As it happens in north India, 26th January is generally a cold day. In the hills, where I did my schooling from, the republic day eve would either see an overcast sky or it would be raining.
When did I celebrate Republic day last time? I am thinking about it while negotiating my way through a pin bend curve and the next one created by iron barricades that the police had put up on an east Delhi road. Three of them look at me, mercifully, not so disapprovingly.
It’s time for the annual security drill for Republic day in the national capital and the face-off between the police and the citizens.
Not that I mind the scrutiny, the road blocks and all the inconvenience after having braved much more during 10 years of my stay as a journalist in Kashmir. In the Valley, searches of houses and frisking and even identification of militants would begin a month in advance that too in the sub-zero temperature. On the R-day, on one hand, I would thank my stars after emerging unscathed from the official function which was always held under threats of being bombed and on the other felt humiliated at separatists - whose hearts beat for Pakistan - mocking at the very idea of India.
For the generation next, Republic day is a much awaited holiday; and time for the families to check on the discounted sales in the shopping malls with the catchy tricolour soaked ambience.
After making it through the naka, I wondered where the joy of participating in the Republic day celebrations of my childhood years had gone?
It used to take teachers months to cobble a team to represent our schools in the cultural competition on the day. As students, we begged for a small role in a skit, a dance or a chorus which was followed by weeks of practice. Those who didn’t participate in the cultural show would be content to be part of the marching contingent and saluting the national flag in the morning.
Preparation would spill over to the homes, with parents helping children ready the suitable dress for the cultural show and whiten the uniforms with lemon juice, bleaching agent etc. Mothers often worried about early transportation of children to school and everyone joined in efforts put up a decent show.
As it happens in north India, 26th January is generally a cold day. In the hills, where I did my schooling from, the republic day eve would either see an overcast sky or it would be raining. Our hearts would beat fast at the first sign of freak weather. A classmate told me the trick to beat the weather God who was trying to play spoilsport with the show. She suggested that all of us should go to the terrace late night, try to spot a star in the clouds and while looking at it make a knot in the kerchief. This, she said, would blow away the clouds by the morning.
Even if it could get us punishment from parents, we managed to sneak out of homes in the forbidden hour and go to the terrace in search of the elusive star. It worked.
The nostalgia of the day would cling to our minds till the next celebration. The next day would be a holiday, the much-needed one to sleep and get out of the fatigue.
As against this, my daughter’s school would be off on the Republic day due to security restrictions.
Being the daughter of two journalists, she had seen the grandiose Republic day parade at Rajpath in Delhi once; she would often describe her experience of seeing three colour spewing jets that created a tricolour in the skies. How often I thought of taking her again to the official celebration but was dissuaded by the sheer complexity of logistics.
Anyway happy republic day to all!