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'Modi@Madison Square Garden is once-in-a-lifetime event'

By Sheela Bhatt
September 19, 2014 15:16 IST
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The event at Madison Square Garden for Prime Minister Narendra Modi'The Madison Square Garden event is a celebration -- a welcome -- of not only Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the Indian-American community, but an important moment to strengthen the friendship between India and the United States.'

'A historic reception of this size is an extraordinary statement for the broad appeal of such a dynamic, action-oriented, people-first leader.'

Dr Bharat Barai, an old friend of the prime minister and president of the newly set-up Indian American Community Foundation which is organising Modi's mega public interaction in New York on September 28, spoke exclusively to Sheela Bhatt/ about the "once-in-a-lifetime" event.

Dr Barai, what inspired you to help organise such a mega event at the Madison Square Garden? What was the vision of the organisers behind the event?

I am honoured to have an opportunity to show our fellow Americans and our friends and family back in India, that Indian Americans too are filled with hope for stronger relations between our countries.

A historic reception of this size is an extraordinary statement for the broad appeal of such a dynamic, action-oriented, people-first leader.

Was it difficult to convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allot time to address the community from this venue and in this manner?

The prime minister has the trust of not only of Indians in India, but that of so many Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin who believe in the promise of his leadership in India.

An opportunity to speak to such a diverse representation of our community, at an unprecedented scale abroad, is a historic moment.

How has the response of the Indian-American community been?

Positive, full of excitement, and absolutely overwhelming.

Is the show already sold out?

There are more people registered than there are seats available.

Is it true that many Modi fans are ready to pay hefty sums just to shake hands with their icon?

This is a free event. There are many believers in Modi's leadership who have made it possible so that everyone in our community has an opportunity to attend this programme without any charge.

This is a celebration -- a welcome -- of not only the prime minister by the Indian-American community, but an important moment to strengthen friendship between India and America. 

Is the younger generation in the Indian-American community also interested in this special event? If so, how have you received that impression?

Very much so. We have many young people who are volunteering, and even more who have registered to attend.

Can you kindly share a few anecdotes on your long relationship with the prime minister? How and when did you meet him? How has the friendship blossomed over the years?

I think trips down memory lane, no matter how pleasant, are a distraction in the light of the history-making we are to witness. So many people, of every walk of life, every background, age and gender are coming together in a way like never before, and this is because of the immense popularity of Modi.

The logistics of organising a show, like the afternoon dedicated to Modi, are huge and require substantial finance. How are you arranging that?

We are humbled by the show of support from the community; so many have come forward to support the Indian American Community Foundation, which has taken the financial responsibility of this entire programme.

And we literally have a small army of dedicated, bright, and tech-savvy volunteers of all ages who have stepped up to the occasion to ensure that the programme is a success.

What expectations does the Indian-American community have from the prime minister?

I cannot imagine that they are any different than what Indians in India expect -- a strong and selfless leader who is going to take India forward on an agenda of good governance, inclusive and sustainable development, and security for all.

What kind of impact will the Madison Square Garden event have on Indo-US bilateral relations?

An audience of 18,000 -- most of whom are also constituents for lawmakers, travelling from far and wide to welcome India's prime minister -- is a powerful symbol for American leaders of the hopes and expectations Indian Americans have for a strong and growing Indo-US relations.

What has been the most difficult aspect of organising such an enormous event?

Saying no. There is so much enthusiasm to come, to help, to learn, and we are just not able to accommodate everyone in this short amount of time.

How do you think the event will be remembered?

It promises to leave a lasting memory for everyone in attendance -- as a once-in-a-lifetime event.

What kind of political and cultural message will emanate from this event?

That while Indian Americans have made America their home and contributed significantly to nearly every field -- art, architecture, academia, business, medicine, public service, science, technology -- India and her ancient wisdom, her traditions, and her pluralist ethos, live on in our hearts.

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