Legacy: An interview with Mamatatai, daughter of Padma Shri Dr. Sau Sindhutai Sapkal by Ankush Bharti

Mamatatai is the daughter of the renowned personality Padma Shri Dr. Sau Sindhutai Sapkal. In this interview I try to unearth her real struggles and get to know more about the great personality of Padma Shri Dr. Sau Sindhutai Sapkal. The Questions by Ankush Bharti are emboldened. 

 Goodafternoon Ma'am tell us about yourself?

From the very beginning right? I am Mamata Tai daughter Padma Shri Dr Sindhu Tai’s daughter. I have done my graduation in psychology and masters in social work after pursuing my education, I started involving in my work. I have been active in social work for the past 26 years.I am in this social work field. It was like household work for me because I didn't have to go for any different organisation. I had been seeing social work as being a part of our family structure from the very beginning and it was not something new that I was seeing, it was like a part of everyday curriculum. I had seen Mai doing this work since I was small. I used to think that it is a part of every household and it wasn't like social work is a very different field it was like a part of our family culture that I had been seeing since I was a child.

As I grew up I spent 12 years of my life in a hostel in Pune. I didn't stay with Mai. She put me in hostels for my education. 26 years I have devoted towards social welfare along with my mother. It feels good from inside but still I miss her presence. I wish she was there to shoulder my responsibilities and carrying her legacy forward is a blessing but I do miss her presence.

When all her kids are doing this responsibility I wish she was there to see it with her own eyes.

Whenever we see your pictures along with Tai and even today it seems that she is amongst us. Did this thought ever come to your mind that you are the chosen one that you were born from her womb  and you are Sindhu Tai's daughter who's legacy you will be carrying forward the dream.

Did this feeling ever come to you, have this feeling that God decided you to carry the mission further or He chose you as an apostle to propagate it for the. Did this thought ever come to you on a spiritual level?

I have this thought that we are mediators. It is God who decides for people who will reach out to those who are in need. We should never think that I am doing it or I am the special one.There should not be any ego involved. The chosen one for particular things wherever that word 'I' comes then that track of social work deviates from the real reason behind helping others. We are just mediators who are doing it. And talking about taking forward the legacy I cannot say that I am taking it further alone.We are an entire family who is sharing the responsibilities and taking it forward. Deepak Dada is there who was adopted by taiji who is looking after the girls on Mamatatai Sadan. There is another one Arun Bhai who is looking after Amravati Phule Ashram. He is looking after tribals economically and socially backward. Vinay looks after his share of work.Manish looks after abandoned cows.I can never say that I am looking after everything alone.In our entire family Mai distributed the responsibility to everyone. Deepak,Vinay,Manish. We all are doing it together. It was Mai's blessings for all of us.We all are Mai's hands for each other. Her blessings for each other. Mai's Sanskaar on all of us are like chosen by God to carry the legacy forward.Yes it's true that if I have taken birth from her womb then every cell of mine every part is made out of her .It's a blessing of God for me. It's a blessing for me she gave birth to me,my responsibilities become even more to carry her legacy forward.There are many challenges for the future.Without challenges there is nothing.

Any particular incident she repeated in future?

All our readers who are there get inspiration from it.

Many incidents are there, Ankush. What she told me I know, some she told others that also I heard. Some incidents she shared would finish in a minute,some would be for hours.

If God made us happy we shouldn't forget our roots. We should not forget our tough times and our pains.Any person who doesn't forget her past will help people more.People face thorns .Thorn can never understand the pain.The thorns should say we welcome you with bowing down.We should make our feet stronger.This is something she narrated in her speeches and interviews.Her body language, face personality were amazing. She was a motivational person. She was full of energy. If anyone would say anything in laughter too it would hold value to the other person because of the life lessons she shared. She narrated how she attempted suicide thrice. When she had lost everything: love, security, house everything She had a months old child. She attempted suicide thrice at different periods. Once she was on the railway track and she stopped because of me. Second time she was on a cliff to jump.Then she saw a bush .Then she sat under the bush.There were so many bruises on the bush and sap oozing out but still that bush didn't stop from giving shade as if it was crying.If that bush didn't stop helping why me. She had the inner power which God gave her not to end her life. In one she had tied roti with her so that if the train is late she can eat and doesn't die on an empty stomach. She would get messages from God. She saved the life of a beggar by giving her roti. She gave that man roti and water.

