Elaborate menus for a private dinner at the White House and a reception by the Indian Ambassador to the US are ready. However, Narendra Modi is unlikely to savour either. Throughout his US outing, the Prime Minister will be observing Navratra fast.
Top government officials told The Indian Express that Modi will have only fluids for the duration of the Navratras (September 25-October 3).
Said a top PMO official, “The Prime Minister has been keeping Navratra fast for four decades and this year will be no different. We have told him that keeping his busy schedule in the US in mind, he should ideally have some lime juice or vitamin water, but he hasn’t said yes or no to us.”
Well-known NRIs who are organising events such as the one at Madison Square Garden in New York for Modi’s visit said that they too had been advised not to overcrowd the Prime Minister’s schedule keeping his nine-day-long fast in mind.
Among them is Dr Bharat Barai, a physician, who is the main organiser of the Madison Square Garden event, which is expected to be attended by over 18,000 people. “We know the Prime Minister will be fasting during the Navratra festival and this is one reason officials in New Delhi told us not to make his schedule too hectic. In any case, the enthusiasm over this visit is so great and there were so many requests for the Prime Minister to visit other cities that we could accommodate very little.”
Barai as well as other prominent NRIs have reached New York as the countdown to the Modi trip begins. In addition to a giant stage, Barai said, a rotating podium is being put up at the centre of the Madison Square Garden arena, and the Prime Minister could pick either of the two to address the crowd.
With the seating capacity in the arena already “oversubscribed”, it has been decided to have live streaming of the PM’s speech at Times Square. Around 500 volunteers have been arranged to “greet” him outside the UN headquarters as well as at a spot near the White House in Washington.
Barai’s wife Dr Panna Barai recalled that in 1993, Modi had stayed at their house in Munster, Indiana, while accompanying Murli Manohar Joshi to the US. Modi had brought along only two-three sets of cotton kurta-pyjamas and would request her to keep one change ready for the next day, she said. “He was aware that laundry is done here on a weekly basis, and so made this special request,” she said.
The NRI community plans to gift Modi a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. However, their promise is that come September 26, the date Modi arrives in New York, several other surprises would be in store for him.