The 59th Republic Day Parade Saturday will go down in history for more ways than one. Not only did President Pratibha Patel become the first woman to take the salute, the event also served to sharply contrast the mannerisms of Patil and her predecessor, APJ Abdul Kalam.
Given his bubbly nature, Kalam would invariably interact animatedly with the foreign guest of honour who would be seated on the president's right.
Last year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin was the chief guest, Kalam excitedly pointed to the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile that India and Russia have jointly developed as it rolled past the saluting dais.
This time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was largely left to his own devices. Patil chose to maintain what could be termed the Indian version of a stiff upper lip.
Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari did occasionally lean to his left to speak to Sarkozy, who by and large interacted with his interpreter seated behind him.