Vignettes and Impressions from America : ‘Anna, You Can Save India’

A strange spectacle was seen on the roads of America on 18 August. Usually, there are about one lakh on the roads here, but on 18 August more than two lakhs people had gathered on the roads here. On both sides of the roads, there were exactly the same kind of crowds as are seen in Delhi at India Gate during the 26 January parade. People were buoyant with optimism and enthusiasm. Flags were waving. The occasion was the celebration of India’s Independence Day in New York. In our country Independence day is celebrated on 15 August, in New York Indians living in America celebrate the day on a Sunday so that people from far-away can take part easily in this ceremony. And the roads were truly filled, people had come from far-flung places.
In this parade Vidya Balan was walking and Anna Hazare was walking. Vidya Balan was ahead. People were not raising slogans on seeing Vidya Balan, but they were certainly waving their hands, and in reply to their greeting, Vidya Balan, in her filmi style was displaying her emotions in the fluid expressions, the mudras of dance. Indians living in America celebrate this parade every year, see this parade every year, and every year some film star or the other takes part in this parade. Vidya Balan was also getting exactly the same kind of response as was given to film stars who had participated in parades which had been organised earlier.
Former Army Chief General V.K. Singh along with his wife also took part in this parade. Because the advertisement for this parade had already been telecast in America, many people recognised General V.K. Singh and those people were waving their hands in greeting and were running to shake hands with him, and were attempting to meet him. In this parade, the third personality was that of Anna Hazare. To take part in this parade, Anna Hazare had come specially from India to New York. He was riding in an open convertible. Because Anna’s height is small, Anna sat above the seat of the open car.
The moment people saw Anna, from all sides swarms of people broke the railings and ran towards Anna. To touch Anna, to shake hands with him, and to talk to him, there was such a build up of atmosphere that Anna’s security personnel had to contend with considerable difficulties. Security personnel had been kept for Anna because people guessed that many in the crowds would try to come near Anna. It was a difficult time for the security personnel. But Anna did not disappoint anyone. He shook hands, did ‘namaste’, and replied to everyone’s greeting with a smile. In the entire parade, the way Anna Hazare was welcomed, it was an amazing welcome.
To hear ‘Anna Hazare zindabad’, ‘Anna Hazare aage bhadho’on the roads of America was an experience of a different type. People in America recognise Anna Hazare. Whether they were people of a new age, whether they were old, women, or children. How the face of Anna became so well known amongst Indians in America, perhaps even Anna could not understand this, because even Anna had not imagined that he would be so welcomed here. Anna was overwhelmed by the welcome and in this state he raised on the roads of America slogans the way he raised them in his ‘sabhas’ or gatherings and meetings in India.

As in India, where listening to Anna becomes the second priority and getting photographed with him becomes the first priority, the same trend was seen in America as well.People would come running and say, ‘Anna! Save India.’ ‘Anna! India depends on you.’ ‘Anna! We are with you, give us instructions on what we should do.’ Listening to all these things, Anna was smiling, waving his hands and greeting the people. America’s Madison Square became a witness to the personality of Anna. The sky of America became the witness to the welcome that Anna received.

In India, at the beginning of his meetings, Anna himself raises slogans. Vande Mataram, Bharat Mata ki jai and Inqilab Zindabad. Anna raised all these three slogans on the roads of America and the Indians present there gave a tremendous response of ‘Zindabad’. The entire Madison Square through which this rally was passing resounded with slogans and cries of ‘Inqilab Zindabad’. Many scenes were seen. People were running and getting Anna’s hand placed on the heads of children. Women wanted to touch Anna in any way and men were seeking different ways of walking with Anna, shaking hands with Anna, trying to get themselves photographed with him, because Anna had not stopped anywhere. His car was moving, but in front of the car and at its back, defying the security guards on its right and left, for getting a photo with Anna some way or the other the same kind of craze was seen in America as there is in India. In India too, whether it is the airport, a market, a meeting, at every place there is a race to touch Anna’s feet and get a photograph with him. As in India, where listening to Anna becomes the second priority and getting photographed with him becomes the first priority, the same trend was seen in America as well. People would come running and say, ‘Anna! Save India.’ ‘Anna! India depends on you.’ ‘Anna! We are with you, give us instructions on what we should do.’ Listening to all these things, Anna was smiling, waving his hands and greeting the people. America’s Madison Square became a witness to the personality of Anna. The sky of America became the witness to the welcome that Anna received. Policemen who were on duty in America were surprised that an individual who has no personality and is dressed in an ordinary dhoti-kurta-cap and a jacket. Seeing such a personality makes them wonder why people are so excited and enthusiastic about meeting this man, are welcoming him. Why are people screaming ‘Anna-Anna’? After all who is Anna? This ‘wondering surprise’ of policemen in America was perhaps also a ‘wondering surprise’ for many Americans. Anna was passing through this ‘wondering surprise’ and America was seeing that ‘yatra’ (journey) of Anna for which even the Prime Minister of India would have craved. A welcome coming from the heart of the people for Prime Ministers in India has been seen less in recent years. In America, Anna was not a Prime Minister, but it seemed from the welcome he was getting that here he was the king of the hearts of the people.
From where the parade was passing, there was a ‘manch’ (stage) just in front of it on which there was Vidya Balan, greeting people in the same lilting filmi style, in the dance ‘mudra’, seeing which it seemed to me that at the very least in the name of the parade of India’s Independence, it would be better if film stars greeted people with decorum and did not do so in their dance ‘mudra’ style which appears flippant, without any class. But Vidya Balan did so.
General V.K. Singh gave a speech from the stage. General V.K. Singh was asked some questions about the Army, about China and the General answered them. But when Anna reached the stage, it was just and only Anna. And it seemed that this entire crowd which had come to celebrate freedom and Independence, had become Anna enamoured and were shouting slogans of ‘Anna, Anna.’ And a powerful scene which was seen was that thousands of people were marching on the roads wearing ‘I am Anna’ caps.
In this entire march, I was a spectator, but a supporter came running and made me wear an ‘I am Anna’ Gandhi ‘topi’ or cap. I was overwhelmed by the spectator, who had come from somewhere outside, making me wear the cap. Thousands of people were marching on America’s roads wearing Gandhi topis or caps with ‘I am anna’ wriiten on them. It was an amazing scene.
When Anna when to the stage, he gave a small speech. After giving the speech when Anna got down from the stage and was going towards the car, another car passed with a couple in it. Suddenly the car stopped in the middle of the road and the couple from the car came running near Anna and said ‘Anna! Only you can save India.’ They said that our country is dying, is getting ruined and folding their hands began weeping. This scene will not get written anywhere in history, but this scene became an indelible page in the history of the lives of whoever witnessed it.
Why expectations get joined with Anna Hazare is not known. Why people consider Anna Hazare the destiny maker or the person who will save India from misfortune is not known. Indian politicians do not count Anna anywhere in any reckoning. But the way people in India love Anna and see a possibility in him, I saw the same thing on the roads of America – that people see a possibility in Anna, have hopes from Anna. They are urging Anna to take some strong steps to save India. What steps Anna should take is not known, but the least the people want is that Anna should take some hard steps so that our country can be saved. Why our country is dying, no Indian has been able to explain the reason. But the country is dying. This is in everyone’s mind. And that the country is dying, this feeling should be in the minds of American-Indians makes one a bit sorrowful, but their reposing faith in Anna also shows possibilities.

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