Time and again, we have seen women show extraordinary display of perseverance and grit that surpasses all personal and social limitations to achieve the unimaginable. Sindhutai Sapkal is another living example of life winning over suffering. Bestowed with more than 750 awards for her groundbreaking work in social service, she silently works for the betterment of the poor and lost kids. She has built 5 orphanages, 2 for boys, 2 for girls and also 1 for cows. Though if you look, behind the success of this woman of mettle, you will find a heart-wrenching tale of a poor 20-year-old pregnant girl abandoned for fighting for a social cause.
Sindhutai was born in 1948 into a very poor family of cowherd in Maharashtra. Despite abject poverty and resistance from mother, taking persistence by hand, she completed her 4th grade by stealing time from cattle grazing. However, at a tender age of 12, she was forced to quit to get married. By the age of 20, she was a mother of 3 sons. But this young girl proved she was more than being homely by leading a successful agitation against forest department. Her efforts lead to payment for the cow dung collected from the villagers. This was, however, was not taken well by the patriarchal society and young Sindhu, 9 months pregnant was thrown out of the house. She gave birth to a baby girl in a cowshed without any help.
Refused of any help by her husband or mother, Sindhu started singing at the railway station to feed two hungry souls. One night, resigning to circumstances, she decided to end life. She saw an old man on the verge of death, crying. She gave him water and also fed him the little bread she had. When she saw the dying man survive, she realized, instead of resigning to death, she can live for the living. Refusing to blame anyone, she warm-heartedly says, “from bad comes the good”.
She donated her biological child to Shrimant Dagdu Sheth Halwai trust for her betterment and went on singing for the day’s meal. While doing so, she came across many destitute and her heart went to them. She became their mother and started feeding them too. She would take anyone and everyone who needed help under her wing. Sindhutai turned into Maai (mother). Today, she has a grand family of over 280 sons-in-law, 49 daughters-in-law and over a thousand grandchildren. Forbidden from education, she understands its importance. Many of her adopted children have now become lawyers and doctors, one doing PhD on her life. Some of these have opened new orphanages. She is a gardener of lives.
She travels and inspires people with her speeches. “Award doesn’t give bread, Speeches does”, she says with honesty. There is a fine quote by Seth Godin, “You don’t get paid what you deserve. You get paid what other people think you’re worth”. And Sindhutai’s tale of integrity towards life is worth telling a thousand times. Her selfless love towards other kindred souls is an inspiration to young and old. She tells us, one’s social or financial status does not matter nor does one’s age. Even at 69, she travels around inspiring thousands of souls with her words. “Live”, she urges earnestly to the listeners. The money collected from speeches is the only source to feed one 1400 children that her home nurtures.
Sindhutai’s resilience is the best example of the strength of a woman. She can overcome any problem and can achieve anything she decides. To see this, one just needs to look at how Sindhutai has turned life into limitless. Our society is blessed to have Samaritan like her who gives plenty of reasons to keep our faith in humanity alive even in this rough world.
Megha Haware is a Mumbai based IT Professional and an active blogger. One can read her other writings by visiting her blog Full of Cherries