It was supposed to be the meeting of the decade. Or rather decades. Had me in a couple of split moments, should one go, or not. After all, it is summer and the heat heading down to 43 degrees and add to this a humidity factor, good lord. Only the insane would go.
Post a few yesses and an equal number of nos’, the heart ruled and said, what the hell. This is the chance of a lifetime and one does not get this opportunity time and again. And also as rightly said: “Opportunity knocks at your door regularly, it is upto you to decide to take it or wait for the next bus, which may be late or never”. What am I talking about? Watching the Prime Minister of your country live in a stadium and hear him speak. How many chances does one get and more so, when he is one of the most charismatic PM had in a long time and one who can speak.
August 17 was the day, when the PM was to visit Dubai and in the evening was to address the Indian community that was based in the country. Before one knew it, the news was out like wildfire, and people passing the link to all and sundry. Registrations happening at breakneck speed on the site and in a few days, we heard, they had already crossed 10,000 registrations. A week was still to come.
Eventual day of the meeting plans had been going on for days. How will we commute, where do we meet, sit together, will there be parking, will be extremely crowded, will be hot… the works. Eventually, it turned out to be a mix of people driving on their own, to carpooling to people in buses, metros any which way to reach the venue. Landing around 3 PM, was the first shocker. The queue outside the gate was nearly a mile long. And the event was not planned to start until 8. With doubts creeping again in my mind, whether to continue or take the next exit back home, it was, hey, not here all this way driving just to go back.
Passing through a barrage of cars coming in from every corner and going through multiple lanes, managed to reach the parking lot in a while which turned out to be a breeze. Very organized, people ensuring that they followed the rules, as one of the volunteers there simply explained. If we have a clear lane now, will be easy to exit. Smart man.
Parking done, realized how easy or difficult it was to walk in the Sun at peak afternoon. With temperatures in their near 40’s and the distance a good 15 minutes of walking in the open road, the sweat tingling off my brow onto my face making me wonder, why did I do this inane decision to come here. That was not helped much by the crowd that I saw at the gate, which was already swelling up and people building up from every direction (some were there from 1 PM). With a lot of pushes / shoves, all piled on the gates, wanting to enter at the earliest. After all, this was a first come first serve seating.
With what seemed like three hours (amazing how standing in the heat distorts one’s mind of time and now I understand why a mirage becomes a reality), the gates slowly opened up with people crossing off in bits. Of course, hey but we are Indians. We love our lines, we love our pushing, our wise cracks and our getting cheesed off, which really was not helping with the Security guards.
With every bone and muscle in my body squeezed and twisted, managed in through the gates, to walk briskly to reach another checking gate, which after another 15 minutes we found was only for the artistes. Hell, run to the third one! This is where our true origins come to the fore. Irrespective of who we are, where we are, what we are, we all have within the people, who cannot wait, who think of themselves above others, who seem to have that Oxfordian English accent and who think that any blue-collar person is of low-key. Had those, with some women, donning in Racecourse wide-brimmed hats, with comments of, people like you give us a bad name, who do you think you are.. etc. Hey, get real. This is a public event and there is bound to be a bit of jostling, pushing and if such people consider themselves beyond, they should not leave the confines of their residues.
Well, eventually in to the stadium with a good seat found early on (mine was far off but the way I see it, exiting was easy) and then waited. All of this was nearly done in 30 – 40 mins (yes, it felt like two hours) and all that one could do was wait. With the stadium still three-quarters empty, the good thing was, it was peaceful. The advantage of landing up early is always that you get a decent or a good seat (when it is free seating), but the downside is you sit the longest with nothing much to do. With the heat where it was, it was not before too long, that the sweating in pores started, with very soon, every part of my clothing sticking to my body, as if it was one and the same.
The atmosphere, electric, filled with waves of currents passing by. As more and more people started coming in, the waves of being an Indian filled through the stadium with patriotic fervor chants going by the minute. Vande Mataram, Bharat Mata ki Jai, Modi Modi, were just a few of them that kept reverberating throughout the stadium every minute. The heat at that point of fervor was secondary, the humidity, hardly noticeable, it was just pure magic. As time passed on, and the musical programs started, the chants got louder, with Jai Ho’s and every time a national song got played. Before one knew it, time passed, and the moment every one was so eagerly waiting for arrived.
The roar, simply speaking, was humongous. There was not a seat that was occupied by any one sitting. Every single person the entire massive crowd of nearly 40,000 people were up on their feet, chanting only one word, Modi. One could have been forgiven to think that this was a rock concert and some one like Michael Jackson or The Beatles had arrived. Being there, feeling the waves running through every hair on my body, screaming at the maximum possible level that one’s vocal chords would permit, one had to be there to feel this. With what seemed an eternity, another roar erupted when Modi uttered his first words. It would appear that he would never be able to speak.
The din down, another moment of passion arose when the national anthems of the UAE and India played. One could feel the sense of passion going through every ones heart on the anthems and with people doing a sing along, words fail to express what went through all. This was followed of course by a speech by the PM and Modi being Modi, a wonderful speaker, knew how to keep the crowd in the palm of his hand. His one liners, his jokes, the barbs, all were there in full, one and sundry. It was simply amazing that during that one hour, every one completely forgot how hot it was, how much sweat had been drained out of the body, it was simply to hear the PM speak.
Some great words of inspiration, key being the need to all walk together and move forward, and there can never be a resolutions without talking. Fighting never solves issues, it is only talking sitting and talking to each other, that issues can be resolved. Of course, being a politicians speech, how could be bereft of marketing of what had been achieved and how key all the Non Resident Indians were to the economy and their valuable contributions and how things had changed during his tenure. Some great moments also during his visit, where in he met the labourers and posed for photographs with them, which for many was an unrealistic experience. Where do you see the PM of your country meeting drivers, supermarket assistants, welders and talking to them.
As the event ended and headed off home, could not but help wonder, a wonderful moment that had been totally worth it. Yes there as the expected sales pitch, but overall, it left one with a feeling of pride and joy as to hearing a charismatic leader speak. I am sure there are many other leaders who are and have been more adept in the art of oratory and poetry than Mr. Modi, however that day belonged to him. And us.
The full speech (albeit in Hindi) can be sourced at You Tube on this link.