The Republic Day Parade is a part of my childhood memory. My school in Delhi was in the heart of the city and every January we would eagerly wait for the rehearsals of the parade to start. Our school would graciously allow us to watch the final rehearsal. All of us would go and cheer the men in uniform. These valiant men ,stiff and straight, would march past and completely ignore the giggly girls. I would often wonder, looking at their straight backs and determined expressions, what made them choose a life that was hard and unpredictable.
In the days of state controlled television, the parade offered us some relief from the monotonous Doordarshan programmes. We would sit in front of the television early morning and watch the grandeur of the Republic Day.The flag fluttering , the President standing amidst all the dignitaries, the foreign guests, the colourful tableaux and the school children dancing on Rajpath. Everything seemed magical. And seeing all this, one never felt more patriotic.
The ones who drew the maximum applause were the men in ceremonial clothes marching without missing a single step. Heads held high and shoulders straight, they would salute the President with grace and dignity and carry on all the way to the Red Fort tirelessly. In the days of Cold War, when military might was everything, these men seemed to tell us that the world around us was safe and no harm would ever come to us till they were there.
The Armed Forces are not the first career choice of most urban youth. Majority of them dream of doing their engineering or medicine. They dream of doing their MBA and want to go abroad. Army does not pay as well and these days to most Indians, money is more important than glory. So even now, every year when I watch the Republic Day Parade on T.V. I still wonder what kind of men would voluntarily choose to live so differently. What kind of men would undergo torturous training day in and day out, live in bunkers for years and stay in extreme cold. All for the sake of offering security to our country.
Today, on the 59th Republic Day of our country, while watching the Parade, I got my answer. In a ceremony that was not totally sombre, the mothers and wives of slain officers accepted with dignity and poise , the awards given to their sons and husbands after their deaths. They were valiant men who lost their lives while performing their duties. When the time came, every single one of them preferred to die than to flee.
These are the men who believe in honour, duty and love. For is it not love that drive them to pledge their own lives for their country? These are men who can stoically carry on with their chosen path even when their friends lose their lives in action . These are the men behind whom stand their fathers, mothers, wives, children...silently encouraging them to march on. These are India's brave hearts... each one of them.