Diaspora must give back, says PM Modi
By Sabrina Almeida
It was a Modi party last night at the Ricoh Coliseum. Chants of “Modi, Modi, Modi…” grew louder as supporters waited patiently for him to come. There was no doubt about his rockstar-like status at least among this crowd.
Colourful dances entertained a highly-receptive audience as they waited for their idol. The performances paid tribute to India’s rich culture while soulful nationalistic tunes like Vande Mataram evoked strong emotions about
the home country in the Indian diaspora. It was easy to forget that we were in Canada not India as Bhangra, Garba and Bharatanatyam troupes and popular Indian performers took over the stage and the crowd roared in appreciation. Renditions of ‘Chakde India’ and ‘Jai Ho’ by Sukhwinder Singh got many on their feet and became the keywords of the evening.
Celebrations at Ricoh had begun early in the afternoon. Sound of drum beats greeted us as we walked from the Exhibition Place Go Station. Revelers of all ages joined in the garba (a traditional dance of Gujarat, Modi’s home state) as they waited for the gates to open. A Modi wave had encapsulated Toronto.
As I made my way through the crowds (who even Mother Nature smiled upon with her warmth) the sentiment for India and Modi resonated from every corner. A group of youth from Brampton told me they were big fans of the Indian prime minister and rolled out a ready list of his accomplishments in the ten months he had taken over the reins. Their passion showcased his support among the younger generation. The conviction with which they spoke left no room for any criticism. “You can’t be Indian if you don’t feel the same way,” they told me and I wasn’t about to contradict them.
It was a proud moment for the Indo-Canadians here and they were going to let anyone or anything rain on their parade.
I asked a senior who was standing in line about her motivation for coming here and her response matched fervour of the young people I had spoken with earlier. “It’s simple,” she explained. “It’s like when you can’t go the Ganga (considered the holy river in India), but the Ganga comes to you.” Modi had achieved a holy status.
Another couple agreed. “We’d never get a chance to see him in India,” said the man. “This is an opportunity that being in Canada has given us and we wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
Flashes of orange (symbolic of the BJP) were visible everywhere, on men’s scarfs, sarees and other traditional India clothing. A few even wore Modi t-shirts. A poster with an acrostic name poem dedicated to Modi, made by Meera Ananda who has lived in Canada for many years, was a clear example of the connection he had made even with Indians overseas. She was happy to have this moment and attributed to Canada’s multiculturalism policy.
Modi’s speech was faultless in his delivery. I’d heard about his charisma but here was the opportunity to experience it first-hand. I’m not sure who writes his speeches, but I have to say that manner in which Modi conveys the message is what makes it so powerful. I’m neither a Modi fan not a critic, yet he made an impression on me. You asked and I delivered is what he seemed to say. Whether it was Visa-on-Arrival or the Clean India campaign, he was unashamed in his claim of getting results and quickly.
He was absolutely at home and took his time in delivering his message. He spoke the language of the people. If you didn’t understand Hindi though much of the impact would be lost in translation. He held your attention with his words and gestures and he was in control of every moment.
He deftly maneouvred every point he made to state how the attitude and mindset of Indians had changed… He took no credit but the meaning was clear… he was the instrument of change. In the end he had his ask, the diaspora must give back to the people and the land they came from.
He allowed PM Harper to make the big announcement about the Visa-on-Arrival facility being extended to Canada while reiterating how the country had welcomed him as Gujarat’s CM when others were not so receptive. And the Modi chant changed to “Harper, Harper”. A big endorsement for the upcoming Federal elections.
I was happy to hear the Indian and Canadian national anthems sung with the same intensity. Earlier chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” on Canadian soil had me feeling a bit uncomfortable. Not so happy with the security at the media gate though. There was no list of names to check against and no proper screening. Many non-media people managed to get “media” passes. Some brought more than three people (specified in the application). Worse still some of asked were asked to bypass the metal detectors and belongings weren’t checked.
All-in-all it was signature evening for Canada and India.