August 20, 2001
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10,000 throng New York's India Day Parade

Tanmaya Kumar Nanda in New York

The much-awaited India Day Parade kicked off at 1400 EDT on Sunday at 41 Street Avenue and Madison Avenue with thousands of Indians lining the sidewalk right up to 24th Street, charging the atmosphere with the colour and vibrancy of Indian culture.

But Jackie Shroff, whose name had earlier been announced for grand marshal of the parade, failed to show up. Rajiv Gowda, chairman of the public relations section of the Federation of Indian Associations, which organised the parade, blamed a clash of schedules for the actor's non-appearance.

Finally it was left to Mahima 'Pardes' Chaudhury to lead the parade, which she did gallantly before going off with Davis Cupper Leander Paes, who was one of the guests.

A host of other celebs though, both past and present, did turn up for the parade, including actress Moon Moon Sen and daughters Ria and Raima, music director Bappi Lahiri, singer Usha Uthup, cricketers Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Venkatapathi Raju, and actress Pooja Bhatt.

The parade was also led by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who commended the contribution of Indians to the city. He was joined by Republican mayoral candidates Michael Bloomberg and Herman Badillo as well as Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel. Interestingly, none of the Democratic mayoral candidates made an appearance at the parade.

From among Indian American candidates who are running for various public offices, there was Rene Lobo, (who was also emcee for the parade) Pradip 'Peter' Kothari, Kiran Desai and Jairam Thukral. At least three of the Indian American hopefuls -- Lobo, Kothari and Desai -- even had small contingents of their supporters and volunteers participating in the parade.

Giuliani and Chaudhury, along with members of the FIA, led the parade till 28th Street, where they got up on a stage as the floats of various organisations went past.

The South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association also made a second consecutive appearance, though the contingent was a small one. SALGA had earlier been denied permission to participate in the parade, and was allowed only after New York Senator Tom Duane intervened with the earlier FIA committee.

Among others, floats were organised by insurance company MetLife, Association of American Doctors of Indian Origin, ISKCON, the Indo-American Seniors' Association, Asha for Education, Sakhi, Maharashtra Mandal, Indian Cultural Association of Central Jersey, Haryana Association of North America, Dushahara Committee of New Jersey, New York Life Insurance, American Federation of Muslims of India, Hindu Students Council, Gujarat Christian Federation of America, National Association of Asian Indian Christians, United Hindu Cultural Council and the Indo-American Pharmacists' Society.

The parade was followed by a four-hour-long cultural function (mostly song and dance, from Bollywood to folk), which lasted till 2000 EDT.

But predictions of thunderstorms during late afternoon may have kept many more thousands away from the open-air parade and cultural programme.

It did drizzle a bit just at the beginning of the parade, but dried out within minutes, though the skies remained overcast, prompting Giuliani to say: "It's a beautiful day, sunny, bright, cheerful day, because that's the way the people of India are."

Unofficial estimates put the number of people during the day at over 10,000.

Tailpiece: No Indian carnival is complete without at least one lost child, and one act of violence. Nine-year-old Krishna was lost, but soon after announcements about her disappearance were made, she was reunited with her distraught parents. And in an unrelated incident, two young men got into a brawl, during which one of them was hit on the head with a baseball bat.

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