Republic Day Sidelights

Many were seen shedding their extra wollen as the sun came out.Those gathered at the majestic Rajpath before the parade were heard talking about last year when fog played spoilsport with the Army flypast in the beginning being taken off, but a shining sun allayed such apprehensions.

The four Mi-17 helicopters showered flower petals on the spectators at the start while a scintillating display of an array of aircrafts at the end of the parade added to the dramatic effect.
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The majestic Republic Day parade impressed the distinguished personalities who looked keen to capture the images.

While chief guest Indonesian President's wife Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's wife Annie clicked the colourful BSF camel contingent's photograph with her camera, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi used his mobile phone to capture a floral tableau of 'Save the Tigers' by the CPWD.
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The oldest participant in this year's parade, M M Shukla walked into a huge applause with the VVIPs joining the ordinary citizens as the commentator announced that he was a 87-year-old war veteran.

Shukla, the Flying Officer of Royal Air Force based in Rawalpindi's Chaklala during the World War II, was leading the contingent of former soldiers.

As Shukhla along with his colleagues approached the saluting dais where President Pratibha Patil, her Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were sitting, the commentator said, "They have given up their uniforms but not their soldierly gait...the medals on their chest tell their story of valour."
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Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had the honour of appearing in the parade twice!
The first was in a tableau of Culture Ministry and Sangeet Natak Akademi to commemorate his 150th birth anniversary.

A big bust of the celebrated poet formed the foreground of the tableau with Santiniketan in the backdrop along with depiction of a meeting Mahatma Gandhi had with him. Tagore's works like 'Gitanjali' and some of his paintings as well as his famous verse 'Ekla Chalo Re' (Go Alone) also formed the artwork.

And towards the end came the Railway Ministry's tableau showcasing the replica of the railway coach used by him during his journey from Bolpur to Kolkata, while a group of people danced to the tunes of Rabindra Sangeet.The Railways chose this coach as it was last used by "Kabiguru".
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Children were the most excited among the spectators and gave elders and security men some tough time in handling them. Security personnel had to coax them to sit and not run towards the railing.

But there was one moment when the children were a bit scared -- sound of tigers roaring.Two floral tigers and two cubs "roared" through the Rajpath bringing to the nation's conscience the need to save the national animal. The float was prepared by CPWD.

The flypast was the most exciting for them as Sukhois, Mi-25s and Dorniers manoeuvred through the air.Some children also broke into a dance at the spectator gallery when a group of students performed 'bhangra'.
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The 'firsts' in the parade were the Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejas',  Active Phased Array Radar, which is a shipborne multi-function radar, and the sophisticated Naval Underwater Weapon System.

The trainer version of Tejas was on display while the Naval Underwater Weapon System (NUWS) had the light weight Torpedo "Tal" and heavyweight torpedo "Varunastra".
The 'Autonomous Underwater Vehicle', a multi-mission unmanned underwater vehicle for surveillance, reconnaissance and counter intelligence was also featured in the NUWS along with 'Mareech" decoy system, which seduces the incoming torpedo and prevents it from homing on to the platforms.
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While the parade here saw spectators getting bowled over witnessing difficult manoeuvres by pilots and dare devil stunts on bikes, for some it meant business.
For street vendors who stationed themselves around Rajpath, business was lucrative today as they catered to spectators leaving after attending the event.

As spectators were not allowed to take any food items or water bottles to the venue, most of them headed straight to the 'chaiwaalas' and fruit vendors outside the cordoned-off area.

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