As a march to Delhi kickstarted celebrations of the 150th year of the 1857 revolt, Meerut on Monday witnessed moments of high passion with rally participants and the watching public yielding to patriotic fervour.
While seven-year-old Aamir Khan provided water to those marching in the hot weather, Rajeshwar, 59, showered flower petals on them and Sharmila Singh, 45, hugged a teenager from Tamil Nadu walking the Jung-E-Azadi rally.
The city, where the seeds of revolt were sown in 1857, was filled with banners and posters proclaiming India's power, unity amid diversity. From Mangal Pandey to Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, from emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to Shaheed Bhagat Singh, all historical figures were joyously remembered.
The local administration declared on Monday a holiday to allow its people, students in particular, to welcome over 10,000 youth who started the five-day march to Delhi to commemorate the Sepoy Mutiny.
Be it Shankar Ashram, Police Line, Victoria Park or Garhi Road, thousands of people - young and old alike - greeted the marchers.
"This city is known for its sacrifice, its commitment towards the nation and patriotism. As the rally was flagged off, I was reminded of the freedom struggle. Today the feeling of patriotism is echoing in all parts of our city," said Paramatma Saran, 82, who had taken part in the freedom struggle.
Be it mosques or temples, the tricolour rustled all over the city. People were also seen distributing pamphlets of the 1857 war.
"I am just cleaning the roads so that the march participants don't stumble on some pebble or brick. This is my way of displaying patriotism," said Azad Ram, a sweeper.
Said Mohammed Arif Khan, a resident of Meerut and rally participant: "I know we are no more struggling for our independence, yet I wish I could have been part of the 1857 war."
Rajeshwar, who was sprinkling marigold petals on marchers, said though he was born after 1947, he was glad to be a part of any kind of national celebration.
"You cannot gauge my emotions. Had I been a little younger, I would have volunteered to march till Red Fort (in Delhi)," he said.
The young Aamir Khan, who was distributing water to the participants, said: "They (the marchers) are all my brothers and sisters."