Thousands of Guyanese were among tens of thousands of revellers celebrating the 70th Anniversary of India’s Indepen-dence at the 37th annual India Day parade on Madison Avenue in Manhattan last Sunday. Some Guyanese were also among the performers on floats (from 40th Street) and at the cultural programme on 27th Street where the parade culminated.
Guyanese, like most other spectators, came out to catch a glimpse of popular Bollywood actors who graced the parade. Some Guyanese were also present at the post parade banquet and awards ceremony. Guyana’s former President Bharrat Jagdeo was a Chief Guest and Grand Marshall at the parade in 2011. Several Guyanese attended the post parade banquet with the Bollywood stars to celebrate India’s 70th independence anniversary.
India’s independence, August 15, 1947, has historical significance for people of Indian origin as well as others in Guyana and in the Caribbean. The desire for India to become a free nation propelled Caribbean based Indians to identify with the ‘Quit India’ movement and the struggle to free India of British rule since the early part of 20th century. India’s freedom would pave the way for the independence of Caribbean colonies where some 500K Indians were bonded in contracted servitude from 1838 to 1917. The Caribbean colonies began obtaining their independence in 1962 (Trinidad and Jamaica and later Guyana and Barbados in 1966).
Indo-Caribbeans have been fervently participating in the annual India Day parade on Madison Avenue since it was launched in 1981. The India Day parade was organized by the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA). Ramesh Kalicharran, formerly of Bush Lot Essequibo, has been serving as Indo-Caribbean liaison to the Asian Indian nationals in assisting the annual parade. Kali also assists with publicity for Guyanese participation. The parade serves as a platform to celebrate one’s heritage comparable to other ethnic groups (like Afro-Caribbeans) celebrating their heritage in the US.
It was an impressively organized parade which has become a major attraction in the City of New York drawing tens of thousands of spectators and is among the major cultural events in the city’s calendar of events. Bollywood actors from Baahubali fame Rana Daggubati and Tamannaah Bhatia were the star attractions. Previous parades attracted mega stars including Amithab Bachchan, Jeetendra, Shah Rukh Khan, Hema Malini, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, Abhishek Bachchan, etc. Politicians also graced the parades – including senators, mayors, and presidential candidates. This year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, seeking re-election next month, was the chief guest. Waving the Indian tricolour flag, the Mayor said the Independence Day parade celebrates the “extraordinary contributions” of the Indian-American community to the city.
“This is a day we appreciate what people do for the city regardless of what they look like, regardless of what language they speak, regardless of where they were born. Everyone here contributes to making New York City better and making America stronger. That is what we are celebrating today”.
Kalicharran showered accolades on the organizers describing it as another magnificent event and expressing pride in Guyanese and Caribbean participation. He also praised India on the attainment of her 70th anniversary of gaining independence.