India’s Republic Day Evokes Fond Memories

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Niagara Falls, New York

Indian-Americans around the U.S., both older and younger, those fortunate enough to have attended a Republic Day parade in India in past years, and even those who have not, feel a sense of pride and joy from the pomp and pageantry, the evoking of past, present and future glories of an ancient and modern culture, the leaders of the freedom movement, and the idea embedded in India’s Constitution, drafted by leaders like B.R. Ambedkar, a Columbia University alumni.

For me, the most memorable thing was my ringside view hoisted up on my father’s shoulders as an adolescent, enthralled by colorful floats, marching bands, the smart stepping army and navy contingents, the marvelous fly-past by the airforce; and at night, the sound -and-light show at Red Fort; and a few days later, the Beating of the Retreat, so poignant, it brings enormous pleasure just recalling the times. As I grew older, I witnessed from near and afar, how youth in India were driven by the immensity of what the Indian Constitution promised its citizens; and in America, how the non-violence movement of Gandhi infused the civil rights movement years later.

Indian Army’s T-90 Bhishma tanks (front) are driving during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, January 26, 2016. REUTERS-Altaf Hussain

“I relive the patriotism with which I grew up. It fills me with nostalgia. And it also reminds me of the sacrifices people made, which we take for granted today,” said Anju Bhargava of Washington, D.C. “It seems to me the whole formation of modern India, the thinking that went into drafting the Constitution formally adopted on this day, and the great intellectuals involved in it – compared to the world today …. In both the United States and India, people are taking these for granted,” who saw the parades on television as she did not live in Delhi.

“Both August 15th Independence Day, and Republic Day January 26, signal a moment of pause to celebrate India’s independence – especially since it was so uniquely won through non-violence. It’s also a reminder for me as an American, that the methodology of Satyagraha was what shaped the civil rights movement in this country,” said Suhag Shukla, executive director of the advocacy organization Hindu American Foundation.

It’s a whole different ‘vibe’ around India Gate at this time of the year, a “different kind of rush” compared to watching it on television, said some of those News India Times spoke to. Ashish Kapoor, from Somerset, New Jersey, said, “I miss watching the Republic Day Parade, a symbol of India’s unity and strength. Being in the U.S. I remember how colorful India is.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards the crowd as he leaves after attending Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, January 26, 2016. REUTERS-Adnan Abidi

Author Aruna Prakash from Princeton, New Jersey, says she was excited just going to the parade with all her cousins, carrying bags of moongphali and revdis. “There was none of the security of today and we would be running around all over, such freedom,” she recalls. “The fly past was just fabulous. And the animals – oh my gosh, the camels and horses, it was wonderful.”

“And as a military brat, my father’s Parachute Regiment, when it was added to the parade and would go by us – our section would give out the loudest cheer. And we went crazy cheering groups of students from schools that we knew,” Prakash says.

Artists perform as they take part in India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, January 26, 2016. REUTERS-Adnan Abidi

 

For Lokesh Jhamtani, a student in Buffalo, N.Y., 26th January was a very special date and day. “Being one of the three national holidays, our family would always take out time to witness the Republic Day Parade live or on television. It is a pure reflection of how unique is India’s social and cultural heritage,” he said via email. “The whole nation stood together in pride to witness the new advancements in defense and military capabilities.”

“Being in United States for more than 3 years, it always revives a great feeling of pride and happiness. A mutual connection with every Indian here who share mutual respect,” Jhamtani continued. Living close to the border with Canada, Jhamtani added, “Hoping to see the Niagara Falls lite (sic) up in the beautiful tri-colors of the Indian flag, as it did for Independence Day,” he said.

A policeman performs a stunt on his motorcycle during the Republic Day parade in Jammu, India January 26 2016. REUTERS-Mukesh Gupta
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