How Modi weaved magic in Houston

There has been no doubt that the Prime Minister is India’s greatest leader since Mahatma Gandhi.

 |  5-minute read |   25-09-2019
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Howdy, Modi! is dusted, but not done. On the day after, most people who had the good fortune to witness — and to participate in — ‘history in the making’ were dazed and numb. “What just happened?” they wondered. I was among the fortunate few who were present. Few, did I say? No, there were some 50,000 who registered. One reason that US President Donald Trump showed up was that he was offered such a huge audience on a platter, as it were.

Pure energy at ‘NRG’

The Indian Americans gathered from virtually all parts of the country constituted not only potential voters or donors, but an extremely influential, not to mention wealthy, niche audience.

houston-690_092419114902.jpgDonald Trump has called Narendra Modi the 'father of India'. (Source: Reuters)

Trump’s own rallies would not pull in such a crowd. An Indian Prime Minister, once denied a visa and banned from entering the US, gave it back. What could be a greater irony for those who had lobbied so hard to keep Narendra Modi out, or a greater triumph for a foreign leader? No doubt, Trump’s presence added a whole new dimension to ‘Howdy, Modi!’

The Pakistan-backed protesters were now more or less irrelevant. Modi’s event got an unprecedented traction in the US; with every major newspaper, even those that have been Modi-baiters if not Modi-haters, featuring him and Trump on their front page. A slew of bipartisan Senators and Congressmen greeted Modi and lauded Indo-US ties.

The Indian Prime Minister and the US President did a victory lap of the stadium, hand in hand, much to the concern, if not consternation, of their security guards and minders. The crowd went delirious, with well-accoutred ladies in saris clambering onto to unsteady chairs to catch a glimpse. People held up babies and encouraged teenagers to jump up — for what? To see or absorb or to be blessed? Bored and spoiled desi kids suddenly felt that being Indian in America was cool. Trump praised India and Modi; Modi said Trump was a great leader and friend of India. Apart from the optics and the sonics, the event was almost pure energy — after all, it was held at the NRG stadium which sounded, as Modi punned on the venue, just like “energy.” It was also sheer magic. As always, there will be those who want to grab credit, especially when things go right. But a small group of people made this happen. One of them is Anandbhai Shah, the point person of Texas India Forum (TIF), the official organisers of ‘Howdy, Modi!’ Shah is a very smart guy, a Harvard alumnus, who prefers to stay in the shadows. If you don’t believe me, try to look him up. There’s hardly anything out there. But he’s the one who helped pull off this spectacular summit. I’ve never met him and don’t know much about him. But he’s a real doer; a smart, efficient, effective leader and a pillar of the Indian diaspora. We are so proud of people like him.

Behind the scenes

Another is “our man in Houston,” Dr Anupam Ray. The surgeon-turned-Indian Foreign Service officer is as good as it gets when it comes to our outstanding civil servants. But a disclosure first: Our IFS officers do not like to be noticed. It is not that praise embarrasses them. Of course it does. But they believe they are just doing their job to the best of their ability. They are working for India. I’m sure that Sardar Patel, who saved our services when the departing British imperialists wanted to disband them in 1946, would appreciate this. I will only say that the Indian Consulate and Ray’s residence, India House, became the hub of events, activities, and Indo-US business opportunities. Last year, he brought the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) to Houston. Our US Ambassador, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, deserves all the praise and credit we can shower on him. I sincerely hope he becomes our next foreign secretary after VK Gokhale, who is as solid — not stolid — as they get. Both civil servants’ civil servants and good leaders, Gokhale and Shringla make us proud. Give them a hard, even impossible task, and they will get it done.

A ‘Mahatma’ moment

At the top of our fabulous MEA is minister Dr S Jaishankar, who is not only one of the world’s top diplomats, but a scholar, statesman and now minister of external affairs too. From the BJP side, Vijay Chauthaiwale — and others — made frequent trips to monitor the progress.

narendra-m-inside_052319093750.jpgModi hai to mumkin hai — Modi makes it possible. What? India’s greatness. (Photo: Reuters)

But the real man of the millennium is Narendra Modi. In the words of one who had made this magnificent political and diplomatic achievement possible, it was a moment when Modi exceeded Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the ruling party’s most accomplished leader. I would have gone farther. For there has been no doubt in my mind that Modi is India’s greatest leader since Mahatma Gandhi.

From Mahatma to Modi, it has been the journey of India’s rise after centuries of colonisation and degradation. Modi hai to mumkin hai — Modi makes it possible. What? India’s greatness. The aspiration to belong, to be counted, to matter. Which is in the heart of every Indian, whether in India or abroad. Narendra bhai summed it up for me in the two lines he quoted from his poem. Yes, for those who don’t know, he is a poet! “Woh jo mushkilon ka ambar hai, vahi to mere hosle ki minar hai.” Let me, as fellow poet, offer a translation: That which is a sky full of difficulties, is also my pillar of inspiration. Need I say more?

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: How Modi's Houston gala will prove to be game changer


Makarand R Paranjape Makarand R Paranjape @makrandparanspe

The writer is director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The views are personal.

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