NEW YORK: It is a rock ‘n’ roller’s dream to “sell out The Garden,” but for a foreign politician to pack New York City’s most famous sports and entertainment arena is another thing entirely.
Narendra Modi, on his first trip to New York as India’s Prime Minister, will draw perhaps the largest crowd ever by a foreign leader on US soil when he takes the stage on Sunday in Madison Square Garden before a crowd forecast to total more than 18,000 people.
Thousands more are expected to pack New York’s Times Square to watch his address in Hindi on big screens as well as smaller viewing parties around the country and on TV in India.
The Indian diaspora hopes this visit by a leader who was until recently denied visa by the United States will signify India’s importance not only on these shores but all over the world.
The event is being emceed by prominent members of the Indian American community, Nina Davuluri, who has just relinquished her crown as Miss America 2014, and TV journalist Hari Sreenivasan.
“Indian citizens and diaspora over the world are hopeful that this (Modi) administration will cut bureaucracy and focus on people,” said Dr. Dinesh Patel, chief of arthroscopic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who arrived in the United States more than 50 years ago.
Mr Patel, who says he was given an award for work in education by Mr Modi, a fellow Gujarati, added: “People are passionate to see the new leader. Another Narendra is coming to this country to let the USA know what India is about.”
The first Narendra was Swami Vivekananda, the philosopher and monk who introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the world’s religions in Chicago in 1893. Mr Modi often cites the speech made by Swami Vivekananda, born Narendra Nath Datta, as a source of inspiration.
“Let us remember the words of Swami Vivekananda and dedicate ourselves to furthering the cause of unity, brotherhood and world peace,” PM Modi wrote on Sept. 11 to his 6.5 million followers on Twitter.
India’s economy, the third largest in Asia, has struggled to recover from sub-par growth, shackled by layers of bureaucracy, anathema to the diaspora. Mr Modi’s general election triumph in May was driven in large part by his entrepreneurial mantra.
India’s US diaspora is a highly educated population of nearly 3.2 million, making up about 1 percent of the US population, according to latest US Census Bureau data.
As a group, they are more likely to be hooked to the internet than their fellow Americans, far more likely to have a college or professional degree and twice as well off with an average household income of more than $100,000.
“Indians are generally very ambitious and entrepreneurs,” said Mike Narula, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Long Island, New York-based Reliance Communications, a distributor of mobile telecom devices and accessories.
Mr Modi, 64, was denied a US visa in 2005, three years after sectarian riots in his state Gujarat, that killed more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims. Mr Modi was the chief minister. After he took over as prime minister, however, the Obama administration has courted Mr Modi.