Veteran social worker Sindhutai Sapkal – known as the ‘Mother to thousands of orphans’ – passed away following a cardiac arrest, a family friend said. She was 73, and breathed her last at Galaxy Hospital, Pune where she was under treatment for almost a month.
Maai – as she was revered by her foster children, is survived by her sole biological daughter Mamta. Sindhutai’s last rites shall be performed on Wednesday morning at Manjari, near Hadapsar on the outskirts of Pune where she ran an orphanage for more than 1,000 orphan children, the friend said.
She was conferred the Padma Shri award in November 2021 for her selfless services for orphans and abandoned children since nearly five decades.
“She was admitted to the hospital for more than a month and died due to heart attack at the hospital today at 8.10 pm,” said Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, Medical Director, Galaxy Hospital on Tuesday.
She was conferred with Padma Shri in 2021 for her contribution to society. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences over the death of Sapkal.
“The life of Dr Sindhutai Sapkal was an inspiring saga of courage, dedication and service. She loved & served orphaned, tribals and marginalised people. Conferred with Padma Shri in 2021, she scripted her own story with incredible grit. Condolences to her family and followers,” tweeted Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Modi said, “Dr Sindhutai Sapkal will be remembered for her noble service to society. Due to her efforts, many children could lead a better quality of life. She also did a lot of work among marginalised communities. Pained by her demise. Condolences to her family and admirers. Om Shanti.”
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari also condoled the demise of Sapkal. “The demise of Sindhutai Sapkal is deeply saddening. Despite suffering difficulties in her own personal life, Sindhutai dedicated her life to the service of thousands of orphaned and abandoned children. She was an epitome of love and compassion. Her demise has orphaned all of her children. I offer my condolences to her large family and pray for eternal peace to the departed soul,” Governor Koshyari said.
Sadly, this great lady who lived her life true to the highest ideals of Hindu Dharma by undertaking selfless seva, was lesser known outside Maharashtra, even though a Marathi movie Mee Sindhutai Sapkal (I Am Sindhutai Sapkal) based on her life won several national film awards in 2011. It was when she was given the Padma Shri award earlier this year that more people across the nation became aware of her service to society.
How many more like Sindhutai are hidden under the dust in forgotten corners of this vast and ancient land? Our self-alienated Nehruvian elites were so enamored with controversial, dubious foreign-origin actors like ‘Mother’ Teresa, that they indoctrinated all – from children in schools to young adults – to think that only such outsiders do real charity and social service.
Sewa and Daan are synonymous to Hindu Dharma. Even today, away from the glitz and glamour of metros, real Dharmic Hindus contribute selflessly to local communities, without any hidden agenda like religious conversion, generating a PR buzz, or to buff up resumes for foreign college applications. We only need to rediscover those shining examples around us, and reconnect with our heritage to find the joy in giving selflessly and fulfilling the most important of the four Purusharthas (human goals in life): Dharma, i.e. duty to society.
Om Shanti…may Bhagwan grant moksha or sadgati to the noble atma of Mai Sindhutai Sapkal.