As a child, when I first heard ‘India Gate”, I assumed like for one’s home, it was a gate for the country. Push it open and walk into another country. Much amusement later, my family explained its origins the best they could, given that I could not understand war, death and war memorials (I still don’t understand war completely but that’s another story)
I first saw it the day I also sat through my first ever Republic Day parade. The troops marched past, the dancers performed and as the fighters flew past, I had my first indelible memories etched strong and deep. Ever since, the sight of India Gate always fills me with pride and evokes great happiness. Perhaps I have memories of running around it as a child. Perhaps because the several roads leading off its periphery lead me to places I like visiting! Definitely because I am a soldier’s daughter and the monument exists as a veneration to them.
But there are so many layers to the place.
India Gate. A War Memorial built by the British to honour the bravery of the Indian troops who served in the First World War. A monument built specifically to preserve in memory and to keep.
“In the thoughts of future generations “the glorious sacrifice of the officers and men of the Indian Army who fought and fell”. (The King of England’s message when the foundations were laid).
Thus the Punjabis marched shoulder to shoulder with the Royal Fusiliers- in the war they had fought together and engraved on the walls of the monument to immortalise them.
(How very equalising war can be. Where men from different casts and creeds fight united, to protect the lives of people unknown to them. Yet in times of peace, we discriminate.)
India Gate. Home to the “Amar Jawan Jyoti”. The eternal flame which immortalises in our minds and hearts the unknown Indian soldier who laid down his life so we may live free. The flame in turn is protected by the serving brethren of the three forces who take in turns to do so.
The Republic Day activities commence by homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti and the parade thereafter marches around the India Gate, on its way to Red Fort.
India Gate. A monument in the heart of New Delhi. The lush, well maintained gardens and boating facilities are a favourite family haunt on summer evenings. Balloon vendors, food vendors and a long row of ice cream vendors stand by the road side like a decorative frill and the multitudes descend every evening for an “ice cream” outing and impromptu picnics.
The India Gate of today has a no vehicular traffic area around it. One can walk up to it and around it. Tourists gaze at it lit up wonderingly. The personnel of the three services on duty round the clock are rigid and erect on guard but would smile and chat off duty . A child buys popcorn and candy floss. A bunch of youngsters mull over ice cream choices. A couple strolls past chatting quietly. The lawns occasionally play host to cultural events and activities.
There is laughter. Smiling faces. Happiness. There is a great sense of being carefree in the moments there. There is freedom.
A fitting tribute then to those in memory of whom India Gate stands today.
The author is the daughter of a
retired Air Commodore.