nough is never enough for the Indian-American community when it comes to celebration.
It is as if Diwali had arrived early, with the frenzy
over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s community
reception at New York’s Madison Square Garden
September 28 reaching fever pitch.
Dr Bharat Barai, president, Indian American Community
Foundation, which organizing the reception, walked into
the MSG management’s office last week with an offer:
18,000 people are coming to the MSG on Sunday to hear
Modi. Calculate the profit you would earn by selling food
and drinks to them. We will pay you your profit upfront.
Allow us to distribute Indian food for free to our audience.
But in the land of the market-driven economy, such sentiment is alien. There are many unions in the iconic building. The unions wouldn’t permit ‘patronizing’ an audience
coming to salute their iconic leader, who had long been
denied a visa by their adopted country.
So Dr Barai’s team contacted four food truck-owners with
licenses issued by the City of New York to sell street food.
These trucks were to be parked outside the venue and dis-
tribute food. Whoever had a ticket to the event was to get
free lunch in the land famous for ‘no free lunches.’
The owners of Rajbhog and Deep Food, two well-
known brands of Indian savories, are Modi supporters
who want to show their
support at any cost.
People all over
America wanted tickets
to the event. Dr Barai
had received complaints
that some Indian
Americans were ‘black
marketing’ tickets on
the Internet, but the
good doctor had no time
to check if any such mischief was on.
Dr Barai’s mobile phone rang nonstop with requests from
Indian Americans, including many wealthy retired professionals who arrived in America in the early 1970s — like he
did — to study medicine. People who had sent checks for
$1,000 to the organizers were not assured — as of
September 25 — that they would secure entry to the event.
Narendra Modi could not have asked for more.
His US visit was to have the four major activities. The
Indian-American community event and intense business
talks with American CEOs, political interaction with
President Barack Obama over dinner and delegation-level
talks in Washington, DC and meetings with two leaders of
India’s neighbors, and Israel.
Out of some 35 odd meetings scheduled
during Modi’s visit, the Indian-American
community event was making the most
noise, but the real advantage for India will
be if American companies find Modi a
leader who can deliver and who shows the
readiness to increase investment in India
and kickstart the prime minister’s ‘Make in
Modi and Obama will hit it off, said Dr
Barai. He knows both of them personally.
Both leaders are from humble backgrounds,
he said, adding that both were outsiders till
they were elected to office. Both had to work
hard to reach the top.
Soon after Modi won the general election, Dr Barai and his wife Dr Pannaben
met Modi in Gandhinagar, May 20. Dr
Barai proposed that Modi arrive in
Chicago and address a gathering at the
Fullerton Hall from where Swami
Vivekananda had addressed America
September 11, 1893.
That could not happen because of time
constraints. Modi has bigger plans to unveil
on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
Swami Vivekananda was to come ‘alive’
anyway. Dr Kiran Patel, who was in charge
of the entertainment segment at the MSG
event, had developed a theme where a hologram of Swami Vivekananda was to emerge.
When Narendra Modi walked onstage,
Swami Vivekanada was to be present.
September 24 afternoon at the Bistro restaurant in Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, Dr Barai, Dr Panna Barai
and Dr Patel met Miss America 2014 Nina
Davuluri, who was to co-host the MSG
Dr Barai and Dr Patel are obviously millionaires. Two highly educated Gujaratis
from humble backgrounds
are now in the top income
bracket in their adopted
country. They did their master’s here and worked up the
ladder working sundry jobs.
At the Bistro they ordered
just coffee. No show off of
any kind. Both well-known
personalities in the medical
world came without their
cars to the venue. Dr Barai,
who came to the US as a
medical intern, is a member
of the licensing authority of
Indiana state that authorizes
doctors to practice.
Both doctors were not staying at any fancy hotel in
Manhattan. So what if they
are managing the show for
the prime minister of India.
Good Gujaratis are as economical as their favorite leader is.
Nina too was sitting with the trio without any star
“People are looking up to Modi,” Davuluri told India
Abroad. “They want to hear him.”
Davuluri, who only wore light make-up, said she would
research Modi’s life and career before the show. She coyly
told Dr Patel how honored she felt to emcee the show.
An organizer of the MSG event said the US State
Department and other lobbies that denied Modi a visa
when he was Gujarat chief minister, would get a clear idea
of what kind of “force” is behind Modi in America.
15,000 packs of the Modi masala mix, right, was to be distributed free at Madison Square Garden.
Vivekananda at Madison Square Garden
The State Department and other lobbies that denied Narendra Modi a visa when he was Gujarat chief minister, says an organizer of the New York event, will get a clear idea of the ‘force’ behind Modi in America. Sheela Bhatt catches the frenzy in Manhattan.