The Republic Day Parade – In memoirs

This year, we are celebrating 71st Republic Day on 26th January, 2020. It’s the day, when our own constitution was accepted and India took hold of it’s own governance in it’s own hands. For children born in sixties and seventies, Republic Day Parade was a big event to be proud of. I had been brought up in Hisar, a small town of Haryana. In those days, we used to be glued with radio to hear commentary of Republic Day Parade. There was no television transmission in smaller cities. DD made its appearance in Hisar in early eighties. While listening to the live commentary of Republic Day Parade, there was always an inherent wish to be able to be part of the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Every city has it’s own Republic Day celebrations which is more or less on the same lines as celebrated in Delhi. My school was part of the district headquarters celebrations panel and we used to go to city police lines for many years, (where such functions were organised by the city administration) and were part of the festivities. Anyway, I never had a chance to attend the parade at Delhi’s India Gate. The commentary in those days was so detailed that I could always feel like a film going before my eyes, it was only in 1984, I could actually watch the parade on television, after my marriage when I had shifted to Delhi. It was mesmerising just as I had imagined as a child. Anyway, I could never watch this magnificent event in person.

Many of my marital family members had been witness to the Republic Day festivities for many years as a participant or as a spectator. So, I have asked all of them to share their experiences. I am sharing their experiences below.

My eldest sister in law had been part of the parade for many years as student of school and college. She had participated in Republic Day Parade from 1959 -62. After that, she has been in the audience for many years as my father in law was a senior officer in Army Head Quarters and can get passes very easily.

Here’s what she has remembered of those celebrations.

” Filled with national pride, I had watched Republic day parade many times- year after year. I was very lucky to have participated in the parade many times from school and college. I was also member of NCC Contigent. The participant children decked in school uniforms were used to feel very proud of being part of such an important occasion. The proud feeling of being part of the parade provided all the warmth in the coldest month of January. Papa used to get passes so brimming with patriotic feelings carrying basket full of Puris or Paraanthaas with curry, pickle and other goodies, our whole family used to watch the parade from the reserved enclosure. Those days 26th January was like a festival. That day from early dawn may be around 4 only, we could hear continuous footsteps of people on the road behind our house at Baird Road on the way to India Gate to occupy front rows to watch the parade at close quarters.In those glorious days, I still remember seeing Dr Rajendra Prasad arriving for the parade in Bughee and at the end of the parade as Bughee carried by majestic horses arrived President of India would recieve Salute from them, hordes of dignatories bidding him good-bye !
When we participated from school we had to reach school around 4.30 am or may be 5am in the cold winter morning on 26th.We would be clad in school uniform and our teeth would be chattering but filled with enthusiasm and national pride, all of us had smiles and waited eagerly for the parade to start. In school hot puris with aaloo curry waited for us. Months before January, the selection for the parade began. Those who were rejected felt heart- broken and dejected. Practice and practice for hours continued, knuckles were bruised red in those early days of practice as being novice our hands brushed against each other’s ! I think 24th used be dress rehearsal, that day the importance of “The Day” dawned upon us ,the hurry-burry and anxiety of the officials was vivid ,everyone intent upon the smooth and successful culmination of the programme. On 26th we reached quite early at the starting point – Parliament House (if i rember correctly). Whole atmosphere charged with patriotism, sky resounding with patriotic songs and slogans of Jai Hind. I still get goose bumps recollecting those emotions and feelings !
Different songs were played for each contigent as we marched smartly on the road ,watched and cheered by thousands of enthusiastic countrymen, bands playing patriotic songs enthused us, our chest swelled with pride, throats choked with emotions,we marched on and on till we reached our destination without any trace of fatigue.
As we marched on family members of the participants from among the audience would call out the names their children loudly and proudly. Girls’ band from Pillani Vidyapeeth was waited for every year. The whole programme used to be magnificent and a feeling of oneness with our fellow countrymen permeated everyone.”