A lady who begs in the train. She came from a good family. She would share with the beggars. Everything was divine about her.She was futuristic. She would never think about the past. She never had a revengeful personality. I remember seeing it when people from Delhi were interviewed by Mai and mei. I was asked about my father and if I had any ill will against him. My father who abandoned Mai from family, house community, insult.She said no because her mother never sowed revenge or negativity in them.

If her mom never said wrong about her then how could she say anything. She had zero revengeful attitude,zero. If mai suffering pain due to our father and said  nothing wrong about him then who am I to say so. She was a forgiving lady,divine she was.What is in the well will come out with the pail,in this well there was nothing like that no negative emotions……,She never nurtured any negative emotions in me then how can I say anything wrong.

Can you give a reflection on the organisation and the chains made by Sindhutai?

To be real she never thought about it.There was no preplanning. Any social work begins from pain itself. Mai never thought she would work for women, orphanage, destitute women.She never thought of or pre-planned about an organisation.It was a sudden thing. Pain sowed the seeds to social work. She was a regular woman,busy with her own family, and a homemaker. This experience of her led her towards this choice. Usually it's seen with people when people think when nothing good was done with them they shouldn't reciprocate with goodness. It's human nature. Her kindness made her unique. She wanted to reach out to those who have no one. If there is no family,the institution will be .She could not see her childhood. Every child should get her education. She couldn't get the education, every child should get. 

Whatever she didn't get she decided to give to others. All these organisations took birth from her thoughts,her thoughts of kindness.

The cowshed has cows that  are abandoned. Who doesn't give milk,barren are to be sold.who of no use.We even buy them from the people who don't look after them.

It was related to emotions. Mai used to tell "During my delivery there was one cow who protected me. Only there was a cow that saved me. We are planning to convert cow dung into fuel.

Can you tell us about your hobbies and how you started writing?

You saw best of both worlds

To be very honest I haven't achieved anything big in this field. I do have two awards.It was just a hobby that I think came from Mai. I am a writer who writes as a hobby,to relax myself. I got it from her. Mai read and heard from various sources. In Marathi all the very good Shayars she read. Sindhu Tai would use it in her speeches. It's like over a period of time we  develop ears to grasp it .I discovered accidentally in 2010 that I can write. In orkut I would read and write. I met my Guru Mr.Sudhir Monee guided me to pursue writing.I could write. Maa was my first listener. I never wrote on women empowerment, pain or anything. Its said the more you become personal you become universal .This happened with me.I don't write on big things like women empowerment or anything.I write about my personal emotions. I just want to spread my arms and welcome nature. I am not able to devote time to writing,I don't know when the time will come. I am over busy.I don't have many hobbies.I want to learn an instrument.

Mai learnt harmonium during COVID.Do you know how to play it Ankush?

Yes I  do Tai.

That's great

Tai learnt harmonium during CoVID. She had crossed 70 years.It was difficult to keep her inside. It was not about Maharashtra,India but the entire world had come to a halt.

Your favourite writers and authors.

When I was in 4th,5th standard I read all kinds of texts,books related to Shivaji Maharaj.When I grew up I liked Va Pu and PL Deshpandey.I also love to read  Meghna Pethe and Gauri Deshpandey.

When I heard your incident,It is said that with age parents are too difficult to look after.At times we need to become parents to our parents especially in old age.Your experience on that.

