क़दम क़दम बढ़ाये जा

ख़ुशी के गीत गाये जा

It was this tune that greeted me in the near-zero visibility of Delhi’s foggy morning. I had reached about 15 minutes back and was about to leave as there was no sight of what I had come to see. 

Just as I started walking back, the faint taps of leather on concrete and unmistakable tunes of the Indian Army Band convinced me to stay, that I couldn’t have been in a better place. I still couldn’t see the band due to the thick blanket of fog.

A Soldier defends the Raisina

On asking a CRPF Officer, he told me that I would be better off with the photos if I went to Vijay Chowk, near the Secretariats. I followed his advice and after a brisk walk from near the Parliament house, I could see the Chowk through a thick fog.

I reached the place at a time when the Navy Contingent was on a recess after their practices. They had gathered around the traffic post. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got a chance to interact with them. 

I discovered a rather beautiful thing that day, that the people in the forces aren’t born different. They are normal people who have undying respect for their uniform and country, and enough courage and persistence to keep going. 

This was the moment when I decided to pull out my camera and take a snap when I was greeted by frost on my lens. Luckily the GoPro did not face the problem and the shot was taken.

The Navy Contingent

Well, the recess got over and the contingent took positions for the practice. Luckily, I managed to secure a spot for myself, on the traffic stand just behind, that gave me a view right through the centre of the group. The following minutes, while sitting on the ground, I was able to capture some priceless moments between the team and their commander. 

The Navy Contingent

As the troop marched off towards the India Gate, disappearing in the dense fog, the Vijay Chowk echoed with the sound of trucks rolling in. Not long after, the NSG started to jog to and from the Parliament house as a part of their warmup drill, while being fully equipped. The Air Force band now started their practice and what a melody it was. 

The NSG during their practice runs

A few minutes later, post the departure of the Air Force contingent, the NSG began to take positions. The NSG is the National Security Guard and comprises the most elite and lethal commandos in the force. And while other troops march, the NSG jogs, followed by their APCs and special units like the K9 and Sniper unit in positions. This was when I got the opportunity to stand in front of the contingent as they did the last round of warm-up. The trucks and APCs also lined up behind them and it was a sight to behold. 

The NSG APCs Rolling in

After a warm-up, the NSG took off. I stood just a few feet away and tried to run with them. After a few minutes, I realised why not everyone makes it to the elite. They jog in the cold, carrying tons of equipment and guns to their chests. All this while wearing balaclavas and keeping the war-cry loud enough to suppress the sound of trucks behind them. 

As I turned back and headed back to the Vijay Chowk, the Navy contingent was heading out for their final practice of the day. I witnessed their pre-march cries to raise the team’s morale and the liftoff. The loud “Har Har Mahadev” was loud enough to strike fear in the heart of anyone who has ill intentions for the nation.

The Navy Contingent all geared to march down

The Air force contingent came back soon after. The josh was still high as the entire area lit up with the smiles of the contingent. They took a break and got up to leave. After asking around, I got to know that the practice was now over.

The Air Force Walking Back
The Air Force and their Commander

I decided to head back home. With a load of photos, clips and moments that one hardly forgets. As I walked down the Rajpath to catch the metro, a feeling of joy engulfed me. The only thing that held me back from screaming in joy was a gut feeling that said..

The best was yet to come.

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