Tens of thousands of people gathered on Madison Ave. Aug. 18. 2019, for the much-awaited event of the year, the India Day Parade, billed by some as the largest such parade anywhere in the world celebrating India’s Independence Day.
Organized by the Federation of Indian Associations- NYNJCT, the theme of the Parade was “Support Our Troops -Salute Our Troops” referring to both the Indian and American armed forces, a slogan more relevant in light of the recent uptick in tensions on India’s border.
A cutout in the shape of the Gateway of India carried the names of troops killed in a terror attack in India on Feb. 14, 2019.
“We had members of the Indian and American armed forces present in 17 of the 34 floats,” said Ankur Vaidya, member of the FIA board of trustees who led the organizing team for the event.
Thirty four floats displayed the diversity of the Indian-American community in this country, representing everything from organizations, businesses and states of India including for example, a float representing Sikhs and another the Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America, and yet another the Siddhi Vinayak religious sect, a yoga float, a Muslim marching group, Vaidya noted. In all there were 47 marching groups including bands, plus 8 paid bands, he said, “So music was aplenty.” Videos of the Parade available on the Web prove that.
Performances on stage at the end of the Parade route which stretched from 38th & Madison to 24th & Madison, were vibrant and colorful, and included performers from as far away as Chicago, not to mention the celebrities from India.
Bollywood actor and successful businessman Suniel Shetty was the Grand Marshal, and other notable guests included Bollywood actor Hina Khan, Navika Kumar, Nargis Fakhri, and Bollywood-Hollywood actors Gulshan Grover whose book “Bad Man” was recently released, and Omi Vaidya, among others.
Organizers were appreciative of the patience displayed by chief guests, particularly Grand Marshal Shetty, who Vaidya said smiled throughout and waved the flag and posed with scores of fans. “He was very cooperative, very humble, one of the most humble Grand Marshals we have had. With 14 to 15 photographers crowding around, there were at least 8,000 to 10,000 shots taken not to mention selfies. That’s no mean fete,” Vaidya said.
Another major highlight of the event was the presence of U.S. National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver and two NBA players – Julius Randle and Dikembe Mutombo, as well as the coach of the New York Nicks.
“I would make a conservative estimate of the crowd size at 100,000,” Vaidya told Desi Talk. Official figures of crowd size from city authorities is still awaited, he said.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, who along with Dr. Sudha Parikh, joined Shetty in the leading float, said he had attended and been part of organizing so many past parades but had not seen such a large crowd as he saw there.
Alok Kumar, president of FIA-NYNJCT heard Shetty exclaiming, “Mere to rongte khade ho rahe hain,” meaning – the hairs on my neck are rising seeing this.
“This is what we do in an FIA event – bring everyone in one place,” Kumar said, adding, “It was everybody’s event – not mine or FIA, but every individual who loves the Motherland, the tiranga (Indian flag), and believes in harmony and supports those around him,” Kumar told Desi Talk, He praised Vaidya and the whole organizing team including doyen of FIA Ramesh Patel, as well as Shrujal Parikh, Neeta Tyagi, chair of the FIA Culture Committee, responsible for putting together the stage performances, “and the whole FIA team.” He also noted his own home-state float of Bihar-Jharkhand Association- which carried more than 200 members on it led by President of BJANA Vinay Singh and past presidents Shashi Sinha and Bhavesh Chaudhary.
Tyagi told Desi Talk there were some 225 performers and 25 items performed during the 4-hour cultural program at the end of the Parade. “It was a very engaged and enthusiastic crowd and despite the threat of rain they were determined to stay put. Everything went smoothly and we were hardly 10 minutes behind schedule,” she said. “I am really passionate about keeping Indian culture and language alive in the U.S.,” who is a music teacher in her spare time with a day-job as a software engineer.
“All those involved in organizing worked very hard. It takes almost a year to prepare for the Parade,” Tyagi said.