(Author – Soma Vyas)
It was just another day, same daily routine, same daily chores, no special social commitment…. So basically just a normal lazy day and that’s why I guess after dropping my winter clothes for dry cleaning my eyes wandered aimlessly and I saw a new small Indian restaurant or rather a chat place called ‘Mawa’. Since I had some time to kill before I was suppose to pick up my kid from the school and also because the familiar smell of samosas and masala tea was so enticing that I thought of checking this new place.
After placing my order for the tea and samosa, my ears caught the famous tune of “khai ke pan banarswala…..’ From Amitabh fame ‘Don’ and without even knowing I took a backward leap in the past.
It was almost 8 yrs back when I received my husband’s phone call informing me that he got a good job offer in New Jersey,USA while I was visiting my parents… It made me jump with surprise,shock,excitement,sadness,joy and a totally strange feeling which till today I am not able to sum up in words. Unlike other girls of my age I was not very keen on leaving my country or going to some far away place at that point and time. I don’t know whether it was due to the traditional upbringing I had or the emotional bond I shared with my parents,friends or culture…. Or maybe the fear of unknown, a culture totally different from ours and the struggle which awaited us to survive,to stay close to the roots and yet make our own individuality and grow.
Finally my husband flew to start his job while me and my son started our visa approval process as we were on dependent visa. While we waited I use to get glimpses of United States through my husband’s phone calls or sometime mails and chats …so his best description of USA was that it’s different, he kept stressing the fact that we shouldn’t compare these two with the same parameters as they are different in so many ways. And till today when people ask me how’s USA? I always say, don’t compare it’s different!! Soon my mind started racing towards what lay ahead of me as a parent, how am I going to keep my country’s value alive in my son? How am I going to make friends there? Will there ever be a sense of belongingness or will I always feel as an alien? By the time we reached JFK airport my mind was totally exhausted with such thoughts and obviously jet lagged.
I had no idea how long I slept, even long after getting up it felt like I was floating. In that half dazed state we enetered ‘sukh sagar’ a South Indian food chain restaurant, after finishing dinner while we sipped our masala tea ” khai ke pan banarswala..” reached my ears and I grinned from ear to ear. Suddenly I felt so light ….here we are sitting so far from our country and still enjoying the Indian food and a song which not even Indian restaurant play any more but just to be heard in marriages. My husband smiled knowingly and said,” Don’t worry Indian presence is very much here, very much alive and kicking …. Not just in the food but the way Indians here try to preserve their culture, the initial resistance is turning into acceptance and no wonder one day we would be participating in some big Indian event in Central Park or Madison square garden ! “Little did we know that day was not very far and little did we know that big Indian event would be in the honor of “Once a chaiwala”who is now the proud Prime Minister of India.
” Madam, can I get anything for you ?” And I suddenly came back to the present …. sitting in Mawa and sipping my tea while TV channel was flashing the news of PM Narendra Modi, addressing a big crowd in Madison square garden.
‘ Thank you for everything,I am good !!’ I said curtly and signed the credit card for him while his eyes was constantly following the news headlines.
” So what do you think of Narendra Modi as our PM?” I probed judging his interest in political affairs of our country.
He smiled and replied in a simple manner of a common man ,” Madam what can I say …I am not so knowledgeable about politics but even being away from country everyone of us keep wishing that India should be in good hands. I don’t know what else goes inside politics but people should have some faith in the leadership, I don’t know if he will be able to fulfill that or not but looking at him gives some confidence, some hope… If our country does good we also feel confident, we feel connected, we feel proud. Have you seen his speech ? I have always seen people coming from so far to see a celebrity,sports person but never a politician and he did that!! All type of people came madam, all type of people!! The best thing was that he spoke in Hindi, he showed respect to our culture madam, if your leader do that you also feel confident about your culture…. Bas madam aapka bahut time Khoti kar diya….suddenly he became self conscious and it made me smile.
While driving back to pick my son from school I mused over my conversation with the waiter and I realized what a Modi effect is … It has been such a long time that Indian politics didn’t see a leader who has charisma, who makes you feel confident about yourself, about your culture , about your country….people might criticize him for doing so much travel but it’s a smart move because meeting people, visiting country, strengthening ties .. It all puts India on a global stage. If we consider India as a company than Narendra Modi is our brand ambassador whether anyone of us like it or not. Basically he speaks in layman language and being a good orator he is able to relate to many people on different level and thus creating a wave in his own way ….hopefully this wave takes us to a better place because hope is what India needs most right now!!