Remember Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden in September, 2014 - when 19,000 fans were drawn to a single spotlight, when the roars and cheers of Modi's fiercest supporters stunned the few dozen United States senators who marked attendance.
During the upcoming visit of Modi to the US on 25 and 26 June, his signature address at a 'community reception' organised by the Indian diaspora in the US will be comparatively quieter - far removed from the high decibel, chest thumping variant we saw in New York but it will be equally well orchestrated – at the poshest digs in Trump's own backyard before meeting the US President next morning.
On 25 June (Sunday), Modi will address an invitation only group of Indian-Americans and Indians in America at the 14,000 square feet ballroom at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner, Virginia at 2 pm EST (11:30 pm IST).
The Ritz Carlton in McLean, VA, is not just another 'convenient' location which has the necessary security arrangement to host a government-led celebration – it's the most chic and exclusive neck of the woods in Washington DC – Virginia – Maryland tri-state.
Bonus fact is that Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US election. Among these, the particular zip code where Modi is speaking is heavily democratic in its political leaning, as is the seat of government - Washington DC.
Although it's hard to pin down the social profile of say, an enthusiastic flag waving Modi fan at the Madison Square Garden gig in 2014, the audience at Modi's speech on Sunday will represent a creamy subset of the Indian immigrants (and non immigrants).
Think tanks like Pew regularly inform us that the Asian-American population has grown 20-fold since 1960, and Indians among them make up one of the best-educated and wealthiest demographics in the United States.
Pictures clicked of Modi in his element at this gig in McLean, Virginia, will say it better than any infographic can.
Just as Washington's social butterflies and power brokers take note of lavish parties thrown by say Russia's Sergey Kislyak, replete with retro Russian ice sculptures, a Modi speech at a community reception in the most expensive zip code near the White House has a certain ring to it in the gilded circles of Planet Trump.
Why should any of this matter?
Because word goes out. Given the backlash against the H1B visa, which has less to do with the visa itself and more to do with America turning to its 'normal' inward self, this could serve as a setting to underline the intellectual prowess of Indian workers not just in America but everywhere and why they expand the size of the pie.
Last year at US-India Business Council, Modi spoke eloquently (in English) about American exceptionalism in immigration policy and how generations of Indians have been able to carve a life in the US and make good.
A master orator adept at embracing various media platforms, Modi's sweet spot has always been heavy hitting from a lectern in front of real people. As a politician at his peak, his party's saffron colours enveloping larger swathes of India in election after election this year, Modi knows far too well the messages he wants to deliver hours before meeting the US president.
For the Indian diaspora dressed to the nines, it will be their Sunday selfie moment, for Modi’s huge online following, another viral livestream, for Modi, a warm up ahead of a possible bear hug with Trump and for Indian diplomats in a lawyers town that's mostly caught up with Comey, Mueller and local politics, it'll their most sleepless weekend so far this year.
Published Date: Jun 22, 2017 20:42 PM | Updated Date: Jun 23, 2017 18:20 PM