Saturday, January 26, 2013

Eyes Right

 There are times when you have to feel good about India. In the prevailing atmosphere of extreme negativity, it is easy to fall into the trap of despair. Patriotism may be the last refuge of the scoundrel (no thanks Samuel Johnson), but it has its uses and I don't mind being a scoundrel. The Republic Day parade is one such occasion, to feel good.

I know very few watch the parade these days, but it is an eminently watchable spectacle. Other countries put on a show like this - the Bastille Day parade in France and the Victory Day parade in Russia, being the more prominent. But the Indian parade is extremely impressive and can raise goose pimples, especially if you can understand the honour and significance of it.

It all begins with the laying of the wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyothi - the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the sounding of the Last Post - a tribute to the fallen. The Parade itself is rich in tradition. The President's bodyguard gives the order for the National Salute and you cannot but help feel a lump in the throat as the National Anthem in played. After the Parade Commanders, come the living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra and the Ashok Chakra - India's highest gallantry medals.  This year it was nice to see all the three living PVC holders in the parade - Subedar Major Bana Singh, Naik Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav and Havaldar Sanjay Kumar. The 61st cavalry often leads out the marching contingents - this is probably the last Cavalry regiment anywhere in the world ; old traditions kept alive.  The impeccably turned out Army contingents lead the parade - this year the famous Maratha Light Infantry, the Dogra Regiment, the Kumaon Regiment, the Garhwal Rifles were all there - regiments with traditions going back 200 years. The Air Force contingent had a surprise with Flight Lieutenant Heena Pore leading - probably the first time a lady officer was the commandant . When the camera cut to probably her family wildly cheering, you could not have failed to be moved. Contingents vie with each other to win the best marching contingent award. To me the highlight is often the NCC boys and the NCC Girls contingent ; when she gives the call to salute the President, you can't quell the surge of emotion.

I normally discount the cultural shows that follow ; the military parade is the highlight. Its is an honour to march - if you wish to know how much of an honour it is and how much of training and selection precedes it, read this lovely account by Smriti Rao.

The dampener is the extremely poor coverage by Doordarshan. For a lesson on how not to cover an occasion of such grandeur, turn to Doordarshan. They have to cut all the time to show the faces of sundry VIPs - this being Delhi after all. How can you cut away, when the commandant's deep bass voice is giving the command for the salute. They couldn't even get the national anthem right - there was static and blackouts. Yuk !

But despite Doordarshan, this is an event that can make riveting viewing. You can watch it here, if you like.

Which is why, I say - I am sorry Colleen Braganza - I simply cannot stomach your article in the DNA.  There is a time to protest and make your voice heard. There is also a time to honour and cherish.

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