The date changes, the venue changes, the face changes but the scene remains the same – this time, with the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi in Australia, it was time for the Indian-Australians living in Down Under to be Modi-fied. The TV cameras, unmounted from the Madison Square Garden, New York had been shipped by Indian media houses to Sydney, ten thousand miles away, where they were repositioned at different venues to pan across a different continent but the men behind them knew that the people facing them were hardly going to be any different. Soon the cameras were in action shooting the same zeal, fervor and frenzy among the Indians that was visible in New York during the visit of Narendra Modi in America. The lingering chant of ‘Modi-Modi’ plays as a ubiquitous background score whichever part of the globe Modi visits now a days.
To borrow from the Song of Australia, they say:
“There is a land where, floating free,
From mountain-top to girdling sea,
A proud flag waves exultingly”
The proud flag, however, that floated free in Australia in past few days, as visible on our TV screen, was not the defaced blue ensign of Australia but our own desi ‘tiranga’ that waved exultingly all around the places Modi visited. People boisterously waved these flags while celebrating the metamorphosis of a grassroot karyakarta of BJP into a jet-set political rockstar performing at the grandest of global stages. ‘Australia – the idle fancy of a dream’ was metamorphosed into a desi territory.
The visit of Narendra Modi to any foreign country is turned into festivals for the Indians living there. People prepare for the act for days – they organize grand welcome receptions for the PM, plan holidays, come out in traditional dresses, choreograph dance-song sequences and try to showcase their love for India in the best of traditions. The sight of Indians draping themselves in tricolours and bursting into “mere desh ki dharti sona ugale ugale heere moti” each time the camera approached them in cities of USA or Australia, was truly bemusing. All fault-lines along the lines of region, religion, language or culture that refuses to die in India, stood evaporated during such occasions and all Indians came out united in the spirit of oneness. Their common sentiments for their motherland happened to be the one emotive bond that erased all their tangible differences and made them stand shoulder to shoulder in celebrations of their identity as one Indian.
It is interesting to analyze why these successful overseas Indians throng to Narendra Modi in a way they’ve never done during visits of other Indian leaders ever before. Is it his popularity or his charisma or a belief in his ability as a leader or simply his street-smart demagogy that connects instantly with made-in-Harvard professionals and made-in-Hissar bumpkins alike? Has it got something to do with his wonderful abilities to connect not only as a sly conversationalist but also as a suave social media user? Yes, definitely all of these have their share in pushing up his popularity but the crazy crowd with maddening screams of ‘Modi Modi’ tells something even more.
Actually, much more than Mr. Modi’s personal abilities, this phenomenon can be explained in the urge of the immigrated Indians to assert their own identity in overseas societies. The Indians are regarded to be successful, competent, hard-working and affluent people that have established themselves as responsible, peace-loving communities in foreign societies. But, because of an incompetent political leadership at home, India was unable to carve out a dominant role for itself in international affairs. The numerically growing overseas community wanted a strong resurgent India that could be seen with respect and awe in global community. The Americans citizens are respected and held in awe the world over because of the political might of the United States.
It was a widely held belief among Indians that India has got what it takes to become a global superpower but is held back because of a lackluster, pusillanimous political leadership. Now, with the arrival of Narendra Modi, supported by a ruthless majority in parliament, the global community sat up to take note of this man’s words and deeds with dead seriousness. With growing clout of Modi, the clout of India grew stronger filling the hearts of overseas Indians with pride and optimism. Arranging a train from Melbourne to Sydney and naming it Modi Express was a symbolic expression of a subtle aggression that Indian community was champing at the bit to display since the days of racial attacks on Indians in Australia. It is worth recalling that Melbourne, the city with highest concentration of Indian students’ population, was the biggest centre of attacks on Indians. Now, a resurgent India under the puissant leadership of Modi, has given them the opportunity to celebrate their dormant aggression that intends to assert their existence in an indifferent society. That society will no longer remain indifferent; now it has been nudged into believing that Indians are a formidable community powered by the growing global political strength of their country in the comity of nations.
So, the next time when the Australians sing their national anthem, saying
“For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair…”
the Indians will say, hey Australia, we’ve arrived…we’re there.
Yes, We Are.
Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014