1991 Marching Band – BBVP Pilani 
The Republic Day parade on Rajpath, New Delhi India – I watch it every year on 26 January without fail only because I have known what an honor it is to be part of that parade and walk down Rajpath representing your state, school or regiment. It is an honor that stays with you even 25 years later. 
Every year the parade has breathtaking displays  – the formation of the combat helicopters, the showcasing of tanks and rocket launchers, the various different marching bands, colorful jhankis of the different states and the very sought after sight of the border troops who play a musical band while riding the camels decked in multicolored pompoms. Attended in person by dignitaries including the Prime Minister and the President, thousands of people come to watch the parade and it is televised too. 
A month-long rehearsal goes in for that 2 hour long performance. For those 30 days, people participating in the parade solely focus on the parade. They brave the early morning and late afternoon winter chills and the infamous Delhi fog to walk down Rajpath numerous times a day. The practice never stops  – rain or shine, sick or injured, fog or no visibility, nothing can cause an interruption. The discipline of it is such that it rubs it on all participants. Endurance and patience comes just by watching, by being there, by being a part of it all. 
This is how it looks on the day of the actual parade. Marching Band from 1992

I do not know to play the instrument (BBVP Pilani Girls Band) anymore but I still remember how we would gather at the crack of dawn to rehearse every day. The French horn and other brass instruments have to be blowed in. As you press the cold metal with shivering hands and it meets your skin in almost 0-degree centigrade temperatures, any melody is really tough to come out of it. But we endured and rehearsed. Rehearsed and endured and music and melody finally did come out, much in rhythm. 

The cold barracks that housed us during the nights, the warmth from the chai in the steel mugs, the uniformed men and women surrounding us at all times (that we were in awe of) and the invite to the Rashtrapati Bhavan was all part of that month long stay. Food was not abundant, water was always cold and there were no cell phones, yet that was the most fun lifetime experience we ever possibly had.

When I think of all this I always remember the time  when a fellow band member once walked the entire stretch of Rajpath with  a nail biting her feet from the inside of her marching boots. She did not mention pain, nor displayed any until we reached the finish line. The nail pierced itself by then, the bloodied wound on the feet was bandaged, boots worn and she marched off again. 

Behind the scenes, there is an enormous amount of waiting, repeating, waiting again and doing it all over involved in the process of rehearsals. Each time you do it over, you have to do it perfectly as you did it all the other times. You have to think that the entire nation is watching you and you are saluting the dignitaries as you go past them. And then there is more practice offsite, before and after the actual practice, physical drills, exercise regime and a lot more. It could be easy for the people from the armed forces but for a bunch of school going girls this is an endurance test. They prepare you well for the 2 hours and perhaps for a lifetime. If the discipline was not so severe, the show would never be so well executed year after year. 
The girls in the white knee length boots and red checked skirts, marching with a calm and poised demeanor, creating a historical moment for themselves, therefore always brings back a flood of memories. I never watched myself on TV or saw a recording of it, but I know it was a moment similar to this. 
Story Credit: Piya Mukherjee Kalra, who recounts her experiences as a proud participant at India’s Republic Day Parade as a student.
Photo Credit: Parul Gangal