Slogans like 'Jai Hind' and war cries such as 'Jo Bole So Nihaal', used by various regiments, add to the already-pumped up atmosphere on Rajpath.
Flt Lt Shrikant Sharma, who is set to lead the 144-strong India Air Force contingent on Rajpath on Sunday for the second consecutive year, says there is “no room for complacency” and he has competed with himself to “better his last performance” during the parade.
“I have been chosen again and it is a matter of double pride for me and my family. But representing the IAF and the nation in the Republic Day parade fills one with great humility,” he said.
The 27-year-old IAF officer, brimming with pride, says he and his contingent have practiced very hard to “perfect the moves” in biting Delhi winter.
“Delhi saw its second coldest winter in over a century. But we all would be there at the crack of the dawn to do the rehearsals. Life in the armed forces teaches you to be disciplined so waking up early was definitely not an issue. Plus, the gravity of the event pumps you up,” Sharma said.
Towards the end of December, temperature in Delhi had plummeted to 2.4 degrees Celsius, and parade contingents also braved chilly winds and heavy fog during rehearsals last month.
“But this cold was nothing in front of the ‘josh’ we drew from each other on the Rajpath during the practice and when people, morning walkers and joggers huddle up on the streetside to watch you, it adds even more energy, notwithstanding the chilly weather,” Flt Lt Sharma told PTI.
Sharma hails from Jaipur and has been a National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadet. After his selection as the IAF contingent leader last year, he had said that the achievement was also a nod to his father’s dream of serving in the armed forces.
“But having been chose again for the job again did not mean I felt complacent with a ‘been there done that’ kind of attitude. There was no room for complacency. I competed with self, watched our video of the last parade,” he said.
Sharma shared that initially his instructor would tell him “I was not that good as I was last year and needed to buck up”.
“Then I practiced very hard because as a contingent leader you not only become the face of the contingent but also have to take responsibility for your team, glory comes as a team, and we shine together and not individually,” he asserted.
Sharma, who has flown Super Dimona, PC-7, Kiran MK III, Hawk and Sukhoi Su-30, says he is “high on josh”.
The IAF will also showcase a host of air defence capabilities of the country during the Republic Day celebrations here, with newly-inducted stealth attack helicopter Apache and Chinook choppers making their debut in Republic Day Parade.
The IAF was adjudged the Best Marching Contingent in 2011, 2012 and 2013, officials said.
Captain Tania Sher Gill, who will lead an all-men contingent of Corps of Signals during the ceremonial parade, says it is a “feeling of immense honour and great pride, a sense of achievement and worthiness, and absolute blessing”.
Asked if the biting Delhi cold weakened the enthusiasm of parade contingents she quipped, “No. The energy level is so high on Rajpath, and we ‘faujis’ draw ‘josh’ from each other and march with a common heartbeat.”
Women officers, part of the Navy contingent that will march down Rajpath, were also excited about the big day with a lot of ‘josh’.
Sub Lt M Spandana Reddy, 24, who hails from Hyderabad, exuded pride and said, “It is a sheer honour for us. As a navy officer and as an Indian, the opportunity to walk down Rajpath during the ceremonial parade fills us with an extraordinary high,” Reddy told PTI.
Slogans like ‘Jai Hind’ and war cries such as ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal’, used by various regiments, add to the already-pumped up atmosphere on Rajpath, leaders of various contingents said.
“And yes, it was biting cold in December and we practiced without much winter wear in chilly winds and fog. But trust me the ‘josh’ we draw from each other is phenomenal and enough to keep us warm and alert,” she said.
India’s military might and some of the state-of-the-art assets of the armed forces will be showcased during the Republic Day parade at Rajpath, with artillery gun system ‘Dhanush’ and a marching contingent of the Army Air Defence set to take part in the ceremonial event for the first time.
Maj Anjum Gorkha, who will lead the Sikh Light Infantry (SIKHLI) contingent, said, “As a leader, my challenge is to make sure the each and every member moves in perfect synchronisation. And when me march together, it is actually our discipline and team work at display. We march with common heartbeat.”