By Manik Mehta
NEW YORK: If there was one thing on display during the past week in the United States, it was the soft
power India exudes in this country, particularly, in the east coast, as the financially and, now, also politically strong Indian diaspora held a string of celebrations stretching over a week to mark India’s 75th diamond jubilee Independence Day on August 15.
The celebrations ended on August 21 with a gigantic India Day parade along New York City’s Madison Avenue which houses some of the country’s major business houses.
The parade was characterized by flag-waving Indians perched on colourfully-decorated trucks,
with many businesses advertising their products, services and other characteristics appealing to
the large gathering of Indians and Americans who lined the route of the parade between 42nd
and 23rd Street on Madison Avenue.
The entire parade route was closed to traffic. New York’s police department spared no effort to not only divert the traffic away from the otherwise busy Madison Avenue but also maintained razor-sharp vigilance to prevent any disturbances or incidents by miscreants.
Allu Arjun, a movie star from South India, was the Grand Marshal at the India Day Parade. American politicians keen to underscore their close relationship with India and its diaspora in the U.S., made it a point to extend congratulatory messages and good wishes to India and her people.
Indeed, U.S. President Joe Biden was among the first to congratulate India, emphasizing that the United States joined the people of India to “honor its democratic journey guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s enduring message of truth and non-violence”.
“India and the United States are indispensable partners, and the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership is grounded in our shared commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of human freedom and dignity. Our partnership is further strengthened by the deep bonds between our people.
“The vibrant Indian-American community in the United States has made us a more innovative,
inclusive and stronger Nation,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also felicitated India and its people on this occasion. “Our strategic partnership touches everything from climate to trade, to our vibrant people-to-people ties. I am confident that, as two great democracies, our partnership will continue to contribute to the security and prosperity of our peoples and the global good.”
New York governor Kathy Hochul delivered a special speech on India’s 75th Independence Day anniversary; the speech, as Dr. Gurcharan Singh, a retired New York medical doctor, told the
Weekly Echo, “touched our hearts”.
Thanking the “trailblazing Indian Americans in this room” – she has a number of senior officials in her administration of Indian descent – she said that she was “very proud” that nearly 400,000 Indian Americans call New York home. “More than half of them are in New York City alone,” she said, adding that “the community is spread over many boroughs of the Empire state”.
“And these are the leaders – the doctors, the scientists, the engineers, the business people, the attorneys, the artists, the writers, the restaurateers, the shop owners. They really do create this beautiful fabric and so many contributions. It really makes New York fabulous and so vibrant,” the Governor said, expressing appreciation of the work done by the doctors, nurses and health professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There was also a large turnout from the Indian diaspora for the traditional flag-hoisting ceremony at the Indian consulate general in New York on August 15, the official Independence Day.
The guests present at the consulate general’s ceremony included the New York State Senator
Kevin Thomas, the first Indian American to be elected to the state senate.
Indian consul general in New York, Randhir Jaiswal, unfurled the Indian national flag and read
out, as is the custom, the Indian President’s traditional Independence Day address. The occasion was also marked by congratulatory messages pouring in from governors, mayor, assemblymen, etc. from nine states to the consulate general.
There was another mammoth gathering of Indians at the Times Square, New York’s iconic
landmark, to celebrate Independence Day. The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), the apex organization of the proliferating Indian associations in America, led the charge at the Times Square celebrations.
Indian celebrations seem to be not complete without the presence of prominent figures from the entertainment world. Present at the Times Square ceremony was the Indian rock star Devi Sri Prasad,
renowned composer and singer Shankar Mahadevan, the New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi and New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji also attended.
Another figure who aroused considerable interest among the public and the media was the Indian
American astronaut, Raja Chari, and the Formula-3 car race participant Atharva Desai.
India’s diplomatic missions and also Indian associations in Washington, Chicago, Florida, Los Angeles, etc. have been celebrating the diamond jubilee anniversary of its independence. A conspicuous characteristic about many of these gatherings was the presence of people of Indian descent from other countries such as Malaysia, Guyana, Surinam, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong.