Sindhutai Sapkal passed away yesterday.
For those who haven’t heard of her, she was born in an extremely poor family in the state of Maharashtra, India in 1948.Married at the age of 12 to someone who was 32, her husband abandoned her when she was 9 months pregnant. Forced to give birth in a cow shelter, she then went to her parent’s place, but was not welcome there either.
She started begging at railway stations, where she realized there were many abandoned children begging too. So she adopted them as well, and begged to feed them.
Then, in an act perhaps only a higher being is capable of, to avoid partiality between her own child and her growing number of adopted children, she gave up her biological child to a trust.
She later fought against the government for the rehabilitation of 84 villages in forest areas, and for compensation for villagers killed by wild animals! And won!
Over her life, she nurtured well over 1000 orphans (1400 by some estimates!). And she used money from the 700+ awards she won during her life to buy land and build more homes for her children.
She was fondly addressed as ‘Mai’, meaning mother.
If I remember correctly, later on in life, her husband came back and asked for her forgiveness. She said she couldn’t take him back as a husband, but allowed him to live there as one of her children.
When we think about human potential, I hope Sindhutai Sapkal’s higher sense of purpose and selflessness will continue to be remembered.
14 November 1948 – 4 January 2022