Modi in America
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Turns out the connection between India and Silicon Valley is way stronger than broadband.
The midday procession was itself something to behold — had the Bay Area ever seen so many South Asians gathering in one place? Amid the workaday saris, you could catch glimpses of sparkly evening wear and garish turbans; many wore T-shirts caricatured with the leader’s face, on sale at the local Hindu temple. Organizers had expected some 18,000 Indian-Americans on Sunday to receive Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, but looking around the heavily secured arena, maybe 30 percent of the seats were empty. Never mind.
“Before him, there was no point in politics, no movement,” said 45-year-old Arun Gupta, who was there with a contingent from the Bay Area branch of the nationalist organization Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. Gupta had worked in Silicon Valley as an engineer for 15 years, but not until Modi became prime minister, promising progress and toilets and a “Digital India,” did he feel a kind of vindication. Finally the Congress Party — moribund, corrupt, elitist — had lost its 60-year-old grip on power in India. Could anyone even remember what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had done in eight years? “Not just us, but everyone is following Modi,” said Gupta.
Check out more of OZY’s coverage of Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi’s Secret Weapon: Vijay Jolly is the unsung puppeteer of Modi’s moves abroad — where upward of 25 million Indians live.
Modi’s Promise of a New India: The economic reforms Modi needs to deliver on his promises of growth and development.
What Narendra Modi Means for Indian Democracy: A profile of the political juggernaut — and how he got to where he is today.
Asked about the protesters outside — the ones who can’t forget that Modi was chief minister of Gujurat while Muslims were killed in hateful riots— supporters wanted to look ahead, not back. The riots were bad, said Sandip Shah, 41, whose daughter had painted his cheeks with the Indian flag. It’s understandable that people still feel wounds, but India’s Supreme Court had cleared Modi of wrongdoing, Shah said, and the man had “proven his credibility over and over again.” It was time to go forward, bring Hindustan back to the top, he added. And what better place to start than Silicon Valley, “the most happening place in the world”?
Inside the arena, one of Modi’s opening acts — a cohort of young dancers — froze. The music had stopped, inexplicably. The dancers remained in position— heads tilted upward, broad smiles, arms lifted halfway —waiting for the music to start up again. Minutes passed. The arms of one of the dancers drooped. The emcee took to the stage to tell everyone not to worry. “With 17,000 Indians here,” he said, “we have some tech support.”
– Text by Pooja Bhatia; photos by Alex Washburn.