Posters line up the streets of Sheetal Nagar, home to martyred Major Kaustubh Rane (29). Shops remained closed on Wednesday with banners strung all over saluting him and the sacrifice he made. As politicians came calling all through the day, sweepers from the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation kept cleaning the litter every few hours in the locality where Major Kaustubh lived most of his life. Inside the first floor flat in Hiral Sagar building, his father Prakash Kumar Rane and mother Jyoti showed little emotion as they acknowledged those dropping in to share in their grief, even as a doctor checked his blood pressure.
“He hasn’t cried since yesterday. We are all waiting here to support him when he does,” neighbour Surinder Singh, who manned their entry gate entire Wednesday, said, adding, “They realise they lost their son for a cause. They are very proud of him.”
In the wee hours of Tuesday, Major Kaustubh with three other Indian soldiers — rifleman Hameer Singh (28), rifleman Mandeep Singh (26), both from Uttarakhand, and Vikramjeet Singh (25) from Haryana — died in an attempt to foil an infiltration bid near the Line of Control near Gurez Sector in Bandipora district, about 125 km from Srinagar.
The major’s body was flown to Mumbai from Srinagar on Wednesday evening and kept in Malad for the night. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday morning. Local residents in Mira Road area flocked to Sheetal Nagar to offer their condolences. His wife, Kanika, however, remained inside with her two-and-a-half-year-old son Agastya grieving for her husband. “Agastya does not understand anything. He saw his father very rarely,” said Jabalpur-based father-in-law H L Manekar, adding, “My daughter is very disturbed.”
On Tuesday, Rane, who retired from Tata Power and is now a treasurer of the local Ganpati mandal, left for Vaibhavwadi, a taluka in Maharashtra, where the family had constructed a new house. He got a call, not from his only son as was the routine, but from an Army official informing him of Kaustubh’s death.
By then, his wife Jyoti was already on a train to Vaibhavwadi. Rane returned to their Mira Road flat, followed by his retired teacher wife and daughter-in-law by Tuesday night. The major’s closest friend Prateek arrived from Australia on Wednesday night. “We would all play cricket in childhood. When he joined the Army, his visits became few, once in a year,” said friend Bipin Haria. Major Kaustubh had last visited home in March, two months after being promoted as major. He married Kanika, a homemaker, four years ago.
After finishing school in Holy Cross, a lane from his residence, Kaustubh moved to Pune to pursue career in Army. “He always wanted to join the Army…it was his dream since childhood,” said J S Kandekar, another neighbour. A Hindi teacher from his school said he always fared well in physical education even as his performance in academics was average. “He was a very good sportsman. In Army, he was a good cadet and he did very well during training period,” said Brigadier Sudhir Sawant, adding that Kaustubh also got Sena medal for his performance in Kashmir.
Kaustubh, who was earlier in Garhwal Rifles, was moved to 36 Rashtriya Rifles, and had completed six years of service in Army. “He did well in commando operations too,” Sawant said.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Vinod Tawde, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam, MLA Pratap Saraik, and minister Eknath Shinde visited the family.
“The family’s loss cannot be compensated. The parents have lost their only son. But India should retaliate to Pakistan after this attack,” Shinde said.