It was like India badly wanted the Trumps to see what they missed on Jan. 26 this year.
Almost a month ago, like it does every year, India held the grand annual Republic Day Parade, which, besides displaying India’s military might, showcased its sociocultural splendours with a series of tableaux from the country’s many states.
Today (Feb. 24), India did it again—at least partly, and in reverse—for the US president and his wife, Melania.
Prime minister Narendra Modi took the US first couple on a roadshow across 22 kilometres from the Ahmedabad airport to the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera. Hundreds of Indians lined the route behind barricades, cheering them all along the 35-40 minutes trip.
These barricades were broken only by small, temporary stages on which artistes from various Indian states, including Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, besides Gujarat itself, performed. Whether the dignitaries caught even a fleeting view of these performances is another matter altogether.
During the annual Republic Day parade, held on Raj Path in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, the Indian president, the prime minister, and a high-profile guest—generally a head of state—are seated on a high podium. Tableaux and floats depicting India’s greatness—martial prowess, arts & culture, and history—pass by the dignitaries and the milling public across eight kilometres.
In Ahmedabad today, the stages themselves were small, mostly holding cutouts of specific themes.
For instance, the ones around Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram had life-size photos of the Father of the Nation through various stages of his life. One wonder if someone was explaining to the Trumps exactly what the Indians were trying to impress upon them.
The Republic Day floats, a matter of pride and well-deliberated upon, are prepared months in advance. Sometimes, they can be political hot potatoes, too. This year, for instance, floats from some non-Bharatiya Janata Party-governed states like Kerala and West Bengal were left out.
The Ahmedabad tableaux looked mostly haphazard, brought up after the US announced Trump’s maiden official visit to India on Feb. 13.
India’s military might is also an intrinsic part of the Republic Day parade, where different contingents of the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force march past the Indian president, the commander of the defence forces. In Ahmedabad, India did display its might—but only in terms of teeming security personnel on the ground.
Between the US Secret Service, special protection group, paramilitary forces, and local police force, there were 12,000 men and women protecting the two heads of states.
But at least they didn’t have to dance when no one was looking—or cared.