New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) A thousand hearts beating with pride, thousands of feet tapping to patriotic tunes — the sea of humanity in front of Delhi’s historic Red Fort was throbbing with patriotic fervour as the nation celebrated its 70th Independence Day.
The crowd erupted with a joyous roar and school children stood on their toes to catch a glimpse as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cavalcade arrived at the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort around half past seven amid a fanfare.
Clad in a white half-sleeved kurta and skin tight pyjama, complimented with a pink-yellow-maroon turban, Modi looked dapper as he strode to inspect the guard of honour.
He was received by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, junior Defence Minister Subhash Bhamre and Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar.
On the road in front of the fort, paramilitary troopers stood in alert while agile National Security Guard commandos added to the vigil.
Since no vehicles — except for those with stickers issued by Defence Ministry — were allowed in a two km periphery of the venue for security reasons, the public had to walk a considerable distance to reach the Red Fort. But that did not diminish their enthusiasm.
The crowd once again erupted as soon as Modi appeared on the ramparts, though it was muted as compared to the thunderous applause one witnessed two years ago, when Modi delivered his maiden Independence Day speech.
As the Prime Minister unfurled the national flag from the ramparts, overlooking the historic Jain Mandir and Gurudwara Sisganj in the front and the Mughal era Jama Masjid on the left, the booming sound of the ceremonial 21-gun salute filled the air.
The Prime Minister did not look his assertive self for most part of his speech, which sounded repetitive for the most part.
As the speech proceeded, and the harsh August sun shone over them, many school children — perhaps too young to understand the import of the grave national issues that Modi was dwelling on — became restless. The teachers and security personnel had a hard time in keeping them to their places.
“It’s been an hour sir. How much more,” a boy from a government school was heard moaning to his teacher, as he tried in vain to shield his eyes from the sun.
To be fair, there were flashes of Modi’s free-flowing oratory on occasion, as when he pointed to the analogy between the Upanishads and upagrahs (satellites) and ‘Chakradhari Mohan (Lord Krishna) and Charkhadhari Mohan (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi), or when he shamed Paksitan over glorifying terror and mentioned the greetings he received from the people of Balochistan and the Gilgit-Baltistan regions of Pakistan.
As Modi finished his speech, school children and National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets sang the national anthem as the crowds, standing at attention, too joined in the chorus.
Balloons in saffron, white and green filled the sky floating away an unknown destinations and carrying the message of the Tricolour — sacrifice, peace and prosperity.
(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at [email protected])