I saw the Republic Day parade for the first time in 1958 as a young ias trainee on duty. It went on for far too long, with every arm of the army, navy and air force insisting on due representation. After 50 years of the same experience, many of us have raised questions: should it be held every year, since for months it disrupts life in the capital, at great economic loss? Should it be so long? The parade length has been cut down over the years, but I still see no reason to march rockets through narrow roads across the city or parade cardboard ships with little toy helicopters swinging on poles. This display of national virility is unnecessary. Yes, the colourful regiments of the Indian army should march, so should select contingents of the navy and air force and the bsf camel corps which people tend to find the most appealing. The tribal dancers from central and eastern India bring life and joy to the gathering. They also bring a sad thought: how long will their culture survive the new economic order rapidly spreading across the country?
I remember the president's tea party in 1958. The number of guests was reasonable in relation to the size of the lawn and made for a comfortable, civilised afternoon. The president and Jawaharlal Nehru walked around the lawns, having a word or two with the guests. We could gawk at Nehru at close quarters. But over the last five years or so, the number of invitees has increased so much that there is only cramped standing room. Because of the vast number of invitees, the super vips are kept behind a rope cordon manned by policemen. The other guests, who include distinguished Indians and diplomats, have to file past in a queue to have their darshan.