By Nikhil M Babu
New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) On Tuesday morning, when thousands of people were waiting for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Independence Day address at the Chhatrasal Stadium here, suddenly a huge colourful message “Namaskar” appeared in the stands — an artistic formation by 1,143 school girls, seated opposite to where Kejriwal was to speak.
Sitting close to each other, some girls held 25cm square red cloth pieces each, while others displayed yellow ones in a sequence to form the message “Namaskar” in red Hindi alphabets against a yellow background.
The message was not less than 10 metre long and spread across the rows of the stands.
As an overwhelmed crowd clapped and appreciated the children’s effort, little did it realise that the message in Hindi had a strong Russian connection.
Sporting a new white shirt and skirt — gifted by the government to all the 1,143 girls — 12-year-old Anjali was one of the girls behind the ‘Namaskar’ formation.
Anjali, an eighth grader, told IANS that she had been practising for the event for a fortnight.
She showed a 25cm square yellow piece of cloth held on both sides with sticks, which was her tool for the day.
During the course of the hour-long programme, the girls also formed other words, including “Vande Mataram”, “Award Ceremony”, “CM Speech” and “Jai Hind”, and, of course, the national tricolour — all with the same small coloured pieces of cloth.
They raised and dropped their hands in unison while holding the cloth pieces, making the messages come alive amid the applause of audience.
Anjali’s instructor, Pushpa Ratnam, 53, a physical education supervisor of the Delhi government, has been training students on how to display messages for Independence Day and Republic Day for the last 19 years.
Ratnam told IANS that the technique was taught to her by another instructor, and went on to trace its origin to Russia.
“During the Asian Games in 1982, Russians came to India and they taught the technique to a few instructors then. One of the instructors, who has since retired, taught me when I joined,” Ratnam said.
The retired instructor, who was also around, told IANS: “Basically, it’s a Russian drill that they taught a few of us when they came here.”
They then travelled across the country to teach it to different people, he added.
As the celebrations came to an end, Anjali and her friends once again lifted the cloth pieces to form a huge “Thanks”, their last message for the day, before lining up for the bus and heading back to their school.
(Nikhil M. Babu can be contacted at [email protected])
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