Delhi remembers its titan; Atal Bihari Vajpayee
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Delhi remembers its titan; Atal Bihari Vajpayee

An hour-and-a-half later and six kilometres away, Parimal was among the first few to arrive at Raj Ghat where Vajpayee was cremated with full state honours

delhi Updated: Aug 18, 2018 03:36 IST
Soumya Pillai and Shiv Sunny
Soumya Pillai and Shiv Sunny
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi,Atal Bihari Vajpayee,BJP
BJP members hold candles to pay tribute to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Bengaluru on Friday, Aug 17, 2018. (PTI)

When 32-year-old Parimal started walking beside Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s funeral procession at 2pm on Friday, few would have believed he would cover the entire journey on foot. Parimal, who has lost the use of his left leg, can only walk with the help of crutches.

An hour-and-a-half later and six kilometres away, Parimal was among the first few to arrive at Raj Ghat where Vajpayee was cremated with full state honours.

“This is my tribute to a great man,” said Parimal.

Parimal was among lakhs of people who accompanied the former prime minister on his final journey from the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg to Rashtriya Smriti Sthal at Raj Ghat on Friday afternoon. They braved the sweltering heat, a long gruelling walk and the absence of drinking water on the journey along with the funeral procession.

Before that, they took trains, flights or booked buses to make it to the venue. Despite the massive turnout, the crowd was mostly disciplined, maintained the brisk pace with the military gun carriage used to ferry Vajpayee’s mortal remains, and waited patiently at Raj Ghat until the funeral ended.

Crowds had started assembling at several locations early on Friday. Most people had gathered outside the BJP headquarters by 9am, while many others had made it to Vajpayee’s residence on 6A-Krishna Menon Marg as early as 6.30am.

Autorickshaw driver Muzamil Sheikh was among the early visitors outside Vajpayee’s residence. He brought his wife and three-year-old son along. When he wasn’t allowed to approach the gates, he went to ITO where he hoped to catch a glimpse of the former BJP stalwart.

Sheikh said he admired Vajpayee despite having always been a Congress supporter.

The 35-year-old said he withstood the sweltering heat and braved hundreds of people shoving him at ITO. “I just want to witness a noble human being who rose above politics to become a true leader. I have brought my son along to make him experience history,” said Sheikh.

Gaurav Thengne has been wheelchair bound since his lower limbs were paralysed. The 28-year-old ignored his condition and took the Metro from Safdarjung to the Mandi House. But before he could reach ITO and find a secluded corner, he said he got lost and had to wheel around for over two kilometres. “My favourite leader passed away yesterday. My inconvenience seems inconsequential at the moment,” said Thengne.

From children to senior citizens, throngs of people lined up along the road to catch a last glimpse of their beloved leader whose carriage moved on the opposite lane. Many showered flower petals on the carriage; others took selfies, recorded videos and ran Facebook lives as they marched briskly to keep pace with the procession.

The slower ones contended themselves with occasionally catching a glimpse of other VIPs who were a part of the procession. Every few seconds, they raised slogans such as ‘Atal ji amar rahein’, ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

While most attendees braved the sweltering heat to take the arduous march, a few abandoned the journey mid-way. “My soles hurt in the heat. There is no drinking water along the way,” said Prakash Sen, a retired DDA employee as he gave up the march at Delhi Gate.

Sagrika Sharma, a 43-year-old housewife, said she waited with rose petals in her hand for over an hour, but left disappointed as she couldn’t spot the casket. “I had found a secluded spot on the route, but couldn’t survive the crowd. I finally gave up showered the petals at Vajpayee ji’s hoarding instead,” she said.

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 03:36 IST