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PHOTOS: New York celebrates all things Indian!

Last updated on: August 18, 2014 12:51 IST

PHOTOS: New York celebrates all things Indian!

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George Joseph

An estimated 150,000 people attend the largest celebration of India in the United States. George Joseph reports from the India Day parade in New York, organised by the Indian Associations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. 

Bollywood rules, it was evident at the largest Indian Independence Day parade in the United States — at Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, August 16.

When the parade’s grand marshals, Bollywood stars Sunny Deol and Raveena Tandon, appeared on one of the floats that were part of the parade, a mass of humanity surged towards them, waving hands.

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Image: A man dressed in traditional Indian clothes waves the Indian flag as a flotilla with the picture of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is behind him.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Thousands of cameras veered around to focus on them. Security had a hard time to take Deol and Tandon to the review stand on 30th Street. On the PA, the announcer asked people to behave for the sake of India’s pride.

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Image: Actors Raveena Tandon and Sunny Deol wave to the crowds as they participate in the India Day parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Till then the march was a picture of discipline, with thousands already having crossed the finishing point on 27th Street. Imagine if it was Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan on the float.

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Image: A couple dressed as Hindu gods walk down a street in New York, as they participate in the parade
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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This year’s parade, with the theme ‘Colours of India’, tried to portray modern India, though many of the floats were from television networks announcing their shows.

The 34th annual India Day Parade, organized by the Federation of Indian Associations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, surpassed the number of attendees in previous years.

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Image: Celebrities from the silver screen too took part in the event, many of them waving the Indian flag and greeting the public
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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With clear skies and moderate temperature, thousands marched in the parade while thousands more watched from the sides. Mainstream Americans and tourists were in large numbers among them, applauding the colourful themes of the floats.

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Image: Children take part in the parade
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings Major, the first Indian-born owner in the National Basketball Association’s history, who was one of the three grand marshals, said he felt humbled being invited to the event.

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Image: Dhols and nagadas were played by those participating in the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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“Over 150,000 people were here to experience the India Day parade,” he said, “And I can’t express how proud I am that the Kings and the NBA were a part of this transcendent moment.”

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Image: Girls are all smiles at they hold the Tricolour in their hand during the India Day parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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He was accompanied by Sim Bhullar, the first player of Indian descent to sign with an NBA team, who joined the Sacramento Kings. The 7-foot-5, 360-pound (163 kg) centre was a member of the Sacramento Kings team that won the 2014 Samsung NBA Summer League title in Las Vegas.

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Image: The Indian flag flew high and proud in New York on Sunday and thousands took part in the parade and waved the Indian flag.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Since Ranadive bought the Kings in March 2013, the Kings televised over 20 live games in India, launched a website in Hindi to connect with a growing Hindi-speaking fan base from around the world, sent the Kings’ players and dancers to Mumbai, and signed the team’s first India-based sponsor.

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Image: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, waves an Indian flag and walks among the public during the parade
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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India’s Consul General in New York Dnyaneshar Mulay said it was a proud moment for him to participate in the parade and see such a large number of Indians. It shows and celebrates the unity and harmony of the people, he said.

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Image: Little boy holds the Indian flag during the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive, who is challenging New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo as a Republican in the November election, marvelled at the colourful march and number of attendees. He said he has very good relations with the Indian community in his county, which is the fastest growing group there. “We celebrate diversity and it enriches us,” he said.  He said he is aware of the problems faced by Cuomo after US Attorney Preet Bharara opened an investigation against him.

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Image: Some children on a flotilla dress up like Hindu gods Ram and Hanuman during the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and New York State Assemblyman David Weprin joined the parade. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, deputy chief mission at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, also participated.

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Image: The parade also a bevy of girls performing various classical Indian dances.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Unlike in previous years, this year the FIA’s India Day parade was a three-day celebration which began with a with a live concert by Kailash Kher at the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre in Newark, New Jersey, August 15.

