गहिनीनाथ दगडू लोखंडे उर्फ लोखंडे महाराज, वय वर्ष सत्तरहून जास्त, अंगावर एक ढवळं धोतर, मळका सदरा, गळ्यात तुळशीच्या माळा आणि डोक्यावर फेटा, व्यवसाय मिळेल तिथे काबाडकष्ट, राहायला एक पत्र्याचे शेड, शासनाची मदत शुन्य, शेतीतले उत्पन्न नगण्य, बस्स एवढ्याच जीवावर हा माणुस वृद्धाश्रम चालवतोय. मला माहिती मिळाल्यापासुनच या व्यक्तीला भेटण्याची ईच्छा झाली होती तेव्हा आजरोजी माझ्या वाढदिवसाचे औचित्य साधून भूम तालुक्यातील पाथर्डी- जामखेड रोडवरील नळी वडगांवच्या या वृद्धाश्रमास मी आवर्जुन भेट दिली. जन्माला घातलेल्यांनीच ज्यांचा सहवास नाकारला त्यांना प्रेमाच्या आणि मायेच्या सहवासासोबतच खारी एवढी मदत देण्याच्या उद्देशाने मी आज माझा वाढदिवस या निराधार आजी आजोबांसमवेत साजरा केला.

वृद्धाश्रमात आगमन होताच ईथल्या आजीबाईंनी आम्हाला आपुलकीने पाणी आणुन दिले. दोन तीन आजोबांनी मिळून बसायला तळवट आंथरला. मग काय तिथेच आमची सभा भरली. प्रारंभी मी स्वतःची सर्वांना ओळख करूण दिली त्यानंतर एका छोटेखाणी भाषणातुन उपस्थितांना आधार देण्याचा प्रयत्न केला व लोखंडे महाराजांच्या कार्याचे कौतुक केले. माझे भाषण संपल्यावर तिथल्या आजीबाईंनी मिळुन माझं औक्षण केलं. आराम करून जेवन करण्याच्या वयात ज्या हातांना अजूनही सरपन गोळा करावं लागतंय, चुलीला जाळ लावावा लागतोय, भाकरी थापाव्या लागतात त्याच हाताने माझ्या तोंडात टाकलेल्या साखरेची चव गोड या शब्दालाही फिक्की पाडणारी होती. जेवढी आपुलकी, प्रेम आणि जिव्हाळा मी त्यांना दिला त्याच्या कैकपट मला परत मिळाला.

तिथल्या आजी आजोबांना मी दोन महिणे पुरेल एवढे ज्वारी, गहू आणि तांदळाचे धान्य दिले व फुल न फुलाची पाकळी म्हणुन त्यांच्या औषधोपचारासाठी व ईतर खर्चासाठी माझ्या ऐपतीनुसार आर्थीक मदत केली. ” आरं पोरा, तुज्या पांगरीपसुन आमचं ह्ये वृद्धाश्रम जवळ-जवळ सत्तरेक किलोमिटर हाय. ह्यवढ्या लांबून यिवून आमचं दुखणं समजुन घिऊन आमाला मदत केल्याबद्दल आमाला तुजा सत्कार करायचांय, ये बस हितं” असं म्हणतं तिथल्या एका आजोबांनी मला टोपी घालुन नामाटी ओढली आणि शाल पांघरली. सत्कारानंतर त्या सुरकुतलेल्या हातांनी वाजवलेल्या टाळ्या ऐकुण डोळ्यात पाणी तरळलं. आजवर लक्षावधी टाळ्या मिळवणारा मी; त्या आजीआजोबांच्या टाळ्यांनी पुरता गहिवरून गेलो. फाटक्या झोपडीतली त्यांच्या मनाची श्रीमंती पाहुण आपण किती भिकारी आहोत याची जाणिव झाली. ही माणसं स्वतःच्या लेकरांपासुन दुर राहूण आपल्या सारख्यानाच त्यांच्या लेकरा एवढं प्रेम करतात मग आपणही आपल्या आजीआजोबांसारखं प्रेम त्यांनाही द्यायलाच हवं. दोन तीन तासांच्या गप्पागोष्टीनंतर मी परत निघालो तेव्हा गाडीत बसल्यावर वृद्धाश्रमातले सर्व आजोबा गाडीजवळ येऊन आपुलकीने हातात हात देऊ लागले. पाय निघत नव्हता तिथून पण तरीही पुन्हा एकदा नक्की येईल असा शब्द देऊन जड अंतःकरणाने त्या सर्वांचा निरोप घेतला.

कुण्या एका माणसाच्या मोठ्या मदतीपेक्षा हजारो लोकांच्या छोट्या-छोट्या मदतीतुनच एक मोठी मदत तयार होत असते. आपणही आपला वाढदिवसावर होणारा अनावश्यक खर्च टाळून जर तो अशा विधायक उपक्रमासाठी वापरला तर देशात एकही माणुस उपाशी झोपणार नाही, बेघर राहणार नाही, उघडा फिरणार नाही, उपचाराविणा मरणार नाही. गरज आहे फक्त हा विचार रूजवण्याची.

लेखक : प्रा.विशाल गरड
दिनांक : १८ मे २०१८

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