My another sister in law, Mrs. Rajni Sinha was also lucky to be part of this national festival. This is what she has to say about her experience –

” Oh ! To think and remember those times of my participation in Republic Day Parade as a school student still gives me goose bumps.
I took part in republic Day parade twice in school.
First when I was in fifth class. The dress ( rather the frock ) I wore had four pockets. And my dearest mummy filled all the pockets with toffees, biscuits and some other finger foods.
That parade was real fun.
I was in class 7th when I was selected second time to take part in parade.
The practice in school was going on full swing when a day before parade my right foot got twisted and it was swollen like hot potato.
But instead of being miserable I took part in the parade proudly like a true patriot. I can never forget how mummy did hot fomentation almost till midnight and I was able to take part in parade. The whole atmosphere on India Gate was so charged up and I donot remember anything about my injured foot. We could see all the dignitaries going past without any heavy securities. Those were the days! “

My husband had also participated in the parade and here’s what he remembers about those times.

“It was in late 1960s. I was in class 9.
Republic day parade was then a much awaited spectacle and had great emotions of prude & patriotism attached. The parade always had one contingent of boy scouts & NCC.
Our school Union Academy had been given the proud previlege of representing the only boys scouts contingent for years. It was mainly due to V.K.Arya Sir, our Physical Training teacher, who was an extra ordinary person having fought in the Azad Hind Fauj of Netaji Subhash Bose. He was also much respected by the Army officials managing the parade

Scouts & marching activities were a regular part of school curriculum but serious preparations for Republic Day Parade used to start 3 months before the event. A large contingent was initially selected and praticising for marchpast was done everyday for two hours. As the republic day aporoached nearer, Arya Sir used to become more demanding with perfection in every step, kadam tal & saluting besides the impecceable uniform. Finally, the best 30 were selected and made to go throygh rigorous training & practice.

On the d-day, our contingent of boy scouts left the school by 6 am for Rajpath from where the parade started. It was still dark & very cold.We were dressed in just shorts & shirts as no woollens were allowed. Winters used to be very severe in those days but the exhileration, pride & excitement for taking part in the parade was such that the nail biting cold didn’t affect us at all.

At Rajpath, we were given steaming hot tea & asked to take our place in the designated slot for the parade, which incidentally was just after the Air Force band. I was in the second row of the contingent. Soon, the parade started & our contingent commanded by the booming voice of Arya sir started moving from Rajpath towards the dais where the President & other dignitaries were seated. The whole path of the march from Rajpath to India Gate was full of people, cheering every contingent. Our boy scouts contingent was loudly cheered as we approached the dais. The excitement and feeling of emotions & pride with the roar of the crowd cheering us is difficult to be expressed in words. We felt like heroes. Our contingent smartly saluted the president & moved on towards India Gate. The cheering of crowd followed us through the march.

Finally, at Baroda House near India Gate, the boy scouts & girl guides contigent were taken off the parade as the rest of the contingents moved on till Red Fort.

Fortunately, there were no hiccups in marching or saluting and our teacher seemed extremely satisfied, relieved & happy at the same time. Such was the respect & love for Arya Sir that a word of satisfaction (incudentally he was a perfectionist & so rarely expressed satisfaction) and appreciation was as big a joy & pride as taking part in the parade itself. Of course we were much tired & exhausted by the time it ended and just spread ourselves on the lawns of Baroda House. It was only now we noticed how cold & numb our limbs & fingers were. After refreshments, we were taken in our school bus back to our school and we headed home by 2 pm or so.”

Now a days, I seldom come across any families who watch the parade. I think, the watching of parade must be made a family affair instead of taking Republic Day only as a holiday. It will inculcate the national pride in young children and an association with the country’s proud. It’s high time we must bring this change.

Wishing every Indian, Happy Republic Day! Let’s commit ourselves to build India and stand with it !!

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