The 8th Queens India Day Parade, which filled Hillside Avenue in tricolor, celebrated India’s 77th Independence Day with crowds lined up on both sides of the road to cheer on the marchers, who defied the scorching heat, and proclaimed the pride of Indian heritage with that country’s flag. The grand marshal was Kanishka Soni, an actress in Bollywood and a noted singer.
The parade started at 263rd Street on Hillside Avenue and ended at St. Gregory the Great School on 246th Street. The public meeting and cultural programs were held in the school auditorium. A large presence of women dressed in the colors of the flag was noticeable as more than twenty organizations and institutions marched with banners along with several floats.
The Floral Park – Bellerose Indian Merchants Association (FBIMA), the organizers of the parade hosted different communities and cultures at the parade. Association President Koshy O Thomas, Secretary Mary Philip, Chairman Subash Kapadia, founder leader Hemant Shah, Parade Committee Chair Dincil George, and others lined up in front of the parade. It was followed by a group of youths on bikes.
Members of the Uttar Pradesh Association of New York, Jain Temple of New York, Queens Village Republican Club, and many other organizations were among the participants in the parade. The accompaniment of chenda melam (drum beats) by teams Kerala Cultural Association, Syro Malabar Church, and Drum Beats of Long Island added to the festivities.
Several organizations including the Federation of Malayalee Associations of Americas (FOMAA), Federation of Kerala Associations of North America (FOKANA), World Malayali Council, Indian Nurses Association, Indian Overseas Congress, etc. participated with attractive floats and won praises. The Nurses Association float was the most attractive with women dressed in the tricolor were accompanied by a woman dressed as Bharata Mata.
New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, who is running for US Congress from Congressional District 4, joined the parade and greeted the people. Biju Chacko, who is running as legislator from Nassau County District 13, and James Chow, who is running for New York City Council from Queens’ 23rd District, were also joined the parade. Chow will face Linda Lee, the incumbent in District 23.
Dr. Jacob Thomas, president, led the float of FOMAA, while Dr. Kala Shahi, general secretary, led the float of FOKANA. Thomas Mottackal, global president of World Malayalee Council, Dr. Anna George of the Indian Nurses Association of New York, Dr. Thomas Mathew of ECHO, Leela Maret of Indian Overseas Congress along with New York Malayalee Sports Club and Pioneer Club of Keralites in North America joined the parade.
The Queens Republican Committee participated in the parade in full force. They carried a pro-Trump flag. Hillside shops supplied water, buttermilk and soft drinks to the marchers who appreciated the gesture during the scorching heat.
Besides, Leela Maret, Indian Overseas Congress Vice-Chair George Abraham, President Mohinder Singh Gilzian, and other leaders gathered at the Indian Overseas Congress float.
Earlier, the meeting and performances were held at the Open Stage at Padawan-Feller Park on 263 Street. Although the new venue reduced travel distance, it was felt the old open-air stadium was more suitable. The old place had spacious tents and stalls, which was lacking in the new venue. Fr. John Thomas from the Orthodox Church recited the opening prayer. He prayed a non-religious for prosperity and peace in both countries.
Many local political and social leaders also participated in the meeting, including Senator John Liu and District Attorney Melinda Katz. New York City Mayor Eric Adams was the chief guest who described his Indian connection with pride to a standing ovation. He recalled visiting Gandhi Memorial during his visit to India. He noted that Gandhi’s last footprints were engraved there. That footprint carries a message. We should continue Gandhiji’s journey from where he left off.
‘When gun violence continues, our brothers live homeless, and people’s rights are denied, Gandhi’s dreams are thwarted. Gandhi taught us to stand for the oppressed and the suffering. We are bound to follow that path.’ He expressed satisfaction that now on New York City schools get a holiday for Diwali.
Jennifer Rajkumar, the first Indian American woman elected to the New York State Assembly, said that Mayor Adams was described as an Indian Mayor. Adams is a vegetarian who loves Indian food and is also a fan of Gujarati dance ‘Garba.’ He is a person who goes to the temple on Sunday and then to the gurudwara. We have been pushing for Diwali school holidays in New York City for decades. Many said it was impossible. But Mayor Adams didn’t just say it was possible; he made it happen. She also noted that she is the first Hindu elected to the state assembly.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards praised the Indians for their work and service to the community. He also pointed out that the African American people gained many rights in the civil rights movement inspired by Gandhi. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz highlighted the diversity of Queens. ‘There is no other place where people from so many countries live together.’
Koshy Thomas, thanked the Government, the City, and the Indian Consulate for their support. He also thanked the organizations and people for joining the parade. He pointed out that many people from Pennsylvania and New Jersey came to the parade. He expressed special thanks to Mayor Adams for his leadership and support to the Indian community. Parade Chair Dincil George also spoke.