With glittering floats and arts showcasing the best of Indian culture, tens of thousands of people attended the 39th India Day Parade on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York, August 19. The enthusiasm and support for the political developments in India too was evident at the march.
Braving the sweltering heat, people came out in the open calling for love and harmony.
It was an impressive show by the Federation of Indian Associations, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (FIA-NY, NJ, CT), with a sea of humanity marching with Indian flags and chanting Bharat Mata ki jai.
A large number of officers of the New York Police Department marched in the front of the parade followed by officers of the Desi Society, a fraternal organization of officers from South Asian background. Police officers belonging to the Indian Officers Association at the NYPD joined the event in sizable numbers. Many young men were also seen in police uniforms indicating the welcome change in our community as well as in the police.
It seemed that more people marched in the parade compared to last year, but the crowds on both sides of Madison Avenue were not very impressive. May be the Grand Marshal Suniel Shetty, the star of yester years, was no more a crowd puller. This may be an indication for the organizers that it is time to rethink about bringing only film stars as grand marshals.
Adam Silver of NBA, actress Hina Khan, a native of Kashmir, Gulshan Grover, the ‘bad man’ of Bollywood, Consul General Sandeep Chakravarty, Indian American State Senator Kevin Thomas, State Senator John Liu were among the other stars of attraction.
Participation from different religious groups was noteworthy this year too – Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim (Ahmadiyya) and Christian groups marched in the parade with their banners showcasing the inclusive culture of India.
The many marching bands and dancing on the street by women captivated the people. The Maratha contingent, with colorful dress, drum beating and dances stole the hearts. Bands with colorful dress added sound and charm to the festivities.
As usual, the Brahma Kumaris, dressed in white, marched in large numbers carrying billboards calling for peace and respect for all. The Jains of America and several Hindu groups marched with their own billboards advocating peace and love.
As in earlier years, TV Asia, Parikh Worldwide Media, and Royal Albert's Palace, Air India, SIEA, the Consulate and others came out with colorful floats.
Sunderlal Gandhi came dressed as Mahatma Gandhi this year too. The octogenarian had met Gandhi ji twice and became a life long Gandhian. A retired officer in the Central Government, he was surrounded by many for taking photos. He said he came dressed as Gandhi to create awareness about Gandhi.
Another came dressed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The marching groups included the following among several others- Ananda Marga, Bharati Center/ISCKON, CRY-Child Rights and You, Cultural Association of Bengal, Dada Bhagwan Institute, Dhol Tasha Jellosh, USA, Heart and Hands for the Handicapped, Jai Bharati Dhol Tasha, USA, Share and Care Foundation, National Association of Asian Indian Christians in the USA, to name a few.
‘Support our troops, Salute our troops’ was the theme of the parade. ‘This year’s Parade is dedicated to those who have and continue to sacrifice their lives for the citizens of both our adopted country, America and our motherland India. These men and women who risk their lives go beyond the call of duty to keep us safe are the real reason we are here..’ Alok Kumar, president of FIA said earlier. ‘The parade is an embodiment of our culture and provides a way for us to interact with the community,’ he noted.
Secretary Amit Yadav wrote, ‘It is my extreme pleasure to convey my heartiest greetings to you on the occasion of celebrations of 73rd Independence Day of India. I would like to take this opportunity to salute and pay respects to the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of India. It is my honor to be part of the next generation of FIA servers..’
A few people associated with an organization named ‘standwithkashmir.org’ organized a protest march on the pavement. They claimed that the ‘people of Kashmir are in the grip of state terror imposed by the Indian state--a human rights crisis of massive proportions is unfolding behind a communications blockade.’ One of the marchers said they object fascism everywhere.
Now let us look at the event critically. Actually, it was a boring show. One needs to attend only one parade in Manhattan in his life time, because everything is a repetition. Nothing changes! Not even the organizers.
The billboards, made of card boards, yellowish with age, were paraded once again. We can expect the same card boards coming back next year and many more years.
What are we showcasing to the mainstream with theses bill boards? Where is originality or creativity?
The parade aims to showcase Indian culture to the American people and also empower our community. Instead, we made some noise. What have we gained from it?