Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inspires the Youth

Kavita in

Kavita Pallod receiving blessings from Narendra Modi.

 By Kavita Pallod

NEW YORK: Madison Square Garden. Where you see homages to the Ali-Frazier “Fight of the Century”. The stage to everyone from the Rolling Stones to Beyonce. It’s a pretty magical place any day of the week, and growing up I dreamed of being present for one of these storied moments. I never had reason to think that my first time stepping into MSG would be draped in Indian clothes, to see the Prime Minister of India. It may have been a stretch for my young imagination, but I got all the magic I wanted all the same.

When we heard that PM Modi was coming to the States, I figured that it would be difficult for the experience to meet expectations, but when Modi took the dais, and started singing the national anthem with 20,000 of us, it was impossible not to tear up. As he started speaking, I quickly heard every quality I had come to admire over his campaign run. Yes, he acknowledged the strength of the Indian-American community. He even made us promises that intuitively spoke to our desires. Most importantly though, he had challenges for us as well. As Modi invoked the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, I was rushed back to summers and trips in India with family. We travelled by bus and train, and I remember my horror as I watched plates fly out of train windows, and tears filled my eyes when I was mocked for pushing my family to find a trash can. I found bags myself and walked up and down three train cars to collect as much trash as I could to prove a point, but when I succumbed to dehydration, and found myself glued to my berth, the plates resumed flying out windows. My aunts and uncles reassured me that while it was cute that I tried, India would never change. The experience was stunning. If I couldn’t convince my family- good-hearted, intelligent, hard working people- to act, what could be done? I did my personal part whenever I found myself in India, feeling that I owed something to the land, but lost the hope that things would change. When Modi reminded the crowd that we owed this much, a clean India, to the man who brought India freedom, and the crowd rose to its feet in approval, I got goose bumps. This man was capable of making people believe that they were capable of more, and deserving of more. What else could a country ask for?

The last moment of the experience for me was getting in line for pictures and a quick handshake. Sure, the guy made an indelible impact on me, but how was I going to be memorable myself in a line of 800 guests?! Despite my rehearsals, I barely managed to stammer out a “I’m so inspired by everything you’ve said, please keep giving us directives and we’ll deliver too” in broken Hindi before bending down to touch his feet. A warm hand was immediately on my head though, and I looked up to find him smiling and issuing the challenge I sought- “Keep pushing forward, kid”.
Challenge accepted.