Today is the death anniversary of Sindhutai Joshi (1916-2008). She was a woman far ahead of her time, a pioneer.
She was the daughter of Aavadabai Bhupatkar nee Jatar. Aavadabai was the daughter of Shriram Bhikaji Jatar and Janaki Deo. The programme was held in Sindhutai’s honour at the newly renovated Kamayani Hall. In the photograph below are Lekhatai Kulkarni (Sindhutai’s daughter) and also Lekahtai’s husband, Dr. Arvind Kulkarni (in the jacket). This couple is now dedicated to carrying Sindhutai’s legacy forward, of the enormous educational infrastructure for the mentally challenged that was established by Sindhutai Joshi. The wedding hall (Munot) where this function was held, was also established by the family.
In those times, without male support, Indian women tended to be dependent. But Sindhutai, after the sudden death of her husband in an air accident in 1950, was determined to live an extraordinary life, that of a woman with a mission. And she did exactly that. Sindhutai’s grand-mother Janaki (also called Aaisaheb) was a very strong and determined woman, widowed before her time, and I like to believe that her grand-daughter Sindhu inherited the same amazing grit.
Sindhutai set to finish her education and earned a master’s degree. She was at the same time working in a remand home in Pune. Here she came across two mentally challenged children and arranged to tutor them at her residence. This was the seed from which Kamayani grew, in the year 1964. This was just the beginning.
At that time, in the sixties, Kamayani was unique. There was no other school of its kind in Western Maharashtra, although it was one of the most prosperous parts of India with businesses flourishing.
The first decade was difficult as resources were few. The state government provided some aid and this strengthened Kamayani.
Soon, a workshop for adults and then a training college to train teachers of the mentally challenged was established. Gradually more campuses were established in addition to the Gokhalenagar campus, for example at Nigdi where there is a school and a workshop.
Sindhutai Joshi dedicated her life to Kamayani. Her brother Dr. Prabhudas Bhupatkar, (popularly known as Dasu Kaka) was her moral support during this time.
Today there are two schools, a clinic, a sheltered workshop, a training college, a society, a research centre, and a Rural Rehabilitation & Residential Project at Talegaon Dabhade near Pune. All these were spearheaded by Sindhutai.
(Written by Nita Jatar Kulkarni)