Sukhwant Singh, our CGO - Kolkata Branch, shares a precious memory of this day.
26th January is a day when India celebrates and honours the momentous event of India’s Constitution came into force in the year 1950. For me, this is the day when we showcase to the world our military strength, our rich cultural heritage, our achievements as a nation, and our unity in diversity.
In the year 1989 I had the privilege of participating in the Republic Day Parade at Rajpath in New Delhi, as part of a marching contingent of the Sea Cadet Corps. We left Calcutta (as it was called then) in the first week of January, filled with excitement and joy and somewhat prepared for the harsh and cold winter weather of New Delhi. We were provided lodging in the Single Sailor Complex near Chanakyapuri. To add more spice, our camp beds were neatly arranged on the 9th floor balcony of the building, with adequate insulation and heating arrangements to cope with the zero degree temperature conditions. The administration had taken special care to ensure that the dining area was on the ground floor, so for each meal we had to go from the 9th floor to the ground floor and back. And since there were were no elevators, all that climbing up and down made sure that we had enough exercise to keep ourselves warm and fit.
Every day we would get up around 4 a.m. and post our morning routines and a quick cup of tea, we would board the Army 4 tonne truck to reach Rajpath. We would practise marching from 5.30 a.m. to 7 a.m. We would then return to the base by 8 a.m., have breakfast and take rest. We would have another round of practise post lunch, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. This was the routine for two weeks to gear up and be ready for the big day.
The dress rehearsal was on 23rd January and it is on this day that the winners in the various categories are judged and finalised. Finally, after weeks of rigorous practise, we were all ready for the D-Day, and on Thursday 26th January, 1989 we proudly marched down Rajpath, while synchronising our steps with the beat set by the band. All the VIP and dignitaries present in the gallery applauded and cheered loudly as we saluted President R Venkataraman, who was accompanied by the Chief Guest, General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh from Vietnam.
This day will be forever etched in my memory as the beat of the band, the music, the marching boots and the cheering crowd reverberate in my heart whenever I think of this day…. JAI HIND!!
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