Delhi's cold is killing and the daily 10 hours of rehearsals for the Republic Day is rigorous. But there is no bogging down the spirits of the 1,850 NCC cadets from 25 states, from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south and Gujarat in the west to the northeast.
For 13-year-old Mapuii of Mizoram, this is a proud moment. She is one of the 44 National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets of her directorate representing the Aizwal music band for the first time in the annual celebrations.
Like most of her other friends, Mapuii is on her first visit to the capital - and naturally thrilled. "I am very excited to be in Delhi and can't wait to sing Chal Sipahi and Saare Jahaan Se Achha on the Republic Day," Mapuil tells IANS with a toothy smile.
A total of 25 states and 16 NCC directorates are involved. Most of them are on their maiden visit to Delhi, a city they have always longed to see. The northeast, Tamil Nadu, the Andaman Islands, Gujarat and Orissa are represented, to name just a few.
Probably this is why even after a month of rigorous rehearsals at the Rajpath, the stately road that winds down the imposing Rashtrpati Bhavan, or presidential palace, they are still cheerful.
"We wake up at 3.45 am, clean our barracks and start our rehearsals at 5. After a two-hour break at noon, we are back at 2 p.m. and don't go back until 5 in the evening," says Avani Pandya of Gujarat.
For those from places with less harsh winters, like Gujarat or Tamil Nadu, with minimum temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius, the early morning rehearsals have not been easy.
"It's so cold here. Some of my friends have fallen ill due to the cold," Kartik of Tamil Nadu said.
Asked about this, the officials say the cadets are being looked after well. "There is an infirmary with a doctor on duty round the clock. They are given proper bedding and blankets and moreover they don't always begin their practice this early," says one of the officials.
For still others, food is another cross point. "We miss south Indian food here. North Indian fare is nice but not always," says Jayanti of Tamil Nadu.
But their complaints about the cold and the food pale compared to their excitement.
For Sharma of Jammu and Kashmir, despite this not being her first visit to the capital and nor the first time in the Republic Day celebrations, "it's a different feeling altogether to be a part of all the excitement in the capital".
But for some like Mitali Gogoi of Assam, this will be one of the most memorable trips of her life, not because of anything else but because she will be celebrating the Republic Day for the first time in her life.
"Back at home, there is always an Assam 'bandh' on Republic Day and Independence Day. I don't even know how the celebrations are like. But this time, I will be a part of all the excitement which I have only seen on TV," she says with a smile.