People started pouring in at the Rajpath from early morning with parking enclosures full to capacity almost two hours before the parade commenced at 10 am.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elegantly dressed in a fawn bandhgala suit and a saffron turban alighted from his vehicle, people cheered and clapped with many standing up to catch a glimpse of him.
People had to wait in long queues, sometimes stretching half a kilometre, due to stringent security checks. While the children were joyous in anticipation of exhilarating sights, adults seemed to be filled with a sense pride at the prospect of watching the country’s defence prowess and cultural diversity from up close.
The enclosures were packed to capacity. “The police refused to allow my car’s central locking key inside at any cost. I didn’t know what to do as my car was parked far away. There were more people like me. So we hid the keys in the parking lot. Hope we find them,” said Rahul Sharma from Rohini in west Delhi.
The sky was hazy and the low-flying choppers at the beginning of the parade were visible for barely a few seconds. The India Gate was just a silhouette from the press enclosure – which was diagonally opposite the saluting base where the VIP’s were seated – and the Rashtrapati Bhavan was completely invisible.
The sight of army dogs, that returned to Rajpath after 26 years, and the gaily caparisoned BSF camels, made the crowd stand up and cheer. The children looked particularly charmed with the so well-behaved dogs and the swaggering camels.
“I had to jostle in long queues and had to endure early morning chill. My little kid was even tired of walking down from the parking lot to here. But in the end it is rewarding,” said Fatima, who came from Old Delhi to watch the parade.
The huge T-90 main battle tanks did inspire awe, which was further complimented by the Brahmos missile coming after them, but there wasn’t much after that in terms of weaponry.
The tableaux, however, did not evoke much cheers, neither did the motorcycle stunts elicit the expected ovation.
“The themes of tableaux seemed familiar and the design elements did not impress me,” said Vikas Singh, a resident of Gurgaon.
People also could not get the full thrill of flypast, the concluding part of the parade, due to fog. The Sukhoi SU-30 MKI “Trishul” formation and the breathtaking vertical charlie by another SU-30 was a barely two-second sight. The planes quickly disappeared into the sky, their roar heard till long after.
Anjali Vyas, who came all the way from Jaipur to watch the parade, said she had more expectations. “I came with so much expectations. But it was not as good as I had thought. The contingents came close on each others’ heels and there was no time to soak a sight in. Everything looked hurried and mechanical,” she said. (IANS)