American Indians celebrate old and new countries in the Hicksville Parade
As hundreds of American Indians marched down Broadway in Hicksville on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, Suresh Thakkar prepared bottled water in two ice-filled coolers.
“Seventy-five is independent and moving forward,” Thakkar said on the sidewalk outside BCB Bank where he is an assistant branch manager. “It’s doing really well and the world is watching India now.”
Led by a banner and a waving green, orange and white flag, Hicksville’s 11th annual India Day Parade stopped by Thakker, who sprang into action handing out bottles to all comers under a sun at 90 degrees. The procession of floats and walkers – some sporting patriotic colors and others wearing traditional Indian saris – skirted East John Street towards a lot near the Long Island Rail Road station where stalls of restaurants and local vendors formed a U around a stage.
India gained independence from Britain on August 15, 1947, and with a population of over 1.4 billion, according to the United Nations, the country is the largest democracy in the world. Many parade participants were proud to be part of both the world’s oldest democracy in the United States and the most populous in India.
“We are all Americans with a strong connection to our home country and the synergy between the two countries has given meaning to our lives,” said Tony Kejriwal, 62, who stood next to a banner for Long Island Desi Golfers, a band he formed. during the pandemic when businessman Hewlett started the sport. Kejriwal said golf isn’t very popular among middle-class Indians, but on Long Island he brought together a community of American Indians.
“It’s just not to stay at home and it worked really well, we found ordinary people with a common interest,” said Kejriwal who returned to the sport last year.
Prachi Tehlan, one of the grand marshals, former basketball player and current actress in Bollywood films, came to Hicksville from India to lead the parade.
“It was after COVID that everyone had the opportunity to be together and celebrate and hang out,” Tehlan told Newsday. “This is [my] first time to Long Island and looking forward to a great day.”
Mohinder Singh Taneja, one of the founders of the parade, said they celebrated all of India’s culture with people from all parts of the country as well as Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Jews.
“All of India’s diversity is represented here,” Taneja said. “Every religion is in India, so every religion is celebrated.”
But Taneja’s inclusive mindset was not shared by everyone. At a stand near the stage, Arish Sahani of Corona, Queens, advertised a Hindu religious school with a banner that read ‘I wish that one day India will be declared a Hindu nation’ and converts to other religions be brought back to Hinduism.
“If you were born Hindu, you must remain Hindu,” Sahani said.