‘Anathanchi Maai’ Padma Shri Awardee Sindhutai Sapkal Leaves Thousands Of Orphans She Raised , Grieving

by Harsha Bhat - Jan 5, 2022 01:43 PM
‘Anathanchi Maai’ Padma Shri Awardee Sindhutai Sapkal Leaves Thousands Of Orphans She Raised , GrievingSindhutai Sapkal with the children.
  • Sindhutai Sapkal, who took to the streets to feed hungry children, has breathed her last.

It may be a coincidence that she was born on the day that we celebrate as Children’s Day but her life was one that was truly dedicated to thousands of them — left at the mercy of fate.

A 'mother' to over thousand orphans in rural Maharashtra, Sindhutai Sapkal has the entire nation grieving her demise today. And the grief is as deep as the joy with which the nation celebrated her life when she received the Padma Shri Award from President Ram Nath Kovind from her wheelchair not so long ago.

’Maai’ as she was called by more than 1,200 children, breathed her last at a Pune hospital and had top leaders across party lines, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, paying their respects. For in her humble navvari armed with just hunger and desperation, she carved a path for herself and many like her.

Anecdotes of her journey are many and inspiring — for abandoned in her last trimester of her third pregnancy — she chose to be a single mother to over 1,200 children, and then a mother-in-law to over 200 sons-in-law and around 40 daughters-in-law. She begged for alms first to feed herself and her newborn girl child who she delivered in a stable, cutting the umbilical chord 16 times with a crude stone after being abandoned by the family she was married into as a 12-year-old.

From being a 20-year-old single mother who even spent nights at the crematorium; making rotis of the flour left over from the rituals there; using the fire from the pyres at times to cook the rotis; to five decades of singing, begging and then using her gift of gab to earn and feed thousands of children whom fate had been cruel to, and giving them a life, Sindhutai‘s life came a full circle.

From being called ‘chindi’ (tattered bit of rag) to being honoured with the nation’s fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri, two months ago, her journey has transformed every life that came her way.

As her journey came to an end today, children at her orphanage Sanmati Bal Niketan Sanstha were seen weeping and recounting the last moments spent with her, as shown by various media channels. But the most ‘bhavapurna shraddhanajali’ was the one by a young girl who wiped her tears and said "today we have truly been orphaned".

”All these days we never felt like we were orphans — even though god took away our parents in our childhood. But ever since we met this second mother, we never felt the absence of a mother, but now we feel yes we need ‘aai’. We are truly orphaned today," she said, as reported.

Her life has been immortalised in the hearts of those she touched. But even those who hadn't encountered her greatness, learnt of her tale through a 2010 film that documented her life. Titled ‘Mee Sindhutai Sapkaal’ the film documents the life of this fiery social activist who started her journey of motherhood by first sending her own biological child to an ashram in Pune and taking to the streets to feed those who suffered the hunger that she did.

With her saree ’pallu’ covering her head and the end of it stretched out to earn alms, she often was heard saying, it was the hunger that inspired her as much as the life of Jijabai who created a warrior like Chhatrapati Shivaji. She sought to raise such children as brave as ‘Shivba’ whom she inspired and motivated saying "rest not, for the nation needs you; the world needs you".

Om Shanti to this 'Mother of Orphans' as she makes her final journey.

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