Singing the national anthem is a matter of pride at any time. But when you get the opportunity to sing it facing the tri-colour that the Prime Minister has just unfurled at the grand celebration of India’s Republic Day, the feeling of pride reaches an entirely different level.
I say this from my personal experience.
On this Republic Day, I had the wonderful opportunity to witness the magnificent parade from up close. I was chosen as one among the 100 women achievers selected from all over India. It was quite a proud and humbling experience to be among such great daughters of India. Among them were women fighting against social injustice, risking their lives to protect women’s rights, ladies that were breaking the barriers by becoming the first women bus driver, the first women train driver, the first women to lead the Republic Day Parade.
It was truly awesome to be sitting with such greats, to be considered as one of them.
I sure am never going to forget the day, for more reasons than one.
The day started at night, actually. As we were to attend the Republic Day as a team, we were supposed to report at a hotel. (All this was being managed by the team of News World India, the channel showcasing empowered women through their show Ab Ke Baras Mohe Bitiya Hi Dijo). The reporting time was 4:30 am. Yes, 4:30 am! And for that, I had to start from home by 3:30 am. That usually is the time when I go to sleep!
Anyway, I forced myself into bed at 11 pm on the 25th to try and catch a little sleep before setting out. But sleep was impossible, of course. I woke up sharp at 2:30 am, without having slept at all. And because there was no other option, my mother and I did manage to leave our home by 3:30 am on the conveyance provided to us. That definitely was the first time I travelled on the Ghaziabad roads at so late an hour. But we were not alone. There was one gentleman also already in the cab, along with his special daughter Miss Palak Kalia.
Palak is a special child with some cognitive challenges. But she is a national level racing champion!
On the way, we also picked up the brave lady who selflessly works hard every day to control the traffic on a busy intersection of roads. She stands there at the crossing every day, no matter what the weather. And all this just to make sure that no more accident takes place on that dangerous crossing. One such accident had killed her own daughter and made Mrs. Doris Francis vow not to let that deadly crossing claim another life.
Picking up Mrs. Francis took more time than we had and we were scared that we’d be too late. But fortunately, all went well. We reported at the hotel late, but it was okay. We were still able to reach the parade ground in time.
Due to security reasons, all vehicles were stopped a long way away from Rajpath. And there was no option but to walk up to the parade ground. I tell you, that is the longest I had ever walked! As I walk rather slowly, I soon got separated from my team. And as I didn’t even have a phone with me (I had been told it will not be allowed in), I had no way to contact the organizer. So I just walked on with my invitation card in hand. Thanks to the help and guidance of the security staff, I managed to find out where my team was sitting. What a relief that was!
My journey to the Parade Ground hadn’t exactly been easy. But it was all worth it.
Seeing the parade from up close was so awesome. As our specially reserved seats were exactly opposite the Prime Minister’s stage, we were able to see all activities happening in front of us. And it was all super thrilling.
The grand beginning when the helicopters flew above our heads sprinkling petals. Then watching our Prime Minister unfurl the tri-colour and the pride of joining our voice to the rising tunes of our national anthem. Then the sight of the contingents marching close to us. The sight of the massive Brahmos and Akash missile! The spectacle of seeing the dog squad trotting along in tune with the drumbeat. The following tableaus and the dances by kids were fun to watch. But when the finale came and the jets flew by with resounding roars, all we could do was stare up at the sky and cheer and clap.
It was a special day for the whole of India. But for me, it became the day I’d never forget. The day that made me feel that yes, i have managed to achieve a little something. I have managed to break through some barriers. But being among so many great ladies also showed me that there’s a lot more to be achieved still. And that greatness doesn’t just rest with big salaries or grand success. Greatness also rests with simple girls who fight against child marriage, or with someone who has no hands but still teaches poor kids, or the one who picked up the profession of newspaper vendor when she was only a young kid just because her family needed support.
The day didn’t just give me memories worth cherishing forever, it also taught me that true greatness comes from believing that no matter how hard the circumstance, determined efforts can still open a way out of them.
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