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Image: NBA basketball player Sim Bhullar and owner of the Sacramento Kings Vivek Ranadive take part in the India Day parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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FIA officials Ankur Vaidya and Ramesh Patel welcomed the people. Vikas Nangia of TV Asia was the emcee. Bernice Snydder, who lives a few blocks away from Madison Avenue, said she was impressed by the parade.  “This is the first time I attended,” Snydder, a retired teacher, said. “I missed it all these years, which was a great loss.”

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Dr Ravi Jahagirdar, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin, came from Florida to attend the parade. AAPI had a float at the parade as well.

Chicago native Dr Ram Raju, president and chief executive officer of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, said this was his first time at the New York parade and said it is huge. He had attended the parade in Chicago. 

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Image: Different flotillas during the parade travel through the streets of New York.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Karen Lukas, founder of the New York based nonprofit Folk Arts Rajasthan, walked in the parade with a few volunteers to create awareness about the Merasi musicians in Jaisalmer, whom the FAR is giving new hope and audiences.

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Image: Posters and cut outs of various senior leaders and chief ministers of Indian states also figured prominently during the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Lukas said she felt sorry that she did not attend an India Day parade earlier, though she has been living in the city for the last 35 years. The nonprofit organisation i4Farmers marched to highlight the plight of farmers in India and the rampant farmer suicides. 

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Image: Television stars also made their presence felt at the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Among the marchers was the Swamy Bapa Pipe Band, billed as the first desi pipe band. Kanu Patel, manager of the band, said they perform at temples and India related events. 

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Image: A flotilla with the replica of India Gate travels through down the streets of New York city.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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There was also the Dhol Taasha Jallosh with its high energy lezim dance, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, the largest literacy movement in India that participated in the parade for the first time, the Telangana Association of North America with its colourful float and cutouts of Chief Minister K C Rao.

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Image: Daler Mehndi sings and entertains the crowds during the parade. He also danced with a few of them.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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The Federation of Kerala Associations in North America and the Federation of Malayalee Associations of Americas marched in the parade with sizeable numbers.

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Image: Performers play the dhols and drums during the parade, adding more vibrancy to the colourful parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Lakshmi Anand, one of the founding members of the parade 34 years ago, said she was not invited to the parade like many of the founding members.  “The India Day Parade which was started in the early ’80s in NYC by FIA has grown in magnitude,” she said. “Many of us were involved in initiating and evolving what is today one of the largest parades. More than the spirit of Independence, there is display of glitz, glamour and pomp.”

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Image: Lavani dancers take centre stage during the parade. The women also danced during the event.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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“The parade is a good way to promote India and its culture. But unfortunately the parade has become more of a commercial event,” said Shudh Parkash Singh, president, Indian National Overseas Congress (I) USA. “The organisers should focus more on displaying true culture and rich history of India. From parade one gets impression the focus is on Bollywood stars and showing some Bollywood dance numbers.”

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Image: Tennis player Leander Paes shares a laugh with Sunny Deol.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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 Dr Shaik Ubaid of the Coalition Against Genocide said, “It is even more important for the organisers of the parade to make it inclusive. Minorities from India must be made to feel welcome, for we love India as much if not more and have contributed to its freedom — from Tipu Sultan to Maulana Azad.”

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Image: Women dressed in the different colours of the Indian flag on horses become a part of the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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He pointed to the parade on Long Island, New York. “The function in the Nassau County looked more like a Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh function because of the kind of sloganeering, while the county executive was looking on. Embarrassing US political leaders will hurt our community as well as India,” Ubaid said.

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Image: Orange, white and green took over the streets of New York as most people dressed in the colours of the Tricolour during the parade.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Two days of events, billed as ‘freedom celebrations’, were held at the Garden State Exhibit Centre in Somerset, New Jersey. The highlights included an Indian real estate expo, jewellery displays, food court, dance performances, Bollywood celebrities, and a performance by London-based R&B singer Arjun.

 


Image: The New York Police Department was also a part of the parade
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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