonment found solace in a cause —caring for those abandoned. Giving up her daughter to a home to ensure she didn’t differentiate between her own and the children she adopted, Sindhutai epitomized selfless service.

Fighting her own battles with hunger and poverty, she also took up the cause of the rehabilitation of Adivasi villages in and around Amravati due to a tiger preservation project implemented by the government. Seeing the plight of abandoned Adivasi children, she took them under her care.

Her home kept the rescued children till they found jobs, unlike the norm in many homes that support them till they are 18.

When she passed away at the age of 73 following a heart attack, Sindhutai, who was forsaken by her own, was Mai or mother for over 1,000 children.

Opening the doors of her home to everyone who needed shelter and care, Sindhutai depended on private donations. She used every rupee from the awards she received to better the lives of those she adopted.

A life of trials, tribulations, and triumph 

-Born into a cowherd family in Wardha, Maharashtra, her father wanted her to study though her mother was against it. She was sent to school by him on the pretext of grazing cattle. She used leaves as slate since they couldn’t afford one and studied till class four.

-When abandoned, she took shelter at a crematorium where she cooked food with flour left behind at the site, using the fire on a lit pyre

-Blessed with a mellifluous voice, she recited poetry and sang ghazals

-She won over 700 awards– both national and global —for social service

-Her life’s story was adapted on screen by Anant Mahadevan in the National award-winning Marathi flick Mee Sindhutai Sapkal in 2010

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