Global Tamilian: Inexplicable Tiranga emotions of Indian Americans even in a pandemic era

Despite being settled overseas, the Tamil diaspora loves to recreate the life they left behind in India. Here’s a glimpse of their lives, celebrations and struggles on foreign shores
Global Tamilian: Inexplicable Tiranga emotions of Indian Americans even in a pandemic era

Chennai

If you are one who believes that patriotism is limited to the country’s geographical borders, well you may be wrong and it is time to peep into the lives of Indian Americans for a reality check. The dictum seems to be that the spirit of patriotism kicks in best even when you leave the country in search of greener pastures. However green the Newfoundland may be, finer emotions are still affiliated to the land one leaves, particularly so when the departure is from India.
How else can one explain 1,00,000 people of Indian origin, gathering in Manhattan every August to participate in the India Day Parade and celebrate the Indian independence; a tradition practised for over 40 years organised by the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA). The smiles with faces soaked in pride and happiness are all a testimony to the fact that men who leave India remain attached to it emotionally forever. The Indian music and dance as the parade proceeds is the best showcase of the spirit of love and connection these men and women have with the country of their origin.
“We participate every year in this mega event and it gives us happiness as though being in Delhi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” said a resident of Connecticut who travels to New York every year to participate in this event. He is just not alone as many of the tri-state residents make it a point to travel to New York City every year to be present at the parade.
This year is different for these die-hard India fans, as the number of the participants to the celebrations are limited to a mere 199 in view of the pandemic. “Celebrations are still on with the flag hoisting ceremony at the Times Square on August 15 morning and the tri-colour illumination of the Empire State Building,” said Anil Bansal, president FIA.
August 15 needs no reminders for us to feel the connection. Of course, it is not a holiday, special shopping spree deals that generally get associated with the D-Day are unavailable, no Indian patriotic programmes on TV as a reminder, yet the date August 15 rings loud and reminds every Indian immigrant the significance of Indian Independence with pictures of Indian heroes speeding in their minds.
“Every year on August 15, my husband shares his nostalgic school day memories of flag-hoisting with his son who turned 16 today, a ritual that has become so regular and a habit that my son of late initiates the discussion himself,” recalled a proud Indian mom from New Jersey.
“Last year we organised a small Independence Day celebration in the community park and it was so well participated, and the pride of men and women on pinning the small Indian flag on the shirts decorating their hearts was inexplicable,” said a senior resident of New Jersey.
For many of these people, the American Independence Day is equally important, but quite naturally the emotions of the freedom struggle are hard to feel. What strikes the most is the week breaks that come with it. It is a good time for shopping for dresses for my kids starting the school year, for still others, it’s the time to refurbish the house with best deals on furniture and appliances being floated by corporate America, and still others use it for vacation plans. “Summertime, when kids are home, we get a good week’s vacation ready to be planned along the date,” shared a resident of New York who is always on a road trip on July 4 weekend. “Interestingly, my son engages in discussion about the American War of Independence with us and we exchange thoughts,” he added.
Undoubtedly, it is events and celebrations that help retain moments of joy and preserve memories that carry our sentiments. One good thing about the American lifestyle is the freedom that one gets to patronise their cultural legacy brought from the land one immigrated from. Thus, be it Italians, Irish, Germans and Africans or Indians, the absolute freedom to celebrate the native cultures and festivities help preserve the ties with the land of origin. Particularly for Indian immigrants whose connection is even more active through the web of extended families being in constant touch.
The feeling kicked by the inadvertent desires to boast before the world is even more evident with shine-India efforts lately from the Indian government. These are visible in every stride made by the Indian immigrants walking down the streets of Manhattan. Whether it is Independence Day celebrations or Ram temple foundation laying ceremony at Ayodhya, patriotism is high on display. One cannot stop these men and women pouring out their emotions of joy whenever the Indian flag is being raised for a reason. For those back in India, who see NRIs as ones who left the country, this Tiranga emotion of the Indian Americans is certainly hard to figure out but for sure their quest will stop when they witness the streets of Manhattan on a fine August 15 morning even in a pandemic era!
— The writer is a journalist based in New York

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