Grand marshal of the 31st annual India Day Parade, Hindi film actress, Rani Mukherji looked out with pride at the thousands of colourful costume clad participants and the equally colourful spectators lining Madison Avenue in New York City and shouted, “I feel as if I’m in India today.”
So did many others who had journeyed from all over New York and from other states to celebrate India Day with fellow immigrants in New York. It was a gala celebration attended by hundreds of specially invited guests, including president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo.
Mukherji was cheered and mobbed by fans when she arrived at the starting point on 38th Street, for the 10-block parade down Madison Avenue. Census estimated that more than 200,000 Indian immigrants reside in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The theme of this year’s celebration hosted by the Federation of Indian Associations was “My Earth, My Home.” It was chosen to create an awareness of the increasing environmental pollution resulting from a proliferation of industries in India.
Numerous colourful floats designed to reflect India’s rich and diverse culture proceeded down the avenue followed by thousands of people representing different Indian cultural groups and organisations in America. Outstanding were the members of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization. They were dressed as angels, in white, with wings rising above their backs to highlight their message of world peace and harmony among all cultures. A float with a canon represented a significant historical moment in India’s history: violence against the Sikhs in the 19th century while India was under British rule. Songs, dances and re-enactments of epics in India’s history enthralled spectators.
The parade was not without a hint of politics. Some spectators with banners and placards calling for the removal of corruption in India impacted the celebrations, said to be the biggest in the United States.
“We feel India now has one of the most corrupt governments ever,” said Atul Kumar, an official of the Jersey City, N.J.-based Bihar Society, a nonprofit organisation representing immigrants from the eastern Indian state of Bihar.