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Mother of 1000 Orphans

The Inspirational Life of Sindhutai Sapkal (1948-2022), affectionately known as Mai (‘mother’)

By Kayleigh Fraser ✨Published 2 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - March 2024

When prompted to write about an inspirational woman, Sindhutai Sapkal immediately came to mind.

This woman’s story profoundly altered my life for the better. The example she set shifted my psychology in ways I am certain many decades of therapy could not have achieved.

As an unwanted child born to extreme poverty and depravation in India, Mai’s parents referred to her as Chindhi (Marathi for "piece of rag"). This will gift a foundational understanding of how abusive and neglectful her childhood was.

Receiving little to no formal education, she was sold to a man 20 years older as his bride. She was barely eight. Manual labour, sexual abuse and miscarriages were the markers of her adolescent life.

At 20 and pregnant again, a situation arose where she was compelled to speak publicly against corruption and injustice in her village. Women were suffering immensely and she could not remain silent, gaining her the undesired attention of the local mafia boss.

In retaliation for being challenged and embarrassed, the boss told her husband that her unborn child was another man’s and that she was having affairs with men in the village. He then instructed that if he did not kill his dishonourable pregnant wife by his own volition, the boss would return and kill them both. The husband chose to beat his wife to the point he believed her dead.

He dragged her lifeless body to the cow shed, leaving her bleeding and broken, intending to report that she was trampled by the cows.

Mai survived.

However, the trauma of the beating had put her into premature labour and forced the birth of her daughter. In her semi-conscious state she cut the umbilical cord herself with a stone lying nearby. By some miracle both she and the baby survived.

Knowing she was still in great danger, Mai gathered all her strength and fled to her parent’s house but her mother refused to allow her inside.

Homeless and destitute, she began begging on the streets with her newborn baby. She survived like this for some time, sheltering by the funeral pyres where dead bodies burned through the night to keep warm.

She collected small grains from the dirt and took flour from offering plates - mixing this with filthy river water she cooked these small ‘rotis’ on the fires of the burning bodies to survive.

Soon, her spirit broke entirely. She was barely existing, severely malnourished and had lost all hope for any kind of life for her and her baby. On this day she walked to the railway tracks and lay down, awaiting a certain and welcomed death.

As she lay there waiting, she heard an anguished voice cry out. The voice became so incessant and conveyed such suffering that Mai was moved to find it’s source. She discovered an elderly man crying that he hadn’t eaten in many weeks and pleaded for both food and water. Mai went begging and she earned food for the man.

This is the moment that everything changed for her.

Mai suddenly realised that even in her darkest hour, when she had absolutely nothing - she could still help another human being. So she began taking the local orphaned children under her wing. She begged for them. She offered them her love and compassion.

People in the local community began to notice what she was doing. In time and in turn they worked to have a building donated for her and the children to live in. Mai worked every day of her life raising orphaned children, some of whom grew up to become doctors, engineers and lawyers.

Her compassion and love took her from destitute to the woman revered as the Mother of 1000 Orphans. A woman who has created what is probably the largest family on earth and who has been awarded more than 270 national and international awards in recognition of her services to humanity through social work.

Her ability to inspire does not end here, however.

After many decades passed and becoming widely celebrated - there came a knock upon the door of her orphanage. A very frail and elderly man stood in the doorway, starving and begging shelter.

Mai found herself looking straight into the eyes of her husband who had left her for dead many decades before.

She told him “You are not my husband, but my son. I will treat you as my child” and he lived under her care until his death.

Her endless grace and compassion draw tears from my heart every single time I tell this story and she is a powerful reason that I have been able to remain strong through trials in my own life.

Mai is epitome of what being inspirational means.


About the Creator

Kayleigh Fraser ✨

philosopher, alchemist, writer & poet with a spirit of fire & passion for all things health & love related 💫

“When life gives you lemons,

Know you are asking for them.

If you want oranges, focus on oranges”


INSTAGRAM - kayzfraser

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Comments (13)

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  • A. J. Schoenfeld2 months ago

    Such an inspirational story told with so much respect. Well done.

  • Maria DC2 months ago

    very well done.

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Hey Kayleigh, this person has plagiarised your Top Story! I've reported them! You should do the same. I'll leave the link in the comment below

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Christy Munson2 months ago

    I'm not sure whether the tears I cry are for sadness, joy, understanding, relief, release, compassion, all of the above and something more. This piece is moving, well told, and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing the story of Sindhutai Sapkal, Mother of 1000 Orphans. My mother for a time was an orphan (due to laws against women being unwed mothers when a spouse dies). I would like to think someone would have been in her corner, and that someone else would someday be inspired to tell the tale.

  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    Congratulatons on top Story!

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    The story makes my heart cry. Emotional and inspirational piece!!! Brilliantly written!!! Loved it & congratulations onTop Story!!!❤️❤️💕

  • "Mai suddenly realised that even in her darkest hour, when she had absolutely nothing - she could still help another human being." It's usually those who have nothing that would have the urge to help others, because they know how it feels to have nothing and it breaks their heart to see another person suffer that. Mai's parent's were horrible creatures! I'd never classify them as humans! Her husband as well. It takes a strong person to do what she did when her husband came begging for shelter. I don't think I have that in me. I would have took that opportunity to have my revenge and leave him for dead as how he left me. Mai is truly amazing. What a beautiful legacy to leave behind!

  • Kenny Penn2 months ago

    Oh my, what a tragic, beautiful, and inspiring story. I don’t know how she was able to forgive that man, I don’t think I would have had it in me. Thank you for sharing her story Kayleigh

  • Hannah Moore2 months ago

    What an example.

  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    What a wonderful example she is! Thanks for sharing her story, Kayleigh!

  • Rene Peters2 months ago

    She sounds like she was an amazing woman! Truly inspiring! 💜

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