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Nagapattinam: Republic Day at Ground Zero
Archana Masih in Nagapattinam | January 26, 2005 12:42 IST
Last Updated: January 26, 2005 17:41 IST
The memorials quietly stand at the edge of the calm Bay of Bengal where the white, clear ocean, that took so many lives a month ago, now gently laps the shore. Boards nailed to bamboo sticks read -- Subramani, Manju, Sathya...
On the morning of Republic Day, a short distance from where the destroyed boats are piled -- many still have the Indian flag fluttering from the sails -- the Panchayat Union Primary School is preparing for its first celebration after the tsunami took the lives of its 59 pupils.
Some kids have turned up early to help the schoolmaster. The flag post was painted and paper flags put up yesterday. One kid quickly brooms the ground, an alpana is neatly drawn in front of the flag post, the teachers arrive in their uniform of crisp green saris and the kids scurry back home to wear their uniforms.
Headmaster R Balu who has brought his two little children on his moped says the school usually had a grand function, but this time the circumstances are different. School reopened on January 10 when 70 out of the 731 students returned to classes. Last Thursday, 492 were back but they were still scared of the word 'tsunami.'
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The children – around 25 odd - arrived neatly dressed just as the village head, the chief guest, reached the school. But it was S Pradeep, a smart Class V student, who conducted the solemn ceremony. He led the school into observing his country's 56th Republic Day with dignity and confidence which would make any Indian proud.
He marched to the flag post handsomely. Invited the chief guest to hoist the flag and commanded the boys and girls to salute the Tricolour, followed by a song for the national flag.
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One of the guests at the function was a British lady who had arrived in Nagapattinam on December 31 and had been spending time at the school. She heard of the tragedy in France and just rushed to India. She stood observing the ceremony and on speaking about the children was moved to tears.
"These are wonderful kids, they are lovely. We would like them all to get a good education," she said requesting us not to reveal her name.
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At India's Ground Zero – where another body was recovered on Tuesday taking the tsunami toll to 6064 – Republic Day was observed with solemn respect. Yes, it was short of the customary pageantry but not of its glory.
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