Watching the first Republic Day parade pass by her home in Daryaganj and attending the President’s tea party after the second one is how Dr Sushama Priyadarshini, now 82 years old, remembers India’s first Republic Days.
A retired Hindi professor from the University of Delhi, she recalled how the country was in a festive mood on the eve of the first Republic Day as she spoke to The Quint.
Priyadarshini’s father, Dr Nagendra Nagaich, was the head of the Hindi news department at All India Radio (AIR) and though he had gotten passes to attend the parade, he was on duty to make sure the country would be able to hear the live broadcast of the parade.
Part of the procession stops at Rajpath and the rest continues till Red Fort. We lived in Daryaganj so we went to our friend’s home from where we could saw the rest of the procession. I remember the children who got the bravery award were so excited and waving their hands as they passed by on an elephant. I also remember the soldiers on horseback, who were decked up so colourfully.Dr Priyadarshini
The octogenarian recalled how there were school students who danced as they passed by and how at the end of the parade, there were airplanes that coloured the skies with the tricolour.
On the second Republic Day, we were in the enclosure right opposite the President’s. The children sat on dhurries and were given balloons. There was lots of excitement in the air and everyone was really happy.Dr Priyadarshini
The retired professor recalled with childlike glee how first the Defence Minister Mahavir Tyagi arrived, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then finally the President Rajendra Prasad arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. The horses, she remembers, were beautiful to look at.
The President sat at the dais under a gorgeous umbrella and the programme began by honouring soldiers and giving them awards. Then there was the military procession but it was on a much smaller scale than what happens today. But, it was new and novel for us so it was a lot of fun watching it. Even the tableaus were just six or seven but they were so new and interesting for us to watch.Dr Priyadarshini
Priyadarshini remembered how, though her school did not participate in the Republic Day festivities, there was still a programme held in her school on 25 January where all the girls would sing patriotic songs. The older girls would wear white with a tricoloured dupatta and the younger ones would have tricolour ribbons in their plaits.
After the festivities, she recalled visiting the President’s estate with her family along with National Poet Maithili Sharan Gupt for a ‘Tea Party’ which, as any young child, she assumed would be a gala affair. But, it turned out to be just homely tea, coffee and cold drinks, and a few snacks were served. She also remembered meeting Jagjivan Ram and other ministers of Nehru’s cabinet at the event.
As she wrapped up her story, I realised how animated she was as she narrated the story and had turned into a young girl, witnessing a landmark event from her life.