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How to win over 20,000 Indians expecting the greatest show on earth

Daniel A. Medina/Quartz
Crowds gather at start of event. Organizers said there were nearly 20,000 in attendance.
By Devjyot Ghoshal, Daniel A. Medina
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It was a spectacle, for sure.

An adoring crowd of nearly 20,000 applauded and cheered almost unceasingly on cue—and laughed at every punchline, no matter how old (heard the one about the snake charmers and mice?). Indian prime minister Narendra Modi transformed a typically staid state visit into a stage show (lights, camera, and lots of Bollywood-inspired action) at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

There was even a portrait of Modi painted in real time, to the tune of Indian classical music. Modi spoke from a rotating podium in a venue better known for hosting rock concerts, athletes, and the occasional circus. Like them, today’s event was crafted for impact—and it didn’t entirely disappoint.

In a nearly 90-minute long speech that began with highlighting programs and reforms that he and his government have previously outlined, Modi saved the best for last—a promise to streamline the visa process for non-resident Indians, the overwhelming majority of his audience. (Although many of the initiatives had been previously announced and had been slated to take effect this year.)

Despite a crowd of protesters outside, it’s undeniably been a good week for India, including a successful Mars mission, a new Make in India campaign, and a maiden speech at the United Nations.

The show goes on. The next guy to win over: President Obama.

Daniel A. Medina/Quartz
Indian-American dancers perform to a traditional Gujurati folk song. There were numerous performances ahead of Modi’s speech.
Daniel A. Medina/Quartz
Modi supporters observe the US national anthem. Most attendees were Indian Americans from New York and neighboring states.
Daniel A. Medina/Quartz
A Modi supporter observes the US national anthem. Nearly all those in attendance were Indian Americans from New York and neighboring states.
Daniel A. Medina/Quartz
Modi addressing the crowd from a rotating podium. Sunday’s event at Madison Square Garden was the most high profile of his whirlwind US tour.


📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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