For 47-year-old BSF jawan Dara Singh marching on the Rajpath for a record 18th time today, it is just a small tribute to his namesake and the iconic wrestler.
Singh, who first put his foot on the historic road in the national capital on January 26, 1996, is addressed as “Chacha” and “Sir” by the greenhorn troopers of various marching contingents from the paramilitary and defence forces.
The head constable will probably be the oldest among all the troopers from various forces during the parade today.
“It is the paltan ki shaan 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,” Mr Singh said at his preparatory camp.
“I don’t see anyone here who is my age. But this also puts more responsibility on me as my seniors and instructors tell me that I am the one who will hold the contingent together,” he says.
Standing 5.9 feet, Mr Singh, a resident of Haryana’s Charkhi Dadri, weighs 70 kg and sports a moustache, which he says is the “BSF trademark”.
He will be marching on the right flank of the 144-member BSF contingent that faces the VVIPs, including the President and the Prime Minister, on the dais. Mr Singh says he is a fitness enthusiast and has milk and ghee in his regular diet.
“We are trained in such a way that even a snake cannot sneak past our border post. After the parade, I will be back doing that only,” he says. The head constable is posted along the India-Bangladesh border in Tura in Meghalaya.
When asked about his namesake and the iconic wrestler, the late Dara Singh, the jawan says: “I stand nowhere 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’s 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 turnout that makes him different from others. He is marching the Rajpath for the 18th time and I don’t think any personnel will have that credit to boast,” Mr Rathore, who commanded the parade in 1997, said.
On what kind of advice he gives to young personnel, the head constable says: “It’s something like — be alert if you want to sleep peacefully. So I tell them that sleep well, eat well, relax but be very scrupulous and attentive to the training you are undergoing as there cannot be a retake to the parade on the final day.”