As rain and speeches on stage settled down early Wednesday morning, Delhi awaited two important entities. One was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Lucknow to participate in International Yoga Day celebrations along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. On the other, Ram Nath Kovind, NDA’s presidential nominee, who attended the event in Connaught Place, sending the media into a tizzy.
Apart from Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, L-G Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, thousands gathered at Connaught Place to participate in the third year celebrations of the event.
“Yoga is not political, yoga is not religious. It’s a traditional Indian art form which has caught the attention of the world because of PM Modi,” said Naidu. While Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel, said, “Pakistan mein bhi Yoga manaya jaa raha hai, yeh humari number one uplabdhi hai (Even Pakistan is celebrating Yoga. This is our number one achievement).”
While the event began at 7 am, people had gathered in CP, Lodhi Gardens, Children’s Park and Talkatora Garden by 5.30 am. As Kovind settled down on his mat, right in front of the stage, all eyes were on him. The first few rows saw Naidu, Kejriwal, Lekhi and others attempt Yoga aasans, while the rows behind them — comprising residents of the city — followed the instructions on stage, with many being first-timers.
Fifteen-year-old Delisha Panda was participating in the Yoga Day celebrations for the first time. “It was fun, but the postures were too easy as I have been doing Yoga for eight years now. I will come back next year,” she said, adding, “I wish the Rajiv Chowk Metro station was open though, it would have made travelling easy.” For 22-year-old Saiyam Malhotra, a resident of Shahdara, travelling was the main grouse too. “We had to get out at Patel Chowk and take an auto from there and then walk some distance… Also, the mats were wet because of the rain. The organisers should have taken weather conditions into account and made arrangements accordingly,” he suggested.
Dressed in white shirts and an array of pyjamas, salwars and shorts, people sat on red mats — provided by the New Delhi Municipal Council — across the six radials of CP. From yoga groups in colonies to school children and families — a variety of people turned up for the event.
From Palam, 75-year-old Kitabo Devi Dangar travelled in a hired bus with 35 residents, and 80-year-old Darshan Dayal Aggarwal came from Krishna Nagar with his posse of 30 yoga friends. “Hum teen saalo se attend kar rahe hai yeh divas aur aagey bhi karte rahenge. Isse community sense build ho rahai hai (We have been attending the yoga Day celebrations for the last three years and will continue to do so. This helps build a sense of community),” Aggarwal said.
For some like 25-year-old Hema Chaudhary, it was also a learning experience. “We are recruit sub-inspectors and are a part of the Police Training Centre. We know some yoga, so that was fun. However, it also helped us understand how to tackle a large crowd,” she said.
Minutes before the clock struck 8, the session ended with a resounding applause, selfies, a high-pitched song, and a fight between some over the yoga mats.