The Head of States of ASEAN countries get to watch the spectacular Republic Day parade. Photograph:( PTI )
For 47-year-old BSF soldier Dara Singh marching the Rajpath for a record 18th time is just a small tribute to his ‘revered’ namesake and the iconic wrestler.
Singh, who first put his foot on the historic road in the national capital on January 26, 1996, is fondly addressed as ‘Chacha’ and ‘Sir’ by the greenhorn troopers of various marching contingents from paramilitary and defence forces.
The head constable will probably be the oldest among all the troopers from various forces during the parade on Friday.
“It is the paltan (battalion) ki shaan (pride) that has to be ensured every time we hit the Rajpath. My age has never made me have a second thought in doing this task,” Singh tells PTI at his preparatory camp in New Delhi.
Singh says he is as excited to step on the Rajpath as any first timer.
“I don’t see anyone here who is my age. But, this also puts added responsibility on me as my seniors and instructors tell me that you are the one who will hold the contingent together,” he says.
When asked about his namesake and iconic wrestler, the late Dara Singh, the jawan says: “I stand no where near the great wrestler Dara Singh. He is like god. But, every time I walk the Rajpath and bring glory to my force, it is like paying a tribute to him.”
The BSF team commander, deputy inspector general Pushpendra Singh Rathore, says the usual age profile of the marchers for this all-important parade is about 30 years.
“It is Dara Singh’s crisp and disciplined turn out that makes him different from others. He is marching the Rajpath tomorrow (Friday) for the 18th time and I don’t think any of the personnel who will have that credit to boast,” Rathore, who commanded the parade in 1997, said.
“Dara Singh was with me then also (1997) and he is still around. He is a great motivation to the squad,” the DIG says.