A lot of times people ask me, “How do you define a hero?”. I tell them, “There are no estimates or parameters to define what is in-built in you. Sometimes, even the art of surviving against all odds is heroic. Sometimes, holding on is heroic, sometimes letting go. Our response to anything that challenges our natural functioning is what defines our faculty as a human being. We all have it in us, as treasure, in our deepest corners, unfortunately we only exercise our heroism if need be, like an emergency plan.”
Earlier this month, I went to meet Sindhu Tai Sapkal.
For those of you who do not know about Sindhu Tai, she is an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for her work in raising orphaned children in India. She was conferred a Doctorate in Literature by the DY Patil Institute of Technology and Research in 2016.
Affectionately known as the “Mother of Orphans”, at the age of 10, Sindhu (now Sindhu Tai) got married to Shrihari Sapkal alias Harbaji, a 30-year-old cowherd from Navargaon village in Wardha District. By 20, she bore three sons and on 14 October, 1973 she gave birth to a baby girl in a cow shelter outside their house that night, all by herself and walked several kilometers away to her mother’s place. Her mother refused to shelter her. Completely dejected, Sindhu Tai took shelter in a crematorium where a dead body was being burnt. Unable to control her and her daughter’s hunger pangs, she picked up the flour offered to the corpse, kneaded it and baked a chapatti over the fire of the burning corpse and ate.
Unable to make ends meet, Sindhu Tai had contemplated suicide several times, then one night as she sat on one corner of the road with a big roti in her hand, she heard a beggar cry for his life. He was extremely sick and on the verge of dying. Sindhu Tai fed him, gave him water and he survived. That night changed her life completely. She set aside the thought of suicide and started begging on railway platforms for food. In the process, she realized, there were so many children abandoned by their parents and she adopted them as her own and started begging even more vigorously to feed them. Little did anyone know that this was only a start of a mission she would bravely carry for a lifetime.
Sindhu Tai, a woman with a mission, fearless, her authority is point blank and her vision crystal clear. Her knowledge and profound understanding of life, heavily based on the experiences she had, is compelling and one feels naturally drawn to her.
A Marathi-language film Mee Sindhutai Sapkal released in 2010, is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival. A winner of over 750 awards including one from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Sindhutai continues to travel from village to village to give lectures and earn money.
You can connect with our hero Sindhu Tai Sapkal @
“Mamata Bal Sadan”, Kumbharvalan, Post – Khalad, Taluka Purandar, Pune District. Mob No. 9822861872 or 9921667461.
Also, read more about her @ http://www.sindhutaisapkal.org