NRI Pulse

Perspective

From DC to Thrissur: Indian American Witnesses Modi’s Roadshow

BY MOHANAN NAIR

Having been part of the Modi Show in New York and Washington DC, Modi ji’s visit to Thrissur was an opportunity to witness him in his Karma bhoomi (land of action) – India. The rally coordinators in Kodumunda offered me a free bus ride, providing a golden opportunity to experience the Modi prabhav (effect) within India. I reached the pickup point (Mele Kodumunda) 30 minutes prior to the scheduled pickup at 10:30 AM. The bus arrived around 11:30 AM, almost an hour later than the scheduled departure, a delay not uncommon by Indian standards. I used the waiting time to reconnect with old friends from our village, some of whom I hadn’t seen in four decades. We took pictures, exchanged memories, and discussed acquaintances who were no longer with us.

Some faces surprised me, as I had never imagined they would be BJP supporters. The coordination wasn’t up to Amit Shah’s standard but was not chaotic either. Perhaps because the program primarily targeted ladies, they received special treatment – a luxury air-conditioned coach with filtered water, etc.

I took the opportunity to talk to some of the ladies and gauge their enthusiasm. The name Modi was on everyone’s lips, and there was optimism about a repeat of Modi’s rule in 2024, a splendid third term. There was a strong desire to elect more BJP MPs to strengthen Modi’s third term.

I was assigned a seat among male supporters, as men were not allowed entry to the main event. The program was a BJP Mahila show, intended to express gratitude to Modi for various women empowerment initiatives of the Modi government. Our bus, though ordinary, was naturally air-conditioned. The slightly cold breeze through the open windows made our journey pleasant.

The writer with Dheeraj.

My seat companion was Dheeraj, an 8th grader from Perumudiyoor school – the same high school I attended in the early seventies. This young Modi supporter had taken time off from his studies to see Modi, filled with excitement. I used the opportunity to record a conversation with him. His admiration for Modi knew no bounds.

Throughout the less than 2-hour bus ride to Thrissur, I witnessed an emerging India within Kerala, with an undercurrent indicating a desire for change. Concerned parents expressed pressure to support children seeking education and opportunities abroad. They hoped for change through adopting the development mantra, expecting a corruption and crime-free administration to provide opportunities for the youth.

Our journey continued, and the organizers provided vegetable rice for lunch. All buses from our Panchayat were stopped in front of a roadside restaurant. We used the hand wash facilities outside the restaurant, and travelers sought restrooms to ease themselves. I observed a lack of toilets at the rally ground and in the city itself, surprising for a place where thousands visit daily. I wished the organizers had considered these basic human needs. Drinking water was also a challenge. These simple considerations could leave a lasting impression on people, influencing their voting decisions.

The roadshow was super crowded, and the meeting venue was exclusively for women, the “aadi abaadi” as Modi refers to them. While it was well-intentioned, the organizers should have been aware that men usually accompany women in India. Many men who joined the roadshow were upset they couldn’t hear Modi despite investing their full day. Some even asked if I could play Modi’s speech live on my phone, and I obliged them.

Throughout the conversations, everyone expressed their liking for Modi, wishing to see him return with more seats. However, doubts lingered about whether the Kerala BJP party machinery was doing enough for the Lotus to blossom in Kerala. Voter enthusiasm was evident, and if the party gears up, with trained Mandal and Panna Pramukhs ready for the Kerala challenge, the day might not be far when Kerala sees a transformation similar to Tripura or at least a minimum like West Bengal.

The return journey was eventful. Once the roadshow was over and Modi reached the stage, the men had nothing else to do. A co-passenger suggested we wait in the bus, and after some phone calls, we located it. We walked to the bus through an inner road, with my companion suggesting a detour to a local bar. Although I declined the offer, he went in, and I waited outside. After a while, we resumed the search for our bus, finally locating it after checking various possible spots.

The journey back was challenging as our bus driver drove fast, almost recklessly. During the 50 km drive, I felt every small movement, reminiscent of a wooden roller coaster at Six Flags in Atlanta.

Overall, I had a great experience of a public meeting, witnessing the vibe Modi creates in India. It mirrored what I had seen in New York, Houston, or Washington. Modi isn’t just a dream seller, as his opponents describe. He encourages all 1.4 billion people in India to dream of a bright future, a developed India, a Vishva Guru – a country spiritually, economically, and politically rich. I believe in what Dr. Abdul Kalam said: first, you dream, then you work towards making that dream come true. Wishing all Indians a Happy New Year and a strong future ahead.

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