Mai was personally very difficult to handle depending on mood.Everyone in their family and organisation knew Mamata will handle her. Even when she was admitted to the hospital Doctors told her to do this. She wouldn't cooperate with the doctor. She was a child from within. She was a child when she got married. She was hungry for affection. One reporter asked her what she would like to do in future. I said I want to be my mother's mom. I can do a job, run the organisation and other things but what about Mai. She also needs me. Mai faced a lot of difficulties as a child and she shared her love with everyone but I made sure I am able to understand the child in her. Especially in the last few years she has been my child and me mother. I would make her abstain from certain foods that were not good for health.She would be 'ziddi' stubborn as a child but i would make her eat it. Where I have to let her eat or control her dietary habits, be strict as a mom with her I would decide. What I did with my daughter I would do with her. Just the same.She was very happy with the childlike treatment I gave her.

When someone treats us like a child. That happiness was in her eyes. She had started calling me Mai. When she left for her holy abode I felt I lost my child and Mai both. At one time I lost two people in one go. We all think as we grow we grow as people we leave the earth. This is what we learnt on a spiritual level. At one time the soul leaves the body. Body is left by the soul. We are able to cope with the death of our parents but we are not able to cope with the loss of a child. In my case I lost my child too. Mai was my child too.

The question I asked is a message for everyone: don't neglect your parents. If a parent is able to devote time for children.You are an inspiration for many people who abandon their parents.

When she left for her holy abode what happened,how did you manage things,change in people's behaviour?

To tell you honestly. Mai left suddenly. Water had to be taken out of her lungs. I was waiting outside the ICU. Mai said I want to have tea. I said we will have it together. You will feel better after the water is removed and fever will go down. She was with us till 5:30 am. At that time we didn't know what happened. News started flashing everywhere. Doctor came to me and said we are sorry we couldn't save Tai. I couldn't believe it. News went viral. I was shocked I couldn't cry. People thought I was strong but I couldn't understand who Mamatatai is without Mai.She was just like me,I had lost my soul, my existence. When I entered the organisation the gates were opened for Tai. Everyone was standing with folded hands waiting to welcome Tai .All the staff was waiting with folded hands. All arrangements were made.When I looked at the 4-5 storey building it seemed the building would collapse on me. It was like the temple had lost its God. My soul went. All happiness went. At that time the scream came from my mouth. It was Mai then I realised she was no more.

After that 6 months went really bad. I would come inside the organisation and leave. I wouldn't enter the 4th storey. I wouldn't visit the bank. All the formalities were done by my and Mai's signatures. Death certificate had to be registered but I didn't have the courage. Taking the death certificate was difficult. Everyone took care of me, they convinced me I have to take it forward. It is difficult but still. We all were broken.After 5 months 9 people got married. We invited people to attend it. We understood the sympathy we got but at Diwali we understood. When Mai was alive a crowd used to gather, clothes, sweets and crackers. Many people would meet. Many people didn't leave support towards us like the Nobel Hospital they had been coming to for so many years. Even after Mai they never changed their attitude towards us. Some people come even today. Many people stopped coming after Mai's demise.Then we thought let's make the change ourselves.14 November we inaugurated Mai's idol. We got it inaugurated from President Pratibha Patil.Then we contacted everyone. Let's do it. I requested everyone to join hands with us again just the way you used to with Mai.Atleast come and see our works. 

After Mai left nothing changed in the functioning of the organization.The menu didn't change, uniform didn't change syllabus everything all the facilities are the same.We made sure kids don't feel she's gone.If we would have changed anything kids would have thought they need to adjust. We kept everything the same. Mai is with them they should feel. Mai's idol was 5 '5. It feels real to visit our place and see Ankush. I know it's just consoling myself but it gives me strength to work. All these struggles, difficulties. After one year we made two awards after her name, the Yashoda Tai award. One 

Who are the organisations that helped after Mai's demise?

