Joyce penned the words ‘here comes everybody’.
Holquist darkly reiterates it to describe 1917 Russia when no one was spared as spectator.
Reading Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World, I watch the Republic Day parade after a gap of several years on the national broadcasting DDK with Gargantua’s bellowing laughter ringing in the back of my mind. Here comes the nation.
The street of Rajpath is decorated with tricolours and flooded with people. The ritual begins. The Prime Minister arrives in his motorcade. The President arrives with the Presidential Guards trooping in mounted on horses. They pay floral tributes at Amar Jawaan where the stark sculpture of a single rifle strung with a helmet reminds us of the numerous faceless soldiers. Today, the fire is kept burning here. The memorial is heavily decorated with flowers. One side is left open for visitors. The other three sides are flanked by the three military wings of army, navy and air force: one on each side, its personnel in full ceremonial regalia. The nameless soldiers are given honour and saluted for their deeds.
The year’s most prestigious military recognitions are awarded. The handful of children whose acts have been recognised as brave are paraded. This time they are in open vehicles unlike the elephants in the past.
The military and para-military strut in their decorated uniforms in perfect formations: head held high, nose in the air, crisp ironed costumes, arranged in orderly formations. The daredevils as usual drive in with several people in various formations on a motorcycle, obviously traffic rules have been dispensed off. They are joined by the CISF, NCC, NSS. Here comes the nation.
A music band marches in: Kadam kadam badhaye jaa, khushi ke geet gaye ja (Step by step we march forward, singing happy songs). Here comes the nation.
Enter the tableaus. Leading the tableaus is an assemblage of screws, chains and bolts into a one-dimensional shape of the lion of ‘make-in-India’. But wait, did the channel not introduce twenty-nine states and seven union territories? The state tableaus could not have numbered that much. But well, here comes the nation.
The flood, the human rights violation, the AFSPA, the turmoil that is Jammu &Kashmir: but the tableau has (presumably) Pandits, Muslims and Ladakhis harmoniously singing along the Rajpath. Walking along the left of the tableau is a man who is completely out of tune with the theme of the tableau. He is stoic in military uniform marching with purposeful strides to a structured rhythm set on some other tune that we cannot hear. Here comes the nation.
Assam with its annual life-disrupting floods and communal clashes wheels in with Satriya dancers on an island (majuli perhaps) surrounded by water and infested with the camera laden tourists possibly pulled in by the promise of ‘paradise unexplored’. But wait, once again, on the left of the tableau is a man in military uniform marching not to the satriya tune being played but to a regimented tune. Left-right-left. Here comes the nation.
Arunachal Pradesh, that troubled state of India which China refers to as Southern Tibet, shows another slice of life from yet another part of ‘paradise unexplored’. Again, on the left side ushering in the tableau is the march of a man in uniform. As the tableau and its people move around to show a slice of life – singing, swaying,moving about, looking around, he does not smile nor does he loiter but marches with eyes ahead completely at odds with the tableau. Here comes the nation.
Gujarat brings in a larger than life model of Sardar Patel with a white screen to project the dam bearing his name. The commentator tells us that it bears the message of the dam as unifying people of different communities. Dancing to the lively beat of dandia alongside are people in colourful costumes. No, the man in uniform ushering in the pavilion on its left is not heeding to the dandia beats. He does not falter. He walks upright swinging his hands in rhythm to the regimented walk. Here comes the nation.
And so continued, the festive riot of life contained in tableaus paraded through Rajpath to present themselves at the foot of Raisena hills in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi in a backdrop flanked by India Gate on one side, Rashtrapati Bhavan on the other to a gathering of ranks and positions. The statue of King George V has long gone from the area but its canopied pedestal still stands nearby. Here is the nation.
But wait, the parade is not just at Rajghat. It only culminates there. The parade of twenty-sixth of January at Rajpath to celebrate India’s Republic Day. The spectacle that is the nation.
In its east-most state of Manipur, in yet another part of ‘paradise unexplored’, the parade culminates at Kangla. On this day, every year there are a handful of bomb blasts. Every year, a bandh/general strike is called on this day by one or the other groups. Every year, it is mandatory for the government officials to attend it. Here is also the nation.
Every year on this day in Manipur, people make no plans to venture out. Every year television is indulged in. Every year, the government treats its people with the rare gift of uninterrupted power supply. Here is also the nation.
disclaimer: the photographs used here have been sourced from elsewhere, the sources are mentioned underneath each photograph