As a boy born and raised in East London in the 90’s, India was a distant land. At most, my family and I would visit our home town in Kerala every other year or so. Whilst Kerala is luscious and beautiful, my stays there were quite uneventful – the peace was interrupted only by bouts of mosquitoes, fevers, and being chased by stray dogs! I didn’t know much about the country.
As I grew older, I became interested in politics. In many ways, this interest has brought me closer to my family home, and it has allowed me a greater understanding of it. Over the course of the last decade, I have seen dramatic changes take place in India. I have a seen a country that has risen to world prominence, I have seen the election of global super star Shri Narendra Modi, and I have seen a country that epitomises the contradiction of aspiration and progress amidst poverty. Thanks to Prime Minister Modi, India today is a shining example of a rising star on the world stage. Thanks to him, India no longer feels like such a distant land.
Mr Modi’s inspiring speech at Wembley Stadium on Friday 13 November showed his earnestness, determination and passion which, combined with a sterling effort by Prime Minister David Cameron, electrified an already enthusiastic audience, and in their eyes reaffirmed the special bond between Great Britain and India. It was wonderful to feel the cultural synergy and emotional bond between Team India and Team UK. Truly it was an insight into ‘Two Great Nations, One Glorious Future’!
As I walked into Wembley Stadium to chants of ‘Modi! Modi!’, I knew that I was attending what was probably a once in a lifetime event. The feeling was brought home by the sight of that iconic arch and of British Indians streaming happily down Wembley Way, unmindful of the dreary British weather. Above all, I was looking forward to seeing the “chaiwallah” who has emerged as a symbol of hope for over a billion people. In a very real sense one could say that this was chai pe charcha on a massive scale. As I sat watching people taking their seats in vast numbers, I knew I was partaking in something historic and I felt the pride in my Indian heritage.
Nearly four hours of colourful cultural shows followed, throughout which the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed alongside equally talented and well known Indian performers. Then the moment we had all been waiting for finally arrived. Prime Minister David Cameron took to the stage first. His stirring speech drew passionate and loud responses from the near 60,000 strong audience. His attempt at Hindi was impressive and was praised by people in India from what I could glean from Twitter after the event. His confident assertion that there could soon be a British Indian PM in No 10 drew a massive roar of appreciation. This may well have been one of the biggest crowds the Prime Minister has addressed; I am sure it must have been a thrilling experience for him as well. I could not help but to think that in those few minutes he had secured a plurality or even the majority of the Indian vote for the Conservatives. Mr Modi followed Mr Cameron to enormous cheers and I felt a surge of excitement that I have rarely felt before.
What particularly caught my attention was how smoothly Prime Minister Modi touched on a broad range of topics ranging from tackling basic needs such as electricity and access to toilet facilities for schoolgirls, to the introduction of the Rupee Bond on the London Stock Exchange. By outlining the initiatives he has undertaken such as Swachh Bharat, Digital India and Make in India, he highlighted how the groundwork to roll-back and defeat the pernicious scourge of poverty in India is being set up under his ambitious and visionary administration. One noteworthy point that Mr Modi made with such passion was the importance of the spirit of community volunteering, quoting individual examples – something which I believe no other Indian leader has acknowledged publicly before. His emphasis on standing together to tackle terrorism is doubly poignant in the aftermath of the horrific and barbaric events in Paris later that evening. For all the internal criticism of his trips abroad, his opponents would be well advised to remember the vast amount of trade and investment he is generating which will bring huge developmental changes to India. Thanks to him, India is now the seventh most valuable brand in the world!
The most important point, however, was the Prime Minister’s determination to see India treated and standing as an equal by its partners. This is the fundamental reality of a confident new India embodied by Mr Modi, assertively striding onto the world stage alongside its great power partners. The event at Wembley was a symbolic start to a new special relationship with India, as around £9 billion pounds of trade and investment deals would attest to.
As much as anything it was a celebration of the contributions and cultural diversity which British Indians have made to our country and therefore something that I am proud to have participated in, even as a spectator. Minor gripes such as a lack of subtitled English translation of Mr Modi’s speech notwithstanding (I am a Malayalam-speaker and needed my aunt who understood Hindi to translate) I found it to be an engrossing and emotional event. It was a testament also to the hard work and determination of volunteers who helped make it a success, underlining Mr Modi’s evident belief that every individual can make a difference to India and the world.
Great Britain and India have embarked on a special journey together — as friends, allies and equals. As I watched the fireworks explode into the sky at the end of the night in a blaze of colourful light, I could not help but be reminded of David Cameron’s words in his introduction in which he added to Mr Modi’s famous catchphrase.
“Acche din zaaroor aayenge” –“Good days will arrive!”
Jeevan graduated from the London School of Economics with a Masters in Comparative Politics, specialising in terrorism and political violence. Regular tweets can be found @jeevanvc.