September 26, 2014

Indian-Americans keen to watch Narendra Modi's address at Madison Square Garden

By PTI | 26 Sep, 2014, 12.52PM IST

READ MORE ON » Narendra Modi | Madison Square Garden |
NEW YORK: The Indian diaspora in the US is willing to go to any extent to watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address at Madison Square Garden here on Sunday with several people who were denied the most sought after ticket now willing to be volunteers.

 "I was not there at the time of Swami Vivekananda. I did not see Sardar Patel. I do not want to miss the chance of seeing or watching live the greatest leaders of India of our times," Palak Jain, an Atlanta-based software engineer who is among the thousands of Indian Americans who failed to get the ticket, said.

 "I wish, I get a glimpse of the Prime Minister, or else, I would watch it at the Times Square," said Jain who left India as a student some 15 years ago.

 The Indo-American Community Federation (IACF) which is organising the event said that every day it is receiving hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from people across the US and even from Canada for a ticket to the most coveted event for the Indian diaspora.

 All the 18,000 tickets - 96 per cent of which have been provided free of cost after a computerised draw of lots - were booked weeks in advance.

 But people are still calling IACF for tickets and making different kinds of offers from giving several thousand dollars for a seat to doing voluntary service or to manage the crowd just for a ticket of the event scheduled to be held on September 28.

 According to IACF, Indian Americans from as many as 48 US States and five Canadian provinces would attend the event.

 A majority of them are young Indian Americans with a sizeable number of them being women which reflects the wide popularity he enjoys among the diaspora.

 "I have never seen such a craze for any Indian leader in the past several decades of my life," Dr Sambhu N Banik, an Indian American from Maryland who since early 80s was instrumental in organising public reception of several Indian Prime Ministers in Washington, including that of Indira Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said.

 "He (Modi) is our rockstar. He has gained the status of a rockstar," Banik said.

 When the Indian community in Washington in early 80s held a reception for Gandhi, it asked for a donation of USD 2 from those attending.

 The entire cost for the Vajpayee's reception was a little over USD 10,000 all raised through "seed money" by the participating Indian American community organisations.

 Modi's event at MSG in midtown Manhattan is estimated to cost USD 1.5 million and the organisers have so far raised more than USD 2 million.

 When Modi addresses a record 18,000 crowd of Indian Americans, lawmakers and top corporate leaders at MSG - a venue usually reserved for rockstars and sports - it would be the first time in the US history that a foreign head of state attracted such a whopping crowd.

 The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, is the only foreign leader but not a head of State to have addressed a house full MSG.

 "It's Modi's Magic working all the way. We are overwhelmed by the response," said Chandra Kant Patel, president of Overseas Friends of BJP and Chairman of IACF.

 "I'm really looking forward to hearing Modi speak. I've been really impressed thus far by what he has been prioritising, such as hygiene and sanitation and women's empowerment through holding men accountable.

 "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to hear his next call to action in person," Kavita Pallod, a doctoral candidate at the Rutgers University in New Jersey, said.

 One Rakesh Gupta from South Carolina wrote to IACF that he and his wife are ready to be volunteers to get space.

 "We are ready to be in any section of volunteer preferably registration, cultural or anything which can enable me to participate in the Modi's event and even have a glimpse of him," he wrote.

 "The event at MSG organised by the IACF has 18,500 people attending and has been oversubscribed by more than 10,000 people. Last minute requests to attend the event are coming in at the rate of hundreds per day," Dr Bharat Barai, IACF president said.

 IACF spokesman Anand Shah said almost all of the states of India will be represented at the event with Gujaratis, Bengalis, Punjabis, Tamils, Andhras, Biharis, Keralites, Kashmiris all attending Modi's address.

 "The diaspora will be travelling from forty eight American states and five Canadian provinces to participate in the event," said Shah.

 "There will be small business owners, community organisers, doctors, engineers, scientists, academics, writers, chefs, artists and performers alongside entrepreneurs, media personalities, elected officials, lawyers, the young and the old, the traditional and the avant-garde," Shah said.

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