Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States has become a festival for the Indian Americans living in the Tri State area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut). Preparations for the much awaited visit are in full swing as the day is getting closer. The location, Madison Square Garden (MSG), an indoor basketball arena, right in the middle of the New York City cannot hold more than 20 thousand audience. This could be a problem for the Indian Americans wanting to be part of the historic event. A million (10 lakh) Indian Americans live in a 3 hour driving distance radii from the venue. Any Indian American living in Boston on the north, Washington on the south and Pittsburgh on the west can drive to New York City making this a day trip. In addition, many volunteers of the participating organisations are flying to the New York City just to view the prime minister.
The planning of the event has been meticulous. A not-for-profit foundation called Indian American Community Foundation (IACF) for promoting cooperation between the United States and India has been formed to plan and execute the event. The foundation partnered with 400 plus organisations to support and sponsor the visit. Just about any organisation related to matters of India is part of the supporting organisations. The list includes diverse organisations that are from all parts of the United States. Cricket leagues, Political action committees, Gurudwaras and Temples are few of the diverse groups participating in this event. Even organizations located as far as Alaska and Virgin Islands are part of the event.
A website pmvisit.org was setup to manage most of the activities related to the visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A separate Facebook page was created to share the event in social media. The organisers created a promotional video on YouTube. Many volunteers from Sangh organisations are also working with IACF to coordinate the event along with all the other supporting organisations.
The Indian Americans are waiting patiently for this day. The past visa rejection and the uneventful end to the University of Pennsylvania event played its role in making PM’s visit a must attend event. The older generation is recollecting how the past visits of Atal ji to New York City and Washington DC galvanised Indian community. However those visits never were organised on a large scale. There was never such a public event organised in a prestigious indoor arena for any of the past prime ministers from India.
Unlike the past visits of any Indian prime minister, this event has a true public reach. The past visits of Indian PM’s generally involved meeting with the policy makers, businessmen and community leaders. They often emphasised on how the two democracies can work together. There was no personal message from the Prime Minister to the NRIs.
This time Modi’s audience approach will definitely make the audience identify themselves to be part of Modi’s plan for India. Most NRI’s respect the discipline he inculcated from the Sangh and are eager to listen to how he can change India? How he can change the relations between two countries? How he can help the NRIs to foster relations on long term with their ancestral land?
Meanwhile, there are similarities being drawn between Swami Vivekananda and Shri Narendra Modi. Swami ji started his foreign trips from east to west. He visited Japan before the United States. The pattern is repeated by Shri Narendra Modi. He visited Japan before the United States. There is also an eerie similarity between the locations. The venue Madison Square Garden started operations in the 1890s –the same decade when Swami Vivekananda gave the speech. It might be a coincidence or maybe it is planned, but the stadium which started operations in the same decade of Swamiji’s visit is now used for Modi ji’s public event. Whether the coincidences exists between the two men and the location, one thing is clear, no other head of state was given a such a grand public reception by the expat people living in America. It seems the program will create history not just for Indians or Indian Americans or New Yorkers or Americans but for the entire world to watch the swayam sevak on the stage located in the most powerful city of the most powerful country.
-Bhanu Gouda (The writer is currently working as a contractor in USA Federal Government)