Called the “Mother of Orphans”, Sindhutai is a formidable and loving force who has brought a stable, peaceful home environment to more than 1,442 orphaned and destitute children in the Indian State of Pune. She continues to achieve these accomplishments through begging and giving talks to facilitate donations for her six home locations.
Born on November 14, 1948, much has been made of the fact that she was unwanted. Her nickname, Chindhi, literally means “torn piece of cloth”. Although an illiterate cowherd, her father, Abhimanji Sathe, shooed her out the door to attend school, against her mother’s wishes. As the family lived in abject poverty, she used the leaves of a Bharadi tree to write on, with thorns as writing implements. Her education ended after fourth grade when family problems and a marriage at 10, to a 30 year old man, necessitated it’s end.
Over the next decade, she gave birth to three male children. But when she agitated for pay for the village women who collected cow dung from the fields to burn for fuel, her living situation changed. Until then, a local strongman, in collusion with the forestry service, withheld all forms of payment. Her work resulted in the granting of wages to these women. The strongman, in revenge for her actions, convinced her husband to throw her out when she was overdue for the birth of her fourth child. That night she gave birth to a girl in the cow shed.
Sindhutai separated the umbilical cord with a stone. Walking several miles to her house, she was again rejected with her mother telling her to beg at the rail station for food and shelter. So began the next stage of Sindhutai’s life, relyng on the kindness of strangers to support herself and her daughter. At first she sang as she begged but then she overcame her fears and started giving speeches and was so persuasive that her collections increased.
Over time began noticing the many children who had nowhere to go. Deducing they were orphans, Sindhutai took them under the mantle of her care, begging all the more to support her new charges. At first she did it to make money, but then she realized her mission was to provide a home to all who needed it. That mission has led to the establishment of six homes, with destitute, abandoned women coming for shelter and acting as housemothers. In an effort at fairness, she turned her daughter over to the care of a Trust to not show favoritism to the orphans and destitute children.
As of the latest article found, she has adopted 1,442 children and has collected a large assortment of sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Many of her children went on to take profession positions – doctors, lawyers and administrators. She still speaks to obtain funds, all of which she pours back into the shelter and care of children. In an act of irony, her husband returned to her, but she only accepted him as a child, she was done being anything other than a mother. Sindhutai introduces him as her oldest child.