Sindhutai Sapkal, 68, who was awarded the 25th Neerja Bhanot award on December 24, 2016 at Ahmedabad, discusses love, compassion and devotion in an interaction

Words: Tillana Desai


She was born on 14 November 1948 at Pimpri Meghe village in Wardha district Maharashtra. You can see flashes of her life as she talks about her journey and how she came to be known as Sindhutai. As a child, she was called “Chindi” which means a torn piece of cloth. Her father supported her education but she had to drop out of school for an abusive early marriage to a man who was 30 years elder to her.

On being asked what the biggest challenge she faced was, she recalls having to cute her umbilical cord with a sharp-edged stone lying after she gave birth to her daughter in a cow shed.

She contemplated suicide several times as she begged on railway platforms to feed her daughter.

Over the years, she realized there were many orphans who were abandoned and helpless and that is when she decided to dedicate her life to adopting and educating them.

Today, she is called ‘mai’ (mother) by more than 1500 orphans she has supported, married off and taken care off.

Her Story:

68-year-old Sindhutai’ s story is all about love, compassion and devotion.

Her life started as a neglected and unwanted child. When she was nine months pregnant, she was abandoned by her abusive husband. Her mother refused to give her shelter and she was forced to deliver her child on her own in a cow shed. She was forced to brave the most adverse and painful situations which would compel even the strongest person to lose courage and succumb. Sindhutai, however, emerged victorious and refused to allow any circumstances to break her. She came out stronger not only to support herself but went on to become a mother to over 1500 homeless children. Her story is indeed and inspiration to the world and the entire team of Urban Vaastu salutes her spirit.

“When I was out on the streets begging for food and fighting for survival, I realized that there are so many orphans who have nobody to turn to.

I decided to take care of them and raise them as my own,” Sindhutai says.

Sindhutai has received over 750 awards for her extra ordinary support to orphans. Neeja Bhanot Pan Am Trust’s ‘Neerja Bhanot Award’ is the latest addition to the list.

She utilizes the money she gets from this awards to help orphans and she is constantly looking for more help across the globe to give shape to her dreams.


neerja_neerja-bhanot-pic-10_bhanot The Neerja Bhanot Award is a recognition conferred annually by the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust in India to a woman subjected to social injustice, and who faces the situation with grit and determination and extends help to other women in similar distress. The award was instituted in 1990 and named in honour of senior airhostess Neerja Bhanot, who saved hundreds of lives while sacrificing her own, during the Pan Am Flight 73 hijack at Karachi Airport in September 1986. It carries a cash prize of `1.5 lakh, a citation and a trophy.


40 years of continuous Social Work
More Than 750 Awards
Mother of more than 1050 orphaned children
207 Sons-in-law
36 daughters-in-law


Two parent bodies namely:
• Saptasindhu Mahila Adhar Balsangopan Aani Shikshan Sanstha (Pune)
• Vanvasi Gopalkrushna Shikshan Krida Prasarak Mandal, Amravati
Run the various homes that Sindhutai has set up
• Sanmati Bal Niketan, Manjari, Hadapsar, Pune
• Mamata Bal Sadan, Saswad, Pune
• Savitribai Phule Muleenche Vastigruha, Chikhaldara
• Abhiman Bal Bhavan, Wardha
• Gopika Gai Rakshan Kendra (Wardha)


The 2010 Marathi film “Mee Sindhutai Sapkal” by Anant Mahadevan is a bio-pic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal. The film was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.

She has been honoured with more than 750 awards for her dedication and work:
• 24 Dec 2015 – The Neerja Bhanot Award
• 25 Sept 2014 – All Grassroots Woman of The Decade Achievers Award given by Shri Venkaiah Naidu Honorable Union Minister of Parliamentary
• 2014 – Basava Bhusana Puraskar – 2014, Awarded from Basava Seva Sangh Pune.
• 2013 – The National Award for Iconic Mother
• 2012 – Real Heroes Awards,given by CNN-IBN & Reliance Foundation.
• 2012 – COEP Gaurav Purskar, given by College Of Engineering, Pune.
• 2010 – Ahilyabai Holkar Award, given by the Government of Maharashtra to social workers in the field of woman and child welfare
• 2008 – Woman of the Year Award, given by daily marathi newspaper Loksatta
• 1996 – Dattak Mata Purskar,Given by Non Profit Organization – By Sunita Kalaniketan Trust (In the memories of – Late Sunita Trimbak Kulkarni), Tal – Shrirampur Dist Ahmednagar. Maharashtra Pune.
• 1992 Leading Social Contributor Award.
• Sahyadri Hirkani Award
• Rajai Award
• Shivlila Mahila Gaurav Award