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    कौस्तुभ वयाच्या २२ व्या वषीच सैन्यात गेला. शिक्षण इंजिनीअरिंगचं. पण क्षेत्र निवडलं सैन्याचं. काय कारण असेल? कारण एकच- स्वतःला झोकून द्यायचा स्वभाव. बाबा खासगी कंपनीत. आई शाळेत उपमुख्याध्यापिका. म्हणजे कौस्तुभ तसा मध्यमवर्गीय घरातला असला तरी सुखवस्तू कुटुंबातला. म्हणजे, इंजिनीअर होऊन सहज पत्नीसोबत रुटीन, आनंददायी आयुष्य जगू शकला असता. पण तो त्याचा स्वभावच नव्हता. त्याचा स्वभाव होता स्वतःला झोकून देण्याचा... आणि त्यासाठी त्याने निवडला होता देश. कौस्तुभच्या या सगळ्या निश्चयाची, त्यागाची, समर्पणाची मूळं सापडतात, ती शिक्षिका असलेल्या त्याच्या आईत. कौस्तुभच्या आई ज्योती राणे या मालाडच्या उत्कर्ष मंदिर शाळेत शिक्षिका. उपमुख्याध्यापिका म्हणून कार्यरत होत्या. त्यांच्या सहवासात जवळपास आठ ते नऊ वर्षं काम करण्याचं भाग्य लाभलं. राणेबाईंच्या सहवासात, त्यांच्याशी झालेल्या गप्पांत कौस्तुभचा विषय असायचा. पण जाणूनबुजून स्वतःचा किंवा कौस्तुभचा मोठेपणा दाखवायला त्या हा विषय काढत नसत. ओघवत्या गप्पात सहज म्हणून निघाला तरच!
    प्रत्येक आई आपल्या मुलाबद्दल बोलते तशा बाई त्याच्याविषयी कधीच बोलत नसत. तो सैन्यात आहे इतकंच आम्हाला माहीत आहे; होतं. पण तो बॉर्डरवर रायफल घेऊन फ्रंटला लढतो याची आम्हाला यत्किंचितही कल्पना नव्हती. आपल्यासारख्या सामान्य माणसांचं असं असतं, की एखादा सैनिक शहीद होत नाही, तोवर आपल्याला त्या सैनिकाचं, त्याच्या कुटुंबियांचं समर्पण कळतच नाही.
    कौस्तुभ ज्या लढाईत शहीद झाला, ती त्याची पहिली लढाई नव्हती. याआधीही तो अशा लढाया लढला होता. त्यात त्याने अनेकांना कंठस्नानही घातलं होतं. म्हणूनच कारकिर्दीच्या अवघ्या ६-७ वर्षांत त्याला कॅप्टन, मेजर अशी बढती मिळाली होती. २६ जानेवारी २०१८ रोजी राष्ट्रपतींच्या हस्ते त्याला शौर्यपदक मिळालं होतं. हे एवढं सारं होऊनही आम्हाला कौस्तुभचं मोठेपण माहीतच नव्हतं.
    सोमवारी रात्री तो शहीद झाला तेव्हा आम्हाला कळलं, की तो सैन्यात होता. म्हणजे, त्याचं रोजच मरणाशी युद्ध सुरू होतं. रोज तो आई-बाबांना, पत्नीला फोन करून सुरक्षित असल्याचं सांगायचा. अगदी सोमवारीही त्याने आपण सुरक्षित असल्याचं कळवलं होतं. ‘आज रात्री चकमक व्हायची शक्यता आहे’ असंही तो म्हणाला होता. घरचे बिनधास्त होते. कारण, सैन्यात पाठवतानाच घरच्यांनी आपला कौस्तुभ देशासाठी अर्पण केला होता. नेहमीप्रमाणे मंगळवारी सकाळीही कौस्तुभच्या मोबाईलवरून पत्नी कनिकाला आणि आई-बाबांना फोन आला. कनिकाने आणि आईने मोठ्या आनंदाने तो फोन उचलला. पण त्या दिवशी त्या फोनमधून येणारा आवाज कौस्तुभचा नव्हता. तो होता सेनेतील एका अधिकार्‍याचा. कौस्तुभ निघून गेल्याची बातमी सांगणारा!!
