Marching for the country: the pride and diversity of the R-Day parade


New Delhi : Amiya Phukan, 15, lost her father in the serial bomb blasts in Assam last October. Yet, just three months later, she is here among proud NCC cadets who will participate in the Republic Day parade.

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Phukan is one of the nearly 2,000 NCC cadets from 17 directorates or regions from across the country selected to participate in the Jan 26 march.

“When I came to know that I would be a part of the Republic Day parade in Delhi, I was overjoyed. But even more excited than me was my father… he was so proud of me that he went around telling everyone about it,” Phukan told IANS, her soft voice often getting drowned in the hustle and bustle of the rehearsals at the capital’s Vijay Chowk.

“Then when the blasts happened in October, we were shattered. I was in no mood to take part in the parade. But my mother encouraged me to go ahead because that is what my father would have wanted,” she said, trying not to let the surging emotions show on her young face and adjusting her ‘gam kharu’, the traditional bangles that women wear while dancing Bihu.

While not everyone may have a heart-breaking story to tell of their recent past like Phukan, almost everyone had the same tale to tell of their present – that this was a moment they would always cherish in their lives.

“This is my first time in the capital of the country. Some of my friends who had participated in the parade last year had said that it gets very cold here, but I am quite comfortable. It gets a little chilly in the mornings when we have to go for practice, but that’s about it,” said Sharat Nair of Tamil Nadu.

“I do not enjoy north Indian food like rajma-chawal and our schedules are packed throughout the day, starting at dawn. But I am not complaining because despite all that I am enjoying every moment here. I have made many friends from other directorates and we have already decided to get together during the summer vacations,” he said.

Similarly Roshanara Khan of Jammu and Kashmir said that she plans to come to Delhi next month to meet some of her friends from Uttar Pradesh.

“This is not my first time to Delhi but I have hardly visited the markets here which my friends from the Uttar Pradesh directorate keep talking about! Therefore we have decided to come here again next month and then explore the capital by ourselves,” she said.

Balancing the bagpipe and synchronising his tune with the rest of his band, Puia from Mizoram said that the NCC camp was the perfect place to learn about other cultures.

“It’s better than the social studies that we are taught in school! You see and interact with so many people that you learn much better about other cultures than the theoretical knowledge in the books,” he said.

According to NCC spokesperson Col. Someshwar Singh Sinsinwar, besides the 1,950 NCC cadets participating in the parade, there are 65 foreign participants.

“We have foreign participants from Russia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives and Vietnam,” Sinsinwar told IANS.

Encapsulating the mood in a subtle way, Phukan said: “I feel proud to be a part of the Republic Day parade which, till now, we only got to see on TV. In Assam, there always is a blast or some attack on Independence and Republic Days. This time, I am glad that I will walk without fear on Jan 26.”