As a child, when I first heard ‘India Gate”, I assumed like for one’s home, it was a gate for the country. Push it open and walk into another country. Much amusement later, my family explained its origins the best they could, given that I could not understand war, death and war memorials (I still don’t understand war completely but that’s another story)
I first saw it the day I also sat through my first ever Republic Day parade. The troops marched past, the dancers performed and as the fighters flew past, I had my first indelible memories etched strong and deep. Ever since, the sight of India Gate always fills me with pride and evokes great happiness. Perhaps I have memories of running around it as a child. Perhaps because the several roads leading off its periphery lead me to places I like visiting! Definitely because I am a soldier’s daughter and the monument exists as a veneration to them.
But there are so many layers to the place.
India Gate. A War Memorial built by the British to honour the bravery of the Indian troops who served in the First World War. A monument built specifically to preserve in memory and to keep
“In the thoughts of future generations “the glorious sacrifice of the officers and men of the Indian Army who fought and fell”. (The King of England’s message when the foundations were laid).
Thus the Punjabis marched shoulder to shoulder with the Royal Fusiliers- in the war they had fought together and engraved on the walls of the monument to immortalise them.
(How very equalising war can be. Where men from different casts and creeds fight united, to protect the lives of people unknown to them. Yet in times of peace, we discriminate.)
India Gate. Home to the “Amar Jawan Jyoti”. The eternal flame which immortalises in our minds and hearts the unknown Indian soldier who laid down his life so we may live free. The flame is protected by the serving brethren of the three forces who take in turns to do so.
The Republic Day activities commence by homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti and the parade thereafter marches around the India Gate, on its way to Red Fort.
India Gate. A monument in the heart of New Delhi. The lush, well maintained gardens and boating facilities are a favourite family haunt on summer evenings. Balloon vendors, food vendors and a long row of ice cream vendors stand by the road side like a decorative frill and the multitudes descend every evening for an “ice-cream” outing and impromptu picnics.
The India Gate of today has a no vehicular traffic area around it. One can walk up to it and around it. Tourists gaze at it lit up wonderingly. The three forces stand guard over it round the clock, taking in turns. A child buys popcorn and candy floss. A bunch of youngsters mull over ice cream choices. A couple strolls past chatting quietly. The lawns occasionally play host to cultural events and activities.
There is laughter. Smiling faces. Happiness.
There is freedom.
A fitting tribute then to those in memory of whom India Gate stands today.
(This post was published in the July-August issue of the Salute Magazine)
रमज़ान की एक शाम थी
पुरानी दिल्ली की गलियों से मिलने की चाह थी.
पहुंचे हम सब दोस्त वहाँ.
मंदिर की घंटियों और आज़ान का अनोखा ताल मेल है जहाँ.
ढलती हुई शाम का था गुलाबी आसमान,
रोशनी में लिपटी थी मस्जिद और मीनार
नमाज़ की अदायगी
परिवरों की टोलियान.
मुस्कुराहटें .बातें .हंस्ते चहरों की बोलियान.
टिमटिमाती रोशनी थी हम कदम
चलते-फिरते, रुकते रुकाते
टहलते हुए हम दोस्तों के कदम
यहां थी सेवियां,
वहां थी बिर्यानी.
एक मुस्कुराता हुआ लज़ीज़ कोरमा
एक रंगीन मिज़ाज मीठा
फिरनी का सकोरा मन हुआ चटोरा
क्या खायें.क्या छोडें.
बड़ी थी कश्मकश.
पकवानों के थे ढेर अनेक.
लेकिन पेट तो था सिर्फ एक!
पहले पेट भरा पर नीयत नहीं
तो आँखों से की हसरत पूरी
अब हिल न सके तो क्या करें
धीरे धीरे चले ,की कसरत थोड़ी!
बस गयी मन में उन गलियों की रौनक़
बस गया वो स्वाद.
उन मुस्कुराहटों में है अपनापन.
उन गलियों की अनोखी है कुछ बात
मंदिर की घंटियों और आज़ान का अनोखा ताल मेल है जहाँ.
गुज़ारी हमने रमज़ान की एक खूबसूरत शाम वहां
Rajpath, New Delhi , India. Sunday, 26th January 2014. The 65th Republic Day of India.
The Su-30 MKI soared into a Vertical Charlie and the crowd roared its approval. As the tri-colour balloons soared and the flags unfurled in the skies my faith in my country reaffirmed itself. Substantially.
I washed away, today, my slowly growing, poisonous cynicism as an Indian with the tears of pride I shed as I viewed, in a lot of glory, an India which was receding into chasms of negativity, in my mind and memory.
Cry I did.
At the tribute to the Amar Jawan. Thank you Unknown Soldier for guarding our freedom. I am grateful.
When the Arjun-MK-II –“Desert Ferrari” Tank rolled past. Home grown. When “Tejas” our first indigenous aircraft took a bow. I am filled with pride.
Every time I saw women in the contingents- as part of, leading, all women and on the tableau. I have hope for those who still suffer.
When the contingents of the services marched past in perfect tandem. I have admiration for your discipline and dedication.
When I saw the crowd of thousands, brave the coldest 26th January in a decade to watch and applaud. It fills me with happiness that the day was still important to so many.
All the colour. All the hard work. All our might. The security personnel guarding us as we watched.
There are a lot of things going wrong in our country today. There also a lot of things going right. Emphasis on the negatives alone can be such a shroud of despair. I resolved today to be a more positive Indian.
Why did I have to write all of this down?
As a record for me to refer at will for time tends to erode memory and I want to hold on to this one particularly. It is also the day I said after a long time-I am proud to be an Indian.