NEW YORK (TIP): Yes, it is Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. All Indian Americans are familiar with that name, for good or for bad, mostly for good, though.
Modi was in New York from September 26 to 29th afternoon, before he left for Washington to enjoy the hospitality of US President Barack Obama in the evening and a bilateral talk the next day, before flying back to India.
Much before he arrived in the US, Indian Americans had set out to give him a hero’s welcome. A trusted friend of Modi, Dr. Bharat Barai, was tasked with arranging a massive community reception to Modi which he did, with the help and cooperation of a devoted band of people. It was a colossal effort to have around 20,000 people come to Madison Square Garden to give a rousing reception to Modi, an icon for many, particularly from his community and place, Gujarat, a state which he governed with appreciable growth for around 12 years.
And why not! Modi was coming as Prime Minister of India to a country which had denied him a Visa since 2005 for his alleged role in not preventing killings of people from a particular community in Gujarat when he was the chief minister of that state in 2002. His admirers here gloated that US had no option but to welcome him now that he was coming to the United Nations as India’s Prime Minister, whose party had got a massive support of the people of India and was catapulted in to power, with total command over government, without having to depend on allies’ support as was the case when Atal Behari Vajpayee formed a BJP led government in 1999 which lasted its full term of 5 years, to 2004.
So, here was a man who represented a democratic country -the largest democracy in the world- with 1.25 billion people. How could the US ignore Modi whose country was poised to become an Asian giant and the second largest economic power in the world by 2050? No way! So, Obama invited Modi over to the White House for a private dinner. It was another matter that the invited dignitary was fasting on account of Hindu festival of Navratras and he would not eat. By the way, Modi has been observing Navratra fasts for the past 40 years, insiders said.
So, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived on September 26. He was given a rousing welcome at the JFK airport in New York. My good friends, Narain Kataria, Arish Sahani and Jagdish Sewhani arranged to have a large number of people gather at the airport to give a warm welcome to Modi. So, we had the chant of “Modi, Modi” which surely pleased the man, given to showmanship, which explains his admiration for film actors, like Amitabh Bachchan, and of course, some others.
And while in New York, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi left no one in doubt that he was a better performer than any in the world. A perfect juggler, a consummate magician, a pied piper of India.
I found many acknowledging Modi’s felicity of expression which allowed him to connect with people immediately. He speaks in the language and diction that people at all levels commonly understand. He relies on simple words and home truths to deliver his ideas home. Again, he has mastered the art of delivery. His body language is extremely expressive and impressive. During the more than 90 minutes speech he delivered at the Madison Square Garden on September 28th, not a soul could have looked at the watch. Not one could have yawned, out of boredom. None would have thought of anything but what Modi was saying. The eyes of all remained fixed on the man in the center of the arena. Such was the grip of the man. And whatever he said seemed to come straight out of his heart. He pumped into his speech his heart, his mind and his vocal cords-delivering the “very best”.
Now see what he said. First, India can and will achieve the greatness that it once had. Second, we have a huge human resource capital in the form of a young India, with 60% of population under the age of 35. No other country in the world has such human resource. Third, we have brains. Example, our scientists succeeded in the Mars mission in the first attempt itself, a feat which even US could not perform. Modi took pride in mentioning that India’s Mars mission cost peanuts when compared with the money spent by countries like USA on similar missions.
Yes, we can. But how can we do it? He did offer Namo Mantra for that. He spoke of the defects in the system in the country and said the system that stood in the way of quick progression had to be demolished. He spoke of the futile, cumbersome and irrelevant laws which needed to be consigned to dust bin. He spoke of the massive investment required for development. And he invited Indian Americans as also the whole world to come and invest in India. Also, he gave a call to “make in India”.
Modi was particularly appreciative of the Sikhs, in his speech. He spoke of the great sacrifices the Sikh Gurus had made. He also recalled the sacrifices of the Sikhs in the freedom struggle of India. He spoke of the brave Sikh soldiers in the Indian armed forces and said the nation is proud of the Sikhs who have always stood by their motherland, come what may.
Modi simply created a vision. He came up with ideas that won attention and admiration of many. He wove dreams that all would love to own. He assured the gathering of around 20,000 at the famous Madison Square Garden which somebody christened as “Modison” Square Garden that India was on a fast track to development. Then he made some announcements to please the locals, too. He told them he was taking care to ensure there is no harassment at the airports in India of Indian Americans visiting India. He also said he knew of problems with getting visas. He said there will be no delays any more in obtaining a visa. Also, he said the clubbing together of OCI and PIO was being worked out and soon the problems arising out of OIC/PIO will be over. He also announced visa on arrival for US nationals on the pattern of some 9 countries whose citizens are entitled to get tourist visa on arrival in India. Surely, the local crowd was pleased.
The magician Modi wielded his wand for more than 90 minutes and left the gathering charmed and captivated. Yes, he came, he spoke , he conquered the hearts of Indian Americans who had come from far and near to have his darshan and hear him speak. But before he left, the gathering burst in to Modi chant, just as it had when he had arrived. And, believe me, Modi must have enjoyed the chant. The “Modi” chant must have been music to his years.
During the course of his stay in New York from 26th September to 29th September afternoon, Modi attended a large number of events, met a number of people from all walks of life which included world leaders, his counterparts from neighboring countries Sri Lanka and Nepal, US lawmakers and officials, captains of business and industry, community leaders, religious leaders and eminent people- both Indian Americans and others, and discussed a variety of issues.
We bring our readers here a few pictures of Modi’s New York visit. All pictures have been provided by The Indian Panorama special photo journalist Mohammed Jaffer.