    तो एक फोन आला, आणि बस्स! कनिकाने कौस्तुभसोबत पाहिलेल्या भविष्यकाळातील अनेक स्वप्नांची एका क्षणात राखरांगोळी झाली. आईने मुलाविषयी बाळगलेल्या अनंत अभिमानाचं रूपांतर एका क्षणात अतीव दुःखात झालं आणि बाबांचा धीरोदात्त स्वभाव एका क्षणात उन्मळून पडला.
    आज आमच्या राणेबाई वीरमाता ठरल्या. कौस्तुभची पत्नी कनिका वीरपत्नी ठरली. पण तरीही मुलगा आणि पती निघून जाण्याचं दुःख काय असतं, हे दोघींकडे पाहिल्यावर जाणवतं. अभिमान, समर्पण या भावना असतातच; पण आपलं माणूस कायमचं निघून गेल्यावर होणारं दुःख त्याहूनही खूप मोठं असतं.
    कौस्तुभला मुलगा झाला, तेव्हा ती आनंदाची बातमी राणे बाईंनी आमच्या शाळेतील शिक्षकांच्या व्हॉट्सअ‍ॅप ग्रुपवर अशी दिली होती- ‘आमच्या घरात एका छोट्या कॅप्टनचा जन्म झाला आहे!’ मुलगा सैन्यात कॅप्टन म्हणून कार्यरत असताना, त्याच्या निघून जाण्याची बातमी कोणत्याही क्षणी येण्याची शक्यता कायम असताना, त्याच्या पहिल्या मुलाला - म्हणजे राणे कुटुंबियांच्या पुढच्या वारसाला ‘कॅप्टन’ म्हणणं म्हणजे राणेबाईंचं मन देशप्रेमाने किती ओतप्रोत भरलं असेल याची प्रचिती देणारं आहे.
    विद्यार्थ्यांना शिकवणं, उपदेश करणं हे आम्हा शिक्षकांचं कामच असतं. हे काम आम्ही इतक्या वेळा करत असतो, की हळूहळू हा आमचा स्वभाव होतो. पण, माणूस म्हणून असणारा आमचा स्वभाव प्रत्येक शिक्षकाला बदलता येतोच असं नाही. बहुतेक वेळा, ‘लोकां सांगे ब्रह्मज्ञान...’ अशीच नव्या पिढीला दिशा देणार्‍या समूहाची वागणूक असते. आमच्या राणेबाई मात्र या समूहाला अपवाद होत्या.
    ‘देशावर प्रेम करा, देशासाठी त्याग-समर्पण करा’, असा उपदेश विद्यार्थ्यांना करण्याआधी त्यांनी स्वतःच्या मुलाला देशसेवेचा संस्कार दिला होता. देशासाठी त्याला अर्पण करून त्या स्वतः शाळेतल्या मुलांमध्ये कौस्तुभला पाहत होत्या.
    कौस्तुभ, देशासाठी तू व तुझ्या कुटुंबीयांनी जेवढा त्याग केलाय, तेवढा त्याग तर आम्ही करू शकणार नाही. पण किमान तू केलेल्या त्यागाची जाणीव ठेवण्याइतकी, देशासाठी जीव नाही; पण किमान आपलं सत्कर्म देण्याची, नागरिक म्हणून समाजात जगताना छोटे-छोटे नियम पाळण्याची, स्वतःची जात-धर्म-भाषा-सण-उत्सव यांचं भांडवल करून हिंसा न करण्याची, स्वतःच्या मागण्यांसाठी इतरांना त्रास न देता शांततेत लढण्याची आणि परस्परातल्या मतभेदांचं रूपांतर मनभेदात न करता प्रत्येकाशी एक माणूस म्हणून वागण्याची सद्बुद्धी आम्हाला दे, इतकीच प्रार्थना!

(लेखक मालाडच्या उत्कर्ष मंदिर शाळेत शिक्षक आहेत.) 

~साभार- सोशल मीडिया

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