5 things you didn’t know about Modi’s US visit

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, New York
  • Updated: Sep 26, 2015 08:24 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures upon his arrival at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on his second US visit. He has interacted with top CEOs and media moguls and is expected to address world leaders at a landmark United Nations’ sustainable development summit and meet US President Barack Obama.

Here are five interesting things about the tour that you probably didn’t know.

BRICs Hotel?

President Barack Obama may have dumped the Waldorf Astoria, over fears of Chinese spying — the company was bought by a Beijing-based insurance company in 2014 — but the luxurious hotel, which has been home to US presidents for over 80 years remains popular with some countries. India, for one. Modi has been a guest at the hotel for the last two days — receiving a steady stream of visitors somewhere inside. The Chinese and Russian delegations are checking in on Friday. That’s almost all of the BRICs countries — with the exception of Brazil; no word on where they are staying.

Read: Mixing business and diplomacy: PM Modi’s schedule

Waldorf Bangalia

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also a guest at the Waldorf Astoria and it is sometimes difficult to tell the Indian-Americans waiting for a glimpse of Modi from Bangladeshi-Americans waiting for their PM. The two leaders held a bilateral meeting at the hotel — neither had to leave the premises, naturally. But the queue of people waiting to see the Bangladeshi leader is impressive, like one outside an Apple store on the eve of an ilaunch, minus rucksacks.

Fortune 500 dinner

Indians started out with an ambitious guest list of 100 from the Fortune 500 list of the world’s richest. That number plunged to 60, and just when officials began to deal with despair, the number fell further — 39, and then some recovery, to 42.

Papal pull

And guess what was driving these numbers crazy — one of the factors, at least — Pope Francis’s visit, which everyone knew would throw Manhattan’s traffic, which moves slower at times than Connaught Place’s Outer Circle, would come to a standstill because of people coming in from outside for a “darshan”. Many parts of Manhattan are being shut down on Friday when the pope addresses the UN, and then holds a mass at Madison Square Garden, where Prime Minister Modi received a rockstar reception from the Indian American community a year ago.

Chef interrupted

Vikas Khanna stood gripping a book in a flood of TV lights, at first surprised, then happy, a little expansive and proud and then, when the cameras refused to budge, he looked worried. But the opportunity to sell his brand, which he wore on his chest — on a chef’s coat — was priceless, so he pressed on. When he couldn’t take it any more, he begged — “Can I use the restroom, please?”. And he suddenly, and acutely, felt the load of the weighty book he had been holding — a fat compendium of cuisines from around India.

Don’t worry, he did have a chance to run to the restroom.


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