DUBAI // Anushri Phadke quickly wiped away the tears as she listened to the stirring notes of her national anthem.
"Every year I cry; it's always an overwhelming experience for me," said the mother of twin boys during a celebration of India's 63rd Republic Day at Indian High School.
Nostalgia swept over thousands of Indian nationals across the UAE yesterday as they took part in events recognising the adoption of India's constitution after its independence from British colonial rule.
Many long-term Indian expatriates were overcome with emotion as they stood still and heard the song of national pride at the Dubai school.
"I'm reliving the experience of home with my children, and it's very important for the next generation to know the importance of this day for India," said Mrs Phadke, 38, who moved to the UAE 12 years ago from Pune, in western India.
"I think it's great that we can celebrate our national days and our special festival days here in the UAE."
Republic Day is a national holiday in India. The constitution of India came into force on this day after India freed itself from the British.
Several Indian schools in the Emirates closed for the day and organised cultural programmes.
At Indian High School, several thousand parents and children gathered to hear the consul general Sanjay Verma read out the speech Indian president Pratibha Patil had made to honour the day.
In her speech, Mrs Patil reminded Indians the country's constitution continued to be the nation's guide.
Hundreds of students participated in a ceremonial march and a cultural programme on the school's open grounds in Oud Metha.
To the beat of traditional drums and bells, students in gold-rimmed headdresses and bright, flowing skirts with mirrorwork and sequins performed folk and tribal dances from various Indian states.
They included the classical dances of kathakali and manipuri, with performers in striking masks and embroidered, colourful costumes marked the event.
Meanwhile, about 3,000 people gathered at the Abu Dhabi Indian School as the ambassador MK Lokesh hoisted the saffron, green and white national flag.
The school's chairman, BR Shetty, spoke of the strong ties between the UAE and India.
Themes of friendship and harmony were the focus of dance performances by the students in the capital.
In Dubai, Mr Verma reminded the audience that the famous non-violence leader Mahatma Gandhi was also a non-resident Indian (NRI) who had lived in South Africa for 20 years.
NRIs, he said, were key to the development of the UAE and India.
"The NRI community here is a strong bridge between India and the UAE," Mr Verma said. "Trade between the two countries totals US$1.82 billion (Dh6.63bn) in a week. This is something many countries don't do in a year."
He urged students who had returned to India to understand its complexities and not judge it by the standards of other countries where they had lived.
"There is an attitude of looking at India as commotion-ridden and poor, which doesn't fit with the neatness, cleanliness that you see abroad," Mr Verma said. "But India is a developing nation and this is an unfair comparison. In India, you play a part in the development process."
Noel Sam, 16, has lived in the UAE all his life but plans to work in rural India after studying medicine.
"I love the UAE, I have always felt at home," said Noel, a grade 11 student. "But I want to work in the villages where people need doctors. The poor in India are often overlooked and that's where I want to help people."
He said his parents always turned nostalgic on Republic Day.
"It's a great day to reflect on who we are, how much we have progressed and how far we need to go from here," Noel said.