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R-Day, minus tanks & guns

Mumbai, Jan. 25: When Delhi wakes up to its customary official pageantry and parade this time, a Republic Day change budding for Mumbai’s “mango people” over months will be ripe for savouring.

The national holiday will take on the hues of Francaise, giving the aam aadmi or the “mango people” — a chance to let their hair down like revellers in Paris on Bastille Day.

Mumbai will turn a giant party zone tomorrow with music, fireworks and laser shows, weaning off many from the tedium of watching telecasts of the Delhi parade followed by a siesta and an evening with little to do as many markets and outlets are closed because of the holiday.

The idea, representing the first corporate initiative to bring Republic Day to the masses, sprouted last August when the Congress-NCP government floated the plan along with Bombay First, a public-private partnership working for the city’s regeneration.

Help was sought from some of the country’s top billionaires who call Mumbai home. They agreed, but decided to keep business out of the effort.

“None of the corporate houses involved with the celebrations wanted to use the occasion for branding. We have come together for something special to make Republic Day celebrations a truly mass affair,” said a spokesperson for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, which has lined up a pyrotechnics show at Nariman Point.

Sunil Sabherwal, the Bombay First CEO, echoed the sentiment. “We have requested companies not to go over the top with spending. Everybody is pooling in whatever they can. But this is not a competition to spend, it is an effort to rekindle the spirit of the republic.”

Talk of such spirit reminded many of Bastille Day on July 14, when France and Francophiles the world over celebrate the Fall of Bastille. For those in Paris, this means fireworks and endless parties after military contingents have marched down Champs-Elysees.

But back home, a spokesperson for Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan played down the perceived French inspiration. “This is not the French, or American or British or Australian way. We were inspired by national day celebrations in other countries. But Republic Day in Mumbai will be celebrated more like a traditional Indian festival,” he said.

A festival, it, indeed, promises to be. Other than Reliance’s pyrotechnics show, Anand Mahindra’s firm Mahindra & Mahindra will tomorrow bring in navy and army bands on Marine Drive. TCS will deck up the seafront, while Aditya Birla’s Idea will publicise the open-air party.