"Daddy, what is Republic Day?" asked our son Enoch (almost 6). I explained how we as a nation had achieved Independence from the British in 1947 and how over the next 2 years a constitution was framed under the guidance of Dr. Balasaheb Ambedkar. On Jan 26th 1950, the sovereign Republic of India came into being, with its own guiding laws in its constitution and a President as the (symbolic) head of state, with the prime minister as the elected leader of the country.
Today the big parade in New Delhi is mainly a military parade.
Are we a patriotic people? Its hard to say. Many were not even aware of the day. For most it was a day off work. A few gathered in the morning to raise the flag at their housing complexes or neighbourhood flagpost.
While we are fighting a number of armed struggles as a nation - most of these are low-intensity conflicts carried out by para-military forces like the Central Reserve Police Force and the Border Security Force. It is rare for our army to be deployed - though obviously the many years that the army is being used in Kashmir and in some of the North Eastern states is no fluke.
Our neighbours seem to be in even worse shape.
The Pakistani army is apparently fighting with the Taliban in their border areas. How vigorous this is - and much covert support is coming from within the military establishment for the enemy is anyone's guess. What is clear is that the Americans do not buy into what the Pakistani establishment says - and has been regularly sending in drones and guided missiles to kill suspected Taliban on Pakistani soil. This is obviously something that enrages the Pakistanis - you can imagine what it would be like if Russia or France started killing people in our country with sophisticated weapons.
In beautiful Sri Lanka - the very ugly war continues. The SL army claims today to have captured the last Tamil Tiger held city - after an agressive campaign which seems to be on the verge of removing the overt control that the Tigers had in their areas. As you can see below - it is a very messy war - and the rains don't help.
Over the pond to Africa - and we have the various militias and military men involved in all kinds of power games. It is a great blessing that our military forces seem to be largely apolical. The exception that proves the rule is the sensational arrest this month of an army officer who is alleged to have helped a female sadhavi (religious leader) make bombs to place in Muslim places and spread few.
Our soldiers are paid on time. Not like those in Zimbabwe - or come to think of it pretty much everyone in Zimbabwe. The primary school teachers across the country have gone on strike - in order to press for their receiving at least a minimum wage worth of a salary.
Its a cruel world. A world where many things don't make much sense - and a place where the dreadful reality of a professional military force is sadly needed. While I respect the discipline, dignity and sacrifice of our own armed forces - I wish they would be out of a job - because everything in our land would be so peaceful and secure that they would have to beat their gun barrels into golf clubs, and their grenades into toy turtles etc.
A dream world? Yes, when we use our current cynical 'common sense'. The good news is that the Bible talks about a day when "they will beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isa. 4.2). That day can only take place because Jesus is due back - as our master and Lord. We hope and pray for this day.
In the meantime we put up with the armed forces - for at least a little longer.