Navy band master's 30th and last parade

Navy band master's 30th and last parade

Indian Navy's honorary Sub Lieutenant Ramesh Chand Katoch will play his swan song on Republic Day when he  will lead the naval marching contingent on the Rajpath.

Katoch  has participated in 30 Republic Day parades, leading the naval band in the last 20 of them consecutively, setting a record in the history of Indian military bands.

Set to retire in April, 2018, it would be one last hurrah for Katoch to lead the 81-member naval brass band, which  will follow 148 officers and sailors from the navy marching on the central boulevard.

When asked  which Republic Day parade he remembers best, Katoch picked the one in 2001, when the earth shook beneath his feat as he started marching down the Rajpath, leading his team.

"We were shaken for a few moments, but continued. Only later did I come to know about the devastating earthquake," the bandmaster told DH. The quake is said to have killed anywhere between an estimated 14,000 and 20,000 people.

A resident of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, he had learnt to play the flute in his village, and this came in handy when he joined the navy in April 1981.

He  first participated in the Republic Day parade in 1987, when he played flute in the band. Those days, the contingent marched on a longer route, even touching areas near Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk.

Even though he has three decades of experience, there is no let up  when it comes to practice.

"We wake up around 4.30 am and march down from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate two  to three times practising our tunes," Katoch said.

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