For a Delhiite like me, Republic Day brings back memories of my childhood when I would watch the ceremonial parade on Rajpath. A lot has changed, both in spirit and the manner in which the occasion is celebrated.
What has also changed — and unfortunately so — is the attitude of some. An unnecessary debate has started in a section of the media over the relevance of the parade.
Republic Day has always been popular among the people. Braving the morning fog — sometimes, even rain — and the January chill, thousands would turn up to participate in the proceedings with enthusiasm. Those who could not lay their hands on an invitation would line up along the route from Curzon Road (now Kasturba Gandhi Marg) to Red Fort.
People in the enclosures would be on their feet to cheer the contingents as they passed. The Armed Forces, after the good showing in the 1965 and 1971 wars, always caught their imagination and gallantry medal winners (Param Vir Chakra and Victoria Cross) would receive a resounding applause.
Of particular interest was the Gnat fighter plane, which got the better of the Sabres in 1965, and the Vijayantas, which proved more successful than the Patton and Sherman tanks in 1971.
The contingents trailing the bands were fun. The Delhi police band was a favourite – people would wait for the tall Sikh leading it to throw his baton up and catch it as it twirled down.
The floats from the states were always showy and colourful and the bhangra group from Punjab was a must-watch.
The parade would end with an impressive fly past by the IAF. Old timers recall that RSS volunteers took part in 1963 after the Indo-China war. Now, of course, it would seem impossible.
The chief guest was always a foreign dignitary who arrived with the President in a horse carriage flanked by the presidential bodyguards.
What made January 26 a complete outing was that the day would not end with the parade — lawns on either side of Rajpath would turn into picnic spots. Some even invaded the lawns of bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi, close to the venue. And they would be welcomed by the owners who’d send across snacks, tea or water.
The festive spirit would continue till evening when people thronged Rajpath waiting for the lights to come on.
Now for those who have been complaining about how the parade has lost its relevance and causes traffic snarls, there’s one question: When you put up with jams caused by religious and political processions, why do you have a different view for a national occasion like Republic Day?
Why blame the organisers when those who were supposed to look after the city have proved inadequate in handling both human and vehicular population.
For true Delhiites like me, Republic Day is an occasion, which should be always celebrated.