Meet Sindhutai Sapkal The Woman Who Raised 1,400 Orphans
Sindhutai Sapkal The Woman Who Raised 1,400 Orphans
Sindhutai Sapkal’s story is one of amazing perseverance in the face of tragedy, as well as rebirth and love for children who no one else desired. Over 1,400 orphans have been fostered by the 74-year-old, who has provided them with not only food and shelter but also the love of a true family. Her incredible achievements have won her the title “Mother of Orphans” and over 750 accolades.
Sapkal, with the support of her biological daughter, Mamta, and her eldest adopted children, some of whom have gone on to become attorneys, physicians, and professors, maintains four orphanages in her home town of Pune, Maharashtra, India — two for girls and two for boys. Children in her care were found trying to fend for themselves in train stations, abandoned in trash cans, and even carried through the streets by stray dogs. New ones are constantly brought to her orphanages, and she never turns them away if they are eligible for adoption. The Mother of Orphans, unlike state-run orphanages, does not place her children for adoption with other families or turn them away when they turn 18.
“Even after turning 18, the children are with me. I even get them married and help them establish their families,” Sindhutai told Barcroft TV. “The Government says that once the child is 18, he or she should be asked to leave. But just because they are 18 doesn’t mean that they are wise. In fact, that is the time when they need more love and support, to be told about the dangers of life. That’s what I do. I give them the wisdom to live. Just because a bird has feathers, doesn’t mean it can fly.”
Sindhutai Sapkal’s activism was motivated by her personal struggles as a child. She was born into an impoverished household and had to drop out of school at the age of nine, marrying a 20-year-old man when she was only ten years old. She was kicked out of the house by her husband when she was nine months pregnant, and because everyone, including her relatives, turned her away, she had to give birth in a cowshed.
“I delivered in a cowshed. I cut Mamata’s umbilical cord using rocks that I found lying there. I went to my relatives, to my mother, but no one supported me. Everyone threw me out,” the veteran react.
Sapkal had to beg and sing for food in train stations to support herself and her newborn daughter. During these trying times, she met a lot of other abandoned kids who were going through the same things she was. She’d share her food with them and look after them as best she could. Some of them began following her about, and she claims that this is how her enormous family began to form without her knowledge.
But life was difficult, and the young woman eventually decided that it was too much for her. She’d reached rock bottom and was contemplating suicide. She didn’t want to die hungry, so she ate until her stomach was full, wrapped her baby close to her body, and was ready to end it all. However, she overheard a beggar requesting a glass of water. Sindthuai decided that if she was going to die, she might as well perform one more nice deed and offer the man some water if she was going to die.
“So I stopped, went to him and realised that he was burning with fever. I fed him the food I had and gave him water. He looked at me and joined his hands thankfully, she remembers. “That’s when I realised that I should learn to live for others. I told myself.”
She did exactly that. She began caring for homeless and unwanted children with the food she had earned via begging and singing, but she also delivered speeches, pleading with people to donate to her rapidly growing family or orphans. Sindhutai Sapkal has travelled to innumerable towns over the last 40 years, giving speeches until her throat was dry in an attempt to raise funds to create a better life for her adopted children.
She was able to construct four orphanages, where many orphaned children have grown up to be productive members of society. She prioritises keeping the kids on the correct track in life and providing them with the love and care of a true family.
“I was raised believing that blood relations don’t really mean much. For me, my understanding of a home was based on what I had seen – my mother and her large family,” Sindhutai’s daughter, Mamata, says. “When I grew up and started seeing the families of my friends, I realised that home means parents, siblings and all these relations. I would see my mother and the satisfaction that she derived from her life. I graduated in Psychology and then pursued Masters in Social Work. After completing my degrees, I have been working with Mai (mother).”
“There are so many children who turn to crime, who make their life worthless. I have completed my law degree and Mai recently got me married,’ 26-year-old Vinay Sakal, who was adopted by Sindhutai from a railway station when he was a baby, said. “The family that I have today is with the blessings of Mai. I was able to become so much, achieve so much, only because of Mai. Had she not been there, I would have been a big zero.”
“Not only me, but she has also raised thousands like me with so much love and care. I am not the only one. There are so many who were found on railway stations, in dustbins, babies dragged by stray dogs and discarded have been brought by Mai and taken care of. Everyone here gets the love of a family, of a mother, father, brother and sister,” Vinay added.
It’s no surprise that the Mother of Orphans has garnered hundreds of honours — over 750 of them – over the last four decades, having raised over 1,400 children in her orphanages. Three Indian presidents have praised her, and her tale has been featured in the worldwide press.
The Padma Shri awardee and the mother of a thousand orphans passed away on 4th January 2022.