This Mothers’ Day Meet Sarojini Agarwal, Maa to Over 800 Girls

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She turned a personal tragedy into a triumph of will and call to service. Meet Sarojini Agarwal, mother to 800 abandoned and destitute girls.

Forty years ago, Sarojini Agarwal was driving a two-wheeler with her 8-year-old daughter Manisha riding pillion when she met with an accident in Lucknow. Sarojini survived but Manisha lost her life in the tragic incident. The heartbroken mother grieved for a long time before finding the answer she was looking for: there were so many more Manishas in the world who needed the care and affection of a loving mother.

Sarojini Agarwal set up Manisha Mandir in three rooms in her home in 1985. A PhD in Hindi Literature and author of several books, she poured her savings into this labour of love – of adopting abandoned and destitute girls to give them an education and home. The first child she adopted was deaf and mute – her mother had died while giving birth. Next, there were two sisters whose mother had also passed away. Abandoned street children, daughters unwanted by their biological parents, even girls rescued from brothels – they all found a home in Manisha Mandir and love in the folds of Sarojini’s sarees.

Manisha Mandir changed addresses many times over the intervening years to keep up with the growing family of girls. It is now located in Gomti Nagar in Lucknow and accommodates over 800 girls in dormitories. There is a computer lab, library, courts for badminton and basketball, television area and a garden. But the most important feature of the home is a cradle near the gate, called Sanjeevan Palna, where people can leave their unwanted baby girls instead of abandoning them on the streets.

At the advanced age of 81 now, Sarojini is still going strong although she does confess to losing energy. However, as long as there are girl children in need of a home, this Maa to 800 girls is not going to give up the good fight – she still has it in her to share her love with the help of those supporting her cause.

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