Sindhutai Sapkal - The Mother of Orphans
Sindhutai Sapkal was forced to marry at the age of ten. She was abandoned at nine-months pregnant, giving birth in a cowshed. Today she is known as the mother of orphans.
Sindhutai Sapkal was born in 1948 in the Indian district of Wardha into an incredibly poor family. Due to extreme poverty, Sapkal was seen as an unwanted and unnecessary child and was even named “Chindhi” which means “torn piece of cloth”. Sapkal was very keen to learn and while her father wanted her to be educated, her mother did not and when she was ten years old she became a child bride, forced to marry a man 21 years her senior.
During her marriage, Sapkal settled in the Navargaon Forest in Wardha, where she was subject to constant and unwarranted beatings along with severe unhappiness. Despite her personal difficulties, Sapkal strongly and openly opposed the exploitation of the village women in Navargaon Forest. Her bravery resulted in her name being tarnished throughout the village with false accusations of infidelity. The community and her husband rejected Sapkal and discarded her from the village, leaving Sapkal homeless at nine months pregnant.
Sindhutai Sapkal gave birth to her daughter in a cowshed; she fearlessly cut the umbilical cord herself with a sharp rock. An experience which left her in a deep state of shock; she sincerely considered taking her own life. But she did not. Sapkal emerged stronger than before, with a healthy child and renewed determination. She pledged she would live, and support those who were unable to help themselves.
Sapkal started singing and begging for money and food, on streets and railway platforms. It was during this time, she witnessed the innumerable children that were orphaned and forced to live in severe poverty, rejected by society on a daily basis.
Sindhutai decided she would adopt every abandoned child that approached her from that very moment, she would offer everything she had, including a mother’s guidance and support.
Today Sindhutai Sapkal is mother to 1400 children, which live amongst her six Orphanages. They affectionately call her Mai – Mother. Sapkal has succeeded to provide her children with a safe home, a fulfilling life and a suitable future. Many of her children have grown up to lead successful lives as doctors and lawyers; some have even taken up their Mai’s work, establishing orphanages of their own.
After hearing about all her children, Sapkal’s husband tracked her and begged for her forgiveness. Not only did she forgive him, she even adopted him. She now lovingly refers to him as her eldest son.
Known as “The Mother of Orphans”, Sindhutai has received over 750 awards for her unfaltering commitment to serve and assist those who are abandoned. She is a role model across India and the world. Her ability to whole heartedly and completely put everyone else before her own self is not overlooked.
She lives by the notions that a deprived child equals a deprived nation, that no child should have to fend for themselves and if one has the ability to help, one should do everything possible.
Sapkal is a living example of unfaltering resilience. After having lived a life of great difficulty, to a point where she was about to give up her life, she was capable of standing once more. Not only for herself, but for innumerable children. Hers is an awe-inspiring journey of determination, strength and courage.
India is the second most populated country in the world with a large part of its population being children. 20 million children in India are orphans, of these, countless have poor access to food, water and shelter, having to fight for these basic necessities on a daily basis. Many of these orphans have been abandoned due to immense poverty. Sindhutai Sapkal is still working tirelessly to end the real issue of orphaned and abandoned children in India.
Photo Credit: Sindhutai Sapkal (sindhutaisapakal.org)