x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Indian community marks Republic Day

India's expatriate community gathered in the capital early yesterday morning to kick off celebrations for the nation's 62nd Republic Day.

Students of Indian High School performs cultural dances, to celebrate India's Republic Day, at Indian High School grounds.
Students of Indian High School performs cultural dances, to celebrate India's Republic Day, at Indian High School grounds.

India's expatriate community gathered in the capital early yesterday morning to kick off celebrations for the nation's 62nd Republic Day.

MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador to the UAE, unfurled the Indian flag while a dozen pupils from the Model School in Musaffah sang the national anthem.

Later, Mr Lokesh read from a speech delivered by the Indian president Pratibha Patil in New Delhi, in which she extended her "warmest greetings … to those living abroad".

"It is always a great day for us, when we celebrate with brothers and sisters of our country," said Bharti Rajput, who runs a meditation centre in Abu Dhabi and has attended Republic Day gatherings for the past six years.

A cultural programme followed Mr Lokesh's reading of the speech, and pupils from several Indian schools sang and danced to popular and traditional tunes.

"This is one of two occasions every year when we come together to bond, when you get to see all the members of the community," said Surendra Nath, who has lived in the UAE since 1994. "We come to know the pulse of what is going on. This is why we come here every year."

At schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, thousands of children dressed in traditional garb celebrated the birth of the nation's constitution.

More than 2,000 pupils took to the athletic field of Abu Dhabi Indian School with brightly coloured flowers attached to their hands to mimic a garden. They danced to songs while some pupils, dressed as fairies, flitted through the "garden".

Sarvotham Shetty, who is on the board of directors of the school, said the children had practised for 10 days leading up to the event. "These children are very smart," he said. "With a little rehearsal, they did a lot."

Other performances included acrobatics, Dandiya - a traditional Indian dance from the state of Gujarat - as well as drills and demonstrations carried out to the booming of drums.

Binu Feroz kept her camera focused on her two children - Mohammed, 10, and daughter Fayrouz, seven.

"They learn about the importance of the day in school, and this is a great experience for them," said Mrs Feroz. "All their rehearsal was done during school hours. It didn't affect their time after school."

At the Indian High School in Dubai, 4,000 children put on a colourful performance that lasted two hours, following the raising of the Indian national flag.

Proud parents thronged the sports pitch at the high school to catch a glimpse of their children following dance steps they had been rehearsing intensively for 15 days.

"Some of them were born here and have never been home," said Paul George, whose daughter was performing as part of a glittery dance troupe.

"Through this kind of celebration, they can learn about India and feel a connection with their motherland."

Attending the event was Vayalar Ravi, the Indian minister of overseas affairs, and Sanjay Verma, the consul general of India. Mr Verma praised India's "enlightened constitution".

"Anyone of us can be a prime minister," he told the assembled audience. "There's so much to celebrate in India."

The school is also marking its 50th anniversary this year, which meant Republic Day celebrations reached fever pitch. A procession of multi-coloured floats, including a giant elephant, added variety to the finely choreographed dance performances.

Aarun Nathani was among the crowd of parents whose children were performing. "I'm 100 per cent proud of my children," he said. "My son is taking part in a yoga demonstration. He's 11, but he's already very good."

 

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

mcroucher@thenational.ae