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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

At 60,still the same

In 1984,Gurudev Singh of the Sikh Light Infantry military band,played for the first time at the Republic Day parade.

Written by Chinki Sinha | New Delhi | January 27, 2009 12:22:48 am

“This is emotional. I am playing in front of the President. What can be more glorious than this”

In 1984,Gurudev Singh of the Sikh Light Infantry military band,played for the first time at the Republic Day parade. And for 25 years,whenever he has performed at the event,he has been uniquely conscious of his identity — a Sikh warrior,fierce and unrelenting.

In his flaming orange uniform and matching turban on Monday,he was yet again conscious of his identity. But the identity was part of the whole — his orange is part of the Tricolor too.

“This is a pure Sikh regiment. And the colour of our clothes is a sign of sacrifice,” Singh,now 47,said. “It is the colour of our Gurus. And this is the colour of our country.”

For a month,he rehearsed with the band members for hours. They had to put up the best show. This was their moment. And they shouted their motto: “Prosperity in peace,victory in war.”

For the military men playing in the bands at the parade,the fusion of identities was its beauty. “This is such an honour,” a participant Balbir Singh (42) said. “We believe in India.”

The parade has evolved over the years,adding state tableaux and performances by school children. But the event’s overarching theme has been national integration showcased through the military might of the three wings of the armed forces,which is followed by the floats representing different states.

And this message was clear — one state binds all; and all identities are part of the whole.

For Nayab Sardar Shashi Bhushan Prasad Singh of the Bihar Regiment Center,this was the moment. “Yes,I belong here,” he said.

At 18,he first played the national anthem when the President emerged from his car,and to this day,he has never been more proud.

“This is emotional. I am standing and playing in front of the President. What can be more glorious than this,” said the 44-year-old with a smile.

And as the ground reverberated with the sound of the 21 Gun Salute by the 299 Field Regiment,Kumar stood still,his face serene,his regional identity subsumed under the national identity.

As the President handed the Ashok Chakra to Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s mother,the applause was hard to miss. Unnikrishnan,who died fighting terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai,was from the Bihar Regiment.

The parade was a mix of identities: beginning with the Army’s Parachute Regiment in its distinct “trotting style” march,the colourfully decked Camel Contingent of the BSF,and the young men and women of the National Cadet Corps band.

The colourful floats

The spectators identified the floats of their respective states as they came. The Andhra Pradesh float,which paid tribute to legendary saint Annamacharya,was followed by Assam,which depicted the state’s rich wildlife,and floats of other states. The number of floats this year was reduced to 18.

Many other themes marked the parade,from women empowerment in rural arrears to the drive to provide electricity in the interiors of the country.

There were promises too,from loan waivers and debt relief programmes to farmers and the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme.

Six floats reflected India’s advances in science and technology and skills in disaster management. They followed the 12 state tableaux.

“This is our rich culture and heritage. But we are part of one nation,” a spectator said,even as white,orange and green balloons filled the sky.

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