Monday, January 25, 2016

A Parade To Remember

On the list of father-daughter pairs brought together by a common interest in national affairs, my dad and I would probably come in second only next to the Nehru-Gandhi duo. My dad and I don't exactly write elaborate letters of discovery  or plan to leave a long legacy of political achievements, but we sure live the hell out the Republic Day Parade every year.

It’s an event we prepare for, from going to bed early the previous night, to waking up early on the morning of the 26th, bright and fresh to watch the parade from the moment the camera spans in to catch the chiefs of the armed forces taking their stand near the Amar Jawan to welcome the president. The household would bustle with official excitement as though we were part of the logistics from a thousand miles away. I doubt if the actual bugle players would feel as pressured as we'd feel, over getting the notes right.

Photo Credits: Doordarshan
Dad and I would sit there gossiping like a pair of veterans, commenting (and mostly disagreeing) on everything from the golden tassels hanging from the neatly pressed uniforms the chiefs sport, the hats ("Why don't they add a lengthier strap? That thing's pretty much cutting his mouth."), to the guest book the President leaves a comment in, the way everyone's walking, the way the bodyguards keep a note of everything ("Look at that...look how they work like spotters! And so young too.", "Dad, that's a kid in the audience wearing big-ass sunglasses and roaming around.")

From as long as I can remember, I've heard my dad yell out the opening command to the parade in tow with the chief of the President's bodyguard (I still don't understand a word of it!); I remember standing in attention to the national anthem, both in the beginning and in the end.
Photo Credits: Doordarshan
I remember making sarcastic comments about the horses and camels that leave a load of crap (literally) on the parade path, (they've added dogs to the mixture from this year), and once the contingents begin marching down the road, Dad translating from Hindi what the commentator is describing. He thinks he understands Hindi and he will absolutely get every single one of them wrong. I used to believe him when I was a kid, I realized what was happening when I learnt Hindi myself, I used to go on a correction binge in my teens to match wits with him, but lately I just agree and give him full marks for enthusiasm.

We tease the marching contingents and chide the bands for not attempting to throw the baton ("Just throw it. We'll take it from there." , "Aww...c'mon, just throw the damn thing would ya?!" , "Will this band throw the baton? No way, they're all so old!" , "Ah! Look at this one; he didn't even bring a baton! Why did he even bother to come?"). We judge the contingents on their marching abilities, Dad yells out something to match each group's salute call (it’s simply ek-do-theen-chaar, and he silently adopted it from last year after I inserted it in a snide correction masquerading as a comment ;)). In general we treat those 3 odd hours as an affair of national importance. (Dad used to dance in his seat to the tune of the performers in the floats and tableaus but has since given it up after a particularly hard giggling fit from mom one year :D).

We are disappointed if the tea-drinker or the newspaper-reader does not turn up in the Daredevils agenda, and we always hear Dad trying to imitate the aircrafts from the flypast, long before they actually turn up on the Rajpath horizon. To us, the interpreter always speaks Tamizh no matter who she is translating for, (ironically so does the Duke when he visits the Wimbledon centre court to handover the trophy; that's just how our lipsync works :D).

Mum is not allowed to use the mixer grinder for too long, intrusions by way of doorbells, phone calls and food calls (unless delivered to the couch) are frowned upon. When the parade draws to a close, mum heaves a sigh of relief louder than the security escorts to the President and the Chief Guest.

I've never enjoyed any festival or event in the family, as much as I enjoy this one day at home every year. I have missed a couple of them when I was away doing my Masters, and I don't know if we'll get to share this day again next year, the quiet nagging that tugged this post out of my heart.

This year, I'm my daddy's girl; Next year, I might be someone's wife and who knows where that's going to take me? My father wants me settled, but I don't think he realizes how much we're going to miss about each other. I know it’s a world connected by technology and we can probably watch the parade at the same time from wherever we'd be at, but it just isn't quite the same as jumping up in joy together when those three girls from the Delhi Public School band kick some serious ass, throwing up their staffs in a spectacular display! (You go girls!)

I learnt to be curious about the world from my father, much like Indira Gandhi did from hers. My dad taught me to observe, to question (a habit he loathes when it comes to questioning him, hah!) and most importantly to learn. If you’ve borne the brunt of my annoying –pain-in-the-ass analytical skills, you now know where I got it from. My dad and I are at loggerheads with each other most of the time, but there’s no one who is in my opinion more badass at being a father, like mine is. I love him and respect him for all that he is and I am going to miss him terribly when it’s time for me to move out.

My only wish is that down the line, my kids would be hooked on to their grandpa’s intellect and his good heart and learn from him like I did. I hope they argue with him and absorb his wisdom, and have even more fun with him than I did. Strict fathers surprisingly make the most-fun grandpas!

And, I sincerely hope, by the time my kids are old enough to sit with him and watch the parade, he has learnt enough Hindi to go around!

My daddy strongest :)