FIA: The First Responders of the Indian Community

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The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut has been representing more than 500,000 Indian Americans for the last 48 years.

Every year, FIA hosts a number of events promoting the culture and heritage of India and its most prominent and awaited event of the year is the India Day Parade which is held around India’s Independence Day (Aug. 15) in New York City.

This year, the parade will be celebrating 38 years and it looks at the progress made by the Indian community in the tristate area.

Grand Marshal Rana Daggubati and Chief Guest Tamannaah Bhatia parades down Madison Avenue on the FIA Parade Float in 2017.

With a different theme each year, the president of the organization promotes India in a different light and this year, Srujal Parikh wants to bring the world together with the motto “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” which literally translates to “the world is one family.”

For achieving this harmony at the Aug. 19 India Day Parade, Parikh has invited guests from organizations that represent people from countries that neighbor India so that they can all march in the parade together to celebrate the achievements of Indian-Americans on India’s 72nd Independence Day.

“The India Day Parade is 38-years-old. Imagine our relationship with the United States 38 years ago or even the size of our community and look at where we are today,” said India’s Consul General in New York, Sandeep Chakravarty, at the parade’s curtain raiser, held on June 28 at the Consulate. “I think that there is a world of difference and I think the India Day Parade should reflect that difference – the strength, vibrancy and diversity of our community as well as the role it has been playing in the U.S. I am honored to serve at least half of the Indian Diaspora in the U.S.,” Chakravarty added.

Parikh Worldwide Media’s Parade Float from 2009

The Parade

The India Day Parade starts from the corners of East 38th Street and Madison Avenue as it heads toward 27th Street and ends there.

Food and shopping facilities can be found on 26th Street while an ongoing cultural show is at 24th Street where Grand Marshalls, Chief Guests and Guests of Honor, mostly Bollywood celebrities, get a chance to address the public.

The celebrities get to be on the review stand at 29th Street, making them easier to see and closer to the crowd.

The parade usually features about 45 floats, 20 marching groups and six professional bands. This year however, it will have 35 floats and 14 marching bands. The Empire State Building will also be lit up in the Indian tri-color.

“It is the only event in New York City that showcases India’s glory on a large scale,” Andy Bhatia, the past president of FIA, told Desi Talk, adding that the organization has something major planned for their 50th anniversary in 2020.

History of FIA

In 1970, a group of Indian-Americans decided to form the Federation of Indian Associations in order to bring India’s culture and history to the U.S., something that simultaneously allowed them to keep in touch with their roots and to bring them closer to each other and to India.

According to a statement by Yash Paul Soi, the vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of FIA, the organization was founded with the goal of enhancing and promoting the rich culture and traditional values of the motherland and to achieve this goal the FIA formed the largest, non-profit umbrella organization in the tri-state area.

10 years later they finally got a permit to host the first India Day Parade in New York City. “Back then we only had one float, remembers Ankur Vaidya, the current media chair of FIA, who has also served as president of the organization in the past.

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh parades down Madison Avenue on the FIA Parade Float with the Grand Marshal Abhishek Bachchan in 2016.

“In the very beginning these celebrations were held in school and university auditoriums and finally in the 1981, we were able to get a permit to hold the first India Day Parade on Madison Avenue between 56th and 23rd Streets and thereafter got permission to hold it each year on the Sunday closest to Aug. 15,” Soi said, adding that as time passed, organizers were able to get movie stars from India such as Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and many more, much to the delight of Indian Americans who came in large numbers to see them and join in the celebrations.

“The celebrities are the key in putting together this event as they are the major attraction for the people who to come see the parade. They always get on the review stand and give the crowd a motivational yet patriotic speech,” Himanshu Bhatia, the treasurer of FIA, added.

Daxa Amin, current secretary of FIA, noted that celebrities want to be a part of the community when they come because they always say “it is because of our fans and viewers that we are celebrities today.”

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh parades down Madison Avenue on the FIA Parade Float with the Grand Marshal Vidya Balan in 2013.

“When they see the numbers of people that have come out to see them, they are surprised as they don’t get to see as many people come out for them in India,” Vaidya added, noting that the India Day Parade has become more commercial over the years.

“The only issue we run into to bring celebrities for the India Day Parade is their availability of dates. Otherwise they are always willing to be a part of the largest India Day Parade outside of India,” Chhavi Dharyan, the current vice president of FIA, added.

“FIA has a very illustrious and inspiring track record of the largest celebration of India’s Independence Day outside India. It has attracted thousands of spectators from the tri-state area and other states, representing a spectrum of diversified ethnicities of people,” Ramesh Patel, chairman of FIA, said in a statement.

“India is indeed making a tremendous stride on all fronts under the visionary and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The improved strategic relationships with the world’s most powerful nations, has made India an emerging super power to be reckoned with and Indian Americans have continued to contribute majestically in the phenomenal growth of India,” Ramesh Patel added.

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh parades down Madison Avenue on the FIA Parade Float with the Grand Marshal Saif Ali Khan in 2012.

Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, founder and chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, who was also the president of FIA in 2005, told Desi Talk how the India Day Parade in New York has grown in size each year as it brings everyone closer to India and exposes India in the eyes of other Americans.

“It gives me immense pleasure to be a part of this annual event which not only promotes India but ensures that the roots of our motherland stay strong within the growing diaspora in the United States,” Dr. Parikh said, adding, “The parade in New York celebrates India’s Independence Day and is undoubtedly FIA’s finest display of how the organization has channeled the community’s resources and personas throughout the years to make this a grand spectacle.”

“As the coverage of the parade has grown over the years, so have the bilateral relations between India and the U.S. and the India Day Parade has helped in doing so,” Dr. Parikh said.

“We want to bring the Indian community and the American community together through this parade,” Bhatia added.

Grand Marshal Rani Mukherji waves the Indian flag at the FIA India Day Parade in 2011.

Reflections

The executive committee members of FIA sent Desi Talk their reflections on what the India Day Parade means to them.

“I am very happy and proud to be a part of the world’s largest India Day Parade and I hope we can pass on the baton to the next generation so it can continue to get bigger and better, year after year.” – Srujal Parikh, President

 

“Having come from India, I cannot define in words how it feels to be a part of the India Day celebrations. The Indian Day Parade is truly connected to my heart as it makes me feel like I am back in India, even though I am living in the U.S.” – Alok Kumar, Executive Vice President

 

“I cherish and treasure the unique gift of Independence and am very proud that I was born in free India. I would like to thank the founders of FIA for creating the India Day Parade as it is the best way to stay connected to our motherland during Independence Day.” – Chhavi Dharyan, Vice President

 

“Independence Day is a time to celebrate thefreedom of India and I am very proud to be part of such a grand celebration.” – Daxa Amin, Secretary

 

 

“This is a great opportunity for the Indian Diaspora to come out on the streets of New York and show the world ‘who we are.’ One day, I would like to see the India Day Parade become as big as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” – Himanshu Bhatia, Treasurer

 

“The India Day Parade is a representation of the prosperity of Indians as a whole. It is a symbol of prosperity and shows how our community has come out and blended into the fabric of America. I would one day like to see the India Day Parade on Fifth Avenue just like the Puerto Rican Day Parade.” – Ankur Vaidya, Media Chair

 

“The India Day Parade is a day of joy to attend and celebrate the Independence Day of Mother India as we pay tribute to her by joining hands with other Indian Americans.” Andy Bhatia, Past President

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