Sidelights of the Republic Day parade

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New Delhi, Jan 26 (UNI) The biting cold in the morning failed to dampen the ardour of the people, hurrying to witness the 59th Republic Day parade. All the routes to the various viewing stands on Rajpath were chock-full of people -- men, women and children -- on their way to the show.

********* Extensive security arrangements were in place at all the routes leading to Rajpath with heavy police deployment to counter any eventuality. However, equipped with loudspeakers to direct the crowds, policemen were patiently answering the queries of people wanting to know where their alloted viewing stands were situated.

********* People arriving early eagerly hoped for bright sunshine to dispel the lingering cold, so that they could enjoy the show. Apprehensions surfaced when the rising sun seemed to be shadowed by clouds and only lukewarm sunshine was felt. However, the gods seemed to have been favourably disposed to the peoples' pleas as the sun shone at full strength during the course of the parade. The sunshine, though, again got dim after the function conclued.

********* The arrival of a single VIP car at the review stand soon after the arrival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice President Hamid Ansari there evoked slight mystery until the occupant got up and revealed himself to be the President's husband Devi Singh Shekhawat. Clad in a cream bandh-gala suit and a big trailing saffron-coloured turban with a green border, he was escorted to his seat in the stand.

********** The biggest hit of the parade was the 18 young red-blazered recipients of the National Bravery Awards for Children-2007.

Greeted with thunderous applause as they came on richly-caparisoned elephants, the audience enthusiastically waved at them, following the lead of President Pratibha Patil, the Vice President and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The face of eight-year-old Ankit Rai, whose brave act was particularly mentioned by the Prime Minister when he presented the awards to them on Thursday, lit up, as he passed the press enclosure and saw the Indian and visiting French journalists waving at him.

*********** A visiting French journalist was heard asking from her colleague as to why the French multi-role Mirage fighter aircraft -- a vital part of the IAF -- was not part of the IAF flypast at the end of the parade, which otherwise included the deep penetration strike Jaguars, the multi-role MiG-29s and the air superiority Su-30 MKIs, apart from helicopters and transport and cargo aircraft.

*********** Veteran commentator Jasdev Singh, who was yesterday conferred the Padma Bhushan, and covered today's parade, remarked at the end that he had been doing this for the past 45 years but admitted that every year, it had been a totally new experience.

*********** After the parade ended and people thronged the Rajpath swamping the security personnel present, crowds suddenly dissipated as a half-a-dozen National Security Guardsmen, clad in their trademark black uniform and headgear, armed to the hilt and bearing camouflage marks, came down from their vantage point near the India gate and moved towards their vehicles.


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