NEW YORK, NY (TIP):Vidya Balan, Anna Hazare, Gen. V.K. Singh, Sarath Kumar, Radikaa Sarath Kumar, Jaishree Chandrasekhar lend attraction
Local political and social leaders also join
The 33rd India Day Parade in New York City on Sunday, August 18 drew thousands to Midtown Manhattan. The entire area from 38th Street to 26th Street on Madison Avenue was submerged with Indian Americans and the Indian national tricolor flags atop floats and in the hands of the people marching in or just watching the parade from both sides of the Avenue. The number at the Parade, according to liberal estimates, was close to a hundred thousand while many claimed that it was anywhere between 50,000 to 70,000. Numbers apart, the enthusiasm of the people was the most noticeable aspect of the parade.
Indian social activist Anna Hazare and Bollywood star Vidya Balan led the parade in which a number of celebrities participated. They included former Chief of Army Staff General (Retd.) V.K. Singh who was the chief Guest, and Guests of Honor actor Sarath Kumar and Radikaa Sarath Kumar.
The parade drew elected officials and political candidates, including New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu, Assemblyman David Weprin, Reshma Saujani, a Democratic candidate for public advocate and Joe Lhota, a Republican mayoral candidate. “I think our voice is getting more politically powerful,” said Ms Saujani, who would be New York City’s first Indian- American politician, if elected. “It’s important for the community to be out recognizing that.” “New York City’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths,” said Mr. Lhota. “What we’re really doing here is celebrating coming to America.” said he.
Bollywood star Vidya Balan, who was the Grand Marshal, drew huge crowds as people on both sides of the Madison Avenue cheered her. Consul General of India in New York Dnyaneshwar Mulay was seen on the same float as Vidya. Gen V K Singh, former Chief of Indian Army Staff was perched on another float and his colleague in crusade against corruption, Anna Hazare rode in a separate car. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Winston Baldwin Spencer who rode in a Lamborghini car wore a kurta and a pyjama and instantly connected with the Indian-Americans with his namaste. South Indian actors – R Sarath Kumar, Radikaa Sarath Kumar and Jaishree Chandrasekhar – traveled in the American Tamil Sangam float that had a huge banner of Statue of Liberty draped in a sari.
There were more than 40 floats representing institutions such as State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Yes Bank, Indus American Bank, India Tourism, Air India, MoneyGram, and New York Life. Also represented were some organizations, like the Society of Indian American Engineers and Architects (SIAEA).
Some religious, social and political organizations too had their floats. And then there were some who did not have floats but marched as distinct groups in the parade. One such group was the Agrawal Samaj. Times Now that beamed the program live had an independent float. The parade over, the crowd thronged the cultural programs arena and the booth area where a replica of Red Fort was built in 80 feet x 10 feet.
Sidelights & Impressions:
1. Anna Hazare was escorted to the parade by Sudhir Vaishnav, Executive Vice President of FIA and some other FIA officials. Security guards surrounded him and did not let anyone come near him. Anna walked a little, acknowledged the greetings of the by standers and then got in to a car.
2. General (Retd.) V.K. Singh was spotted on the Air India float. He was accompanied by his wife. He did not seem to have any security protection. He shook hands with me and was pleased to receive a copy of The Indian Panorama.
3. Christine Quinn, the New York City Council Speaker was amongst the first few to arrive. She appeared as cheerful as she always is and met people warmly. I handed her a copy of The Indian Panorama which she gladly took and handed it over to one of her aides.
4. Reshma Saujani who is a hopeful for the office of Public Advocate was seen going round and meeting people. I said to her in a lighter vein that I would like to see her win and then be known as Millionjani. A compliment she well received. 4. Joe Lhota, a former MTA Chairman, and now a Republican hopeful for Mayor of New York wondered why there should be such disorganization. In the first place, parade was not started on time. Secondly, nobody seemed to be taking charge of the affairs at the starting point. It was free for all.
5. A gentleman wearing a sash that said Committee member came and asked me to move away as he did nit recognize me as a member of media since I did not have the sash that said media. I politely told him I did not want to be recognized by FIA. I had better recognition from State Department and that it was a public parade not a private function.
6. A Trustee and Vice Chairman of FIA, Yash Paul Soi lost his cool when I was presenting a copy of The Indian Panorama to Christine Quinn. He snatched the newspaper from my hands and threw it on the ground prompting me to tell him he had no right to do so. A shocked Christine Quinn backed a step or two fearing a quarrel. However, Soi kept quiet, probably realizing he had done wrong. Meanwhile, Steven C Feder, Coordinator from Speaker Christine Quinn’s office who was accompanying Quinn stepped forward to ask me to “calm down”. In fact, my good friend Dilip Chauhan wanted to take a photograph of Christine receiving a copy of The Indian Panorama. May be, Soi did not want her to get the newspaper because it carried an article critical of FIA. Soi may face a law suit for obstructing a journalist from performing his duty.
7. Grand Marshal Vidya Balan packed brevity in her address. All she said did was raise slogans of Jai Hind, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, and praised New York.
8. Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay, while greeting the Indian American community on the occasion of celebration of the 66th anniversary of India’s Independence, urged them to work for better relations between the US and India. He eulogized the community for its great contribution to the US and India.
9. Air India Regional Director Riwo Norbhu found himself being treated by Air India staff to his birthday party. He said to me he did not know anything about it until a cake was brought to be cut by him. So, we know now Riwo’s birthday falls on August 18.
10. The parade provided business houses, organizations and institutions to make their appearances as families. Families of the staff of Air India, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, and India Tourism were seen on the floats. So it was with Society of Indian American Engineers and Architects (SIAEA).