SAN JOSE, CA – The Sept.27 mega event was not flawless. Why it drew more attention was this – that in the heart of Silicon Valley an embarrassing technical glitch was being played out. As the dancers of SoCal’s Nrityodaya Kathak Academy twirled in the music came to a dead halt. Another sputtered start later,
The dazzlingly patient crowd was treated to an informal survey by Satyal. Trying to engage the crowd while the sound crew struggled at the high profile event, he asked the already charged crowd what phones they were carrying. Android – woooo. Blackberry- boooo. Apple- the ear drums still hurt. Tim Cook had a ready testimonial.
Spotted India’s Foreign Secretary and the former Ambassador to the U.S. S.Jaishankar, the current Ambassador Arun Singh and his wife and officials from the SF Consulate, were seen. Congressional reps who were called on stage after a meeting with Modi included former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ami Bera, Jim McDermott, Loretta Sanchez, Jerry McNerney, Dana Rohrabacher, Eric Swallwell and Tulsi Gabbard who flashed a namaste eliciting deafening cheers. The one who got the most love though was the one who introduced them - local boy Raj Mathai, now an anchorman. Also in the audience were innumerable state and city officials.
Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield) met with Modi before coming the SAP center, delivered a letter and spoke on the need for religious inclusion in India. Garamendi represents a substantial Sikh population.
The Indo-American Community of West Coast board including Dr.Vinod Ambastha, Avadesh Agarwal and Ravi Tilak of SoCal along with Chandru Bhambhra and Khanderao Kand led a dedicated event committee and scores of volunteers in putting the event together. Among the names that did the rounds in SoCal as someone who did a lot of work and offered support to community members with questions was Babubhai Gandhi. The IACW was formed especially for the event and is expected to be disbanded. Hundreds of organizations lent their support for the free event. Money was raised through donations but every effort was made to not take more than $50,000 from any single donor.
Except for the media, everyone including those with VIP tickets stood in long lines in the heat to get in. Volunteers quickly passed out water bottles. The lines to get in came in the wake of weeks of waiting, for several people who did not know whether they would get those entry stubs or not!
The singer who flew in from India for the event, did not come in when called. As a puzzled crowd waited after a couple of rounds of cheering on hearing his name, the artiste appeared and dazzled with both, his distinctive raw voice and blue shoes that threatened to steal the thunder from him. The crowd rejoiced in his music except when he wasn’t drowned by his live band ‘Kailasa.’
Dancers from Nrityodaya, Mona Khan Dance Company, Shri Krupa Dance Academy, Jyoti Kala Mandir, PAMPA Dance Academy and the Bay area Creative Dancers performed to a slew of patriotic numbers from both, Bollywood and tradition. There was no way ‘Vande Mataram’ or ‘Chak de India’ was not going to be heard. A lovely attempt was also made to showcase several genres. Mahesh Kale led singers in the rendition of the national anthems.
If you did not understand Hindi, were not part of the media, or, one of the American politicians present with the option of having headphones with translation piped in, the chances that you had no idea what Modi was saying was very, very, high. But that was the better option than trying to read what the teleprompter crew was trying to convey. Modi in Hindi: When I went to Delhi. Teleprompter: When I went to Deli. Hungry anyone? After a point, the garbled and misspelt translations mercifully stopped.
Children and Parents
It was striking to see the number of Indian-American high schoolers who participated in the open hero worship of the Indian leader. Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the event name and carrying popcorn tubs in their hands, they waved and smiled along connected to the land by parents who are so closely identified with it. It was not immediately clear whether they even comprehended what Modi was saying in Hindi. Adults meanwhile were seen taking pictures, standing by the life size cutouts of Modi, just as one would at Madame Tussads.
The regular food and beverage stands tried to compete with the Indian restaurants who were serving egg bondas, biryanis and lassis.