Enthusiasm marks R-Day parade amid overcast sky

New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) Enthusiasm and a sense of exhilaration was evident at Rajpath here on Thursday as people waved and cheered the marching contingents, cultural troupes and the motorcycle and aerial displays during the 68th Republic Day parade. Around 50,000 spectators watched the parade held under a heavily overcast sky.

People started pouring in at Rajpath, the boulevard in central Delhi leading down from the Presidential Palace, from 6 a.m. Parking enclosures were full to capacity almost two hours before the parade, which had several firsts, commenced at 10 a.m.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a light pink turban complementing his white churidar-kurta and jacket, alighted from his vehicle, the crowd cheered and clapped. Some shouted slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ while many stood up to catch a glimpse of him.

Soon after President Pranab Mukherjee arrived with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Chief Guest at the parade, the crowd gave a standing ovation, especially when the President’s elite horse cavalry arrived alongside the limousine. Many rushed towards the barricade to click photographs.

At the end of the parade, when Prime Minister Modi walked a few paces along Rajpath and waved to the crowds, the people waved and cheered back enthusiastically.

In the beginning, loud cheers went up for the 149-member UAE military contingent, which participated in the parade, and went by marching smartly.

The T-90 main battle tanks and the BrahMos missiles were impressive, but after that not much weaponry was on display this year.

The low-flying MI25 choppers also brought out loud cheers.

The Tejas fighter planes, which made its debut in the Republic Day parade this year, also fetched much applause.

The colourful tableaux, 17 in number, did not evoke much applause nor did the motorcycle stunts did not elicit the expected ovation.

This year’s fly-past, the grand finale of every parade, was clouded over due to an overcast sky.

The Sukhoi SU-30 MKI “Trishul” formation and the breathtaking ‘Vertical Charlie’ by another SU-30 MKI was a barely two-second affair. The planes quickly disappeared into the cloudy sky, while their roar was heard till long after.

India Gate was just a silhouette from the press enclosure – which was diagonally opposite the saluting base where the VIPs were seated – while Rashtrapati Bhavan was completely invisible, due to the thick mist.

Pooja Khandelwal, who arrived with her 13-year-old daughter from Agra, said: “It was a nice experience, my daughter was very happy after viewing the parade.”

“She kept on asking me why the army jawans are walking like this, and she enjoyed a lot,” Khandelwal said.

And when the gaily caparisoned BSF camels arrived on Rajpath, it made the crowd stand up and cheer, especially after the announcer said that all the jawans riding them are over six feet tall and have similar handlebar moustaches.

The children looked particularly charmed with the swaying gait of the camels.

Samiksha, a 14-year-girl who had come to see the parade, said: “I never knew about our military prowess. It was a nice experience to view all the weaponry of India so closely.

“I shall carry these memories forever,” she added.

Rashmi Ahuja, a Class 6 student, said: “I am so excited to see all this.”

The National Security Guard (NSG) too made its debut this year at the parade and the crowd cheered for the “black cat commandos”.

The crowd also applauded the women commanders, who led the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force contingents.

In the morning, people had to wait in long queues, sometimes stretching to half a kilometre, due to stringent security checks.

A few people complained of the long queues.

“I had to jostle in long queues and had to endure early morning chill,” said Kawaljeet Singh, who arrived from Pitampura area of west Delhi.

“I had to park my vehicle about a kilometre away and my child was tired of walking down from the parking lot to here,” he said, adding, “But in the end it was rewarding.”

As security was tight, police refused to allow electronic car keys inside.

“I didn’t know what to do with my electronic key. So I hid the keys in the parking lot. Hope I find it again,” said Nakul Shah, a resident of South Delhi.

The authorities had placed enough make-shift toilets at the back of the venue for the public.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)