The Gifted Four stepped out of their tempus machine quietly. They were at the Thosar Paga burial ground in Pune, a city in the state of Maharashtra, India. It was 5th January – they had traveled back in time. The Mysticals were here to attend the funeral of a truly remarkable person – Sindhutai Sapkal, a social worker and activist from India.

“How can one person touch so many lives in just 74 years?” said Felix.

“Verum, could you tell us more about Sapkal?” said Scorch.

“It would be my absolute pleasure,” replied Verum with a watery smile, “Where do I begin?”

“At the start?” suggested Scorch.

“Good idea,” replied Verum, “Sapkal was born on 14th November 1948 in Wardha district which is now a part of Maharashtra. Her father was a cowherd. While he was of a modern mindset and wanted to educate his daughter, Sapkal’s mother was against spending on her education. So, Sapkal only studied till the fourth standard.

At the tender age of 12, she was married to Shrihari Sapkal. But the marriage didn’t last. When she was pregnant with her third child, Sapkal’s husband abandoned her and their newborn. Her mother, too, refused to help her.”

“That sounds so tough!” said Orak, “What did Sapkal do to make ends meet?”

“She found herself in a place called Chikhaldara in Amravati district, Maharashtra. Here, Sapkal had to beg for food at the railway station,” answered Verum, “Sapkal noticed that there were many orphan children who were abandoned by their parents. While she didn’t have enough for herself to survive, at such a time, she bravely adopted them as her own and started arranging food for them too.

Around this time, the state government had begun a tiger preservation project in the region. Due to it, at least 84 tribal villages were evacuated and the cows of the indigenous tribal villagers were seized. Sapkal decided to fight for the helpless villagers and their rights. Her efforts were successful and the villagers were rehabilitated (restored).”

“That is admirable!” said Felix, “What happened to the orphans?”

“Well, Sapkal decided to adopt every orphan child she came across. She looked after them with great love and care. So, they referred to her as ‘Mai’ which means mother,” said Verum, “To look after these children, Sapkal established numerous orphanages. Throughout her life, she has taken care of over 1,050 children!

For her great work, Sapkal was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award in India, in 2021. Along with this, she received over 750 awards and honors.”

“Now, I get what Felix meant. Sapkal truly touched so many lives. She rose from her struggles and not only survived the hardships but also helped the society,” said Scorch.

“Yes! That’s why she was laid to rest with full state honors,” said Verum. She pointed towards the funeral and said, “Look! She is draped in the Indian flag.”

“Her children are continuing her work. They have also established orphanages,” added Verum.