Padma Shri winner an Indian social worker and social activist are known particularly for working for orphaned children Sindhutai Sapkal was born on 14 November 1948 in Wardha, Maharashtra. She is popularly known as Mai of Indian orphans. Being an unwanted child, her childhood name was Chindhi known as a “torn piece of cloth” (in Marathi). She got married at age of 12 to Shrihari Sapkal, who was 20 years elder than her. She bore three sons by the time she turned 20 years. She fought for herself on a collection of dried cow dung used as fuel in India, without paying anything to the village. Her agitation brought the district collector to her village and on realizing she was right, he passed an order that the strongman did not like. Stung by this insult, he managed to convince her husband to abandon her when she was beyond 9 months of her pregnancy. Her husband thrashed and kicked her on her full-term belly and threw her in the cowshed. She gave birth to a baby girl. Sindhutai cut her umbilical cord with the stone which was lying there. After she came back to her senses she went to her maternal village but everyone rejected her. Sindhutai was alone in the world with her little daughter.
Sindhutai was blessed with a natural flair for singing. She used to sing and beg and feed herself and her baby. She would visit temples, travel by train, begging and singing. Sindhutai would work wholeheartedly for orphans and destitute and other less fortunate. She had devoted her entire life to orphans. As a result, she is fondly called “Mai” known as mother. She has nurtured over 1050 orphaned children. As of today, she has a grand family of 207 sons-in-law. She has been honored with more than 700 awards for her work. She used the award money to buy land to make a home for orphaned children. Mother Global Foundation Pune, Sanmati Bal Niketan Bhelhekar Vasti Pune, Mamata Bal Sadan Purandar, and many more organizations are founded by Singhutai for orphan children. At age of 70, her husband came back to her apologetically. She accepted him as her child stating she is only a mother now! If anybody visits her ashram, she proudly and affectionately introduces him as her oldest child.
In 2010, a Marathi film “Mee Sindhutai Sapkal ” was released. It is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival. She got Padma Shri Award in the social work category in 2021 by President Ram Nath Kovind.
She died on 4 January 2022, due to a heart attack in Pune at age of 73 years.