After Mai left, these organisations were standing with us. Villoo Poonawalla Foundation

Mr. Adar Poonawalla, 

Mr. Cyrus Poonawalla, 

Shri. Jaswinder Narang (CEO)

On January 4th, Mai left the world and on February 4th, they supported us financially. In the district of Pune, there are three organisations and they are helping us financially and not only this. They renovated the school, especially the office, cafeteria. They want the children to get the best of education and take forward the Mai's legacy in a good manner. They are supporting us from the month of February and till date. It is not complete, but we get the time to breathe. We owe a lot. They provided financial aid. 


KTFL, Kalyani technologies Forge limited. The MD of KTFL Mr. Ravindra Nagarkar. They visited all our organisations in the month of March. They didn't visit when Mai was there. It is like, God or Mai sent them here. They collect all the information about our organisation. Then the work is started in a systematic manner. To set it in a proper way, present it to the people, so that helping organisations can come and help us. 

They supported the girls' education by providing the bed, stationary items, and school belongings. Every month they supported us, the name of their organisation was Farmhand with wheat, Grain, rice, pulses, pohe. They are sending almost 6-7 food items. They are saying till their presence they will support mai's work and asked us to never feel alone. They will support us as Mai is with us always. I would like to thank both of the organisations during the difficult times.

All the kids who study here so they come back to the organisation?

In the organisation kids grow and go out to marry. For those kids do all the students come back

Many students come back.Girls come with their husbands families.Boys also come many don't.I won't say all come.I want them to come again.

What is your message to the youth and people in general who have given hope and are having suicidal thoughts?

Sindhutai ji as inspiration and 

When I was small. We stayed in a joint family. What we didn't share with our parents we would share with our uncle aunty. When this nuclear system came no one was to share.

When we were seeing Ankush for the past 3 days people called me and they had no one to share. What happens is eg, when the hard disc is full, no new thing can be stored; there is no space. For kids competition is so bad that point 1 difference is with marks and everything. It's like a marathon. We lose it means we are not able to prove ourselves. Why don't we focus on how many people are still left behind. Why do we have to focus on motivational people? Why do we need motivational speakers? Why do we need them? Life has become so busy and materialistic. We don't have time for ourselves. We should remember if we are born we are special. We should start from our surroundings. If our body aches we try to save it. The weaker section of people like mentally retarded,

People who suffer from depression are grown. We should think we can come out of it. If we have a two room house. If we know every corner of our house. Why not society? We should remember everyone needs his space. We can be more empathetic towards others.If someone gave me heart I can give it to others. Positivity should be there. Problems will be there in future. We need to deal with them.

What is your message to parents?

My simple funda is we need to be role models for our kids.Parents should be good role model. My Mai was simple.

I will never do anything that I don't want my child to do in future.Responsibility of rearing kids is difficult. One time they were in front of us. Mai told me I brought you like a tortoise. If Maa said then it must be like that. If we want we can identify our kids' unique personality, be a good role model and if kids deviate from their path don't neglect them. Solution comes with every problem. No problem is without a solution.

What is your message to everyone?How will you carry forward her message?

Mai did an exemplary job. Without any help or Godfather.

Reaching to the problematic person herself. She would reach the orphans. She would be empathetic. Today when Mai is not with us join with us in whatever possible way. Donations and financial help are there but come here to spend time. Visit the nearby organisation. Distribute knowledge. Mai devoted her life. This work won't stop. Humanity and humans are there to make the earth a beautiful place. It's not a one person's job. It's not about just this organisation. Be a part of this wonderful organisation. If not this organisation joins other social welfare organisations. Contribute towards the welfare of society. That should be our mission as humans.

After listening to you Mamata Tai I felt SindhuTai is still with us.These people are with us. I understood that you are an inspiration for everyone. How a woman should be. It's a guarantee that it will go forward. Sindhutai ji is not gone. Her values are alive in you and the family of the organisation.

I really liked talking to you Ankush.

Interview by Ankush Bharti