Meeting Sindhutai Sapkal
Sindhutai Sapkal! The name makes me smile…makes me believe in the goodness in this world…believe in humanity!! A gush of positive energy, enthusiasm and willpower… Just hearing her talk makes you feel humbled and rejuvenated!!
Humbled due to the fact that you realise – your struggles, your sorrows and your worries, which seem to consume you, impair you from living happy life…are nothing!! they are what we call in marathi ‘tochnaare sukh’ (loosely translated, it means too much of happiness/comfort/luxury in life leads you to invent sorrow)
Rejuvenated, because you’re amused and impressed with her view on life, the way she laughs off her struggles like there is nothing in this world that can stop her…her jokes about the depravity in her life make you realise that one CAN resurrect (and HOW!) in the face of extreme adversity – when even basic needs…the food, clothing or shelter is denied…makes you realise that most of your troubles might be figments of your imagination….and that you can easily overcome them! conquer them!! fight them!! that leaves you more positive and more accepting of your shortcomings! rejuvenated indeed!!
I first came to know about her on a Saturday few weeks back…she was on the talk-show ‘Khupte Tithe Gupte’…and discussing among all things her story, the biopic on her, her favourite poets–Suresh Bhat and Ga. Di. Ma. She can sing beautifully…her soul which has weathered all the storms in the world can still sing about the glory of God and her voice so soulful,enthralls one and all….
Her story… she was born in abject conditions and named ‘Chindhi’ (‘unwanted cloth piece – usually to be thrown off’ in Marathi)..studied only till class 4 (which was part-time, managing work and house) and was married off at 9 to a man who was 35 at that time!!Her husband would beat her up, not allow her to even read poetry – for which she had developed a passion…she recalls eating papers containing poetry so that her husband wouldnt know she had been reading,or else he would have beaten her up! At 20 she was thrown out of house by her husband – the community was poor, downtrodden, uneducated and as a result, regressive. The day he dragged her out of house into cowshed and left for dead, she delivered a baby girl! She remembers cutting the umbilical cord with a stone…closing her eyes and taking a deep breath! She stayed at her husband’s doorstep for 9 days. None, not even her in-laws/any other villagers helped her/took her in. She was a new mother, weak, hungry and the baby needed to be taken care of… a woman within the community, on route to public toilets would sneak in pieces of ‘bhakri’ every night for her to eat. She would drink water from the tumbler that the woman would take for going to the toilet!! Survived 9 days and then decided to go to other relatives. When she left, all the villagers threw stones on her so that she wouldnt come to them for shelter!!! She reached her own mother’s place…who would not take her in!!!So she left..got into a train, sang some poems and earned alms – food for herself..a baby in arms…which she would share with older beggars who were too weak to move much…at nights she lived in cremetories – What we call ‘Shamshaans’ for that was the only place where there was no fear of being raped! Men only went there when someone died and did not stay long for the fear of ghosts!! She remembers once when she couldnt find food, she stole offering (some flour) left near crematory fire when all had left, made ;Bhakri out of it and actually roasted it on the embers from the cremated body!!But she gradually started taking up orphans from stations and public places and caring after them. She would go from place to place, BEG and feed the children…from that beginning, she has raised practically hundreds of children and built an orphanage…all without government support!!Today she is proud that her children are doctors, lawyers, active social workers…
I have always felt that God is the that loves you selflessly…and in Sindhutai, I found God! the divinity!!the strength! Such people, who endure and still give away love – have no negativity in them must be Saints…Angels or practically, God!! She forgave her husband. He is very old now and was almost orphaned. She took him back!! and told him that she can be his mother now…what kind of compassion is that?? On the show she mentioned that she could have been vindictive and could have ignored him, but all she felt for him was compassion – ‘Jo aaahich melay tyala kasla maaraycha’…(one who’s already dead cannot be killed)! Her talk on the show was peppered with poetry, sheroshayari and songs. Couldnt believe that a person CAN retain appreciation for finer things in life after going through mammoth grief and sufferings!! Well, I stand corrected.After watching the show I decided that I had to meet this woman and touch her feet!!
Then day before yesterday, I heard she was coming down to my area for vyakhyaanmala…I couldnt miss opportunity!I MET her!!I wasnt just sitting in the audience…my heart really soared and reached out to her…met hers somewhere in the middle of her narrative..when I stood in the queue of people waiting to donate,I knew I had to TOUCH her…she is a living angel!! I touched her feet – a custom we Indians follow – many a times out of moral/societal obligation due to the age of a person to indicate respect, but this time the respect was heartfelt…and then, I touched her cheeks with my palms…I wanted to somehow express my affection towards a woman I had heard so much about, met for the first time!!What I felt then cannot probably be described!!