Organisers of the Madison Square Garden reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this week have been stunned by the speed with which Indian Americans contributed for it.
The Indian American Community Foundation, formed to organise the event, fund and produce it, were able to raise over a million — $1.6 million precisely — within just days.
“We were completely taken aback by the speed with which people donated for the event,” said one of the organisers, requesting not to be identified. The PM is scheduled to address, and interact with, Indian Americans at MSG, as Madison Square Garden is popularly known, on September 28.
The brief to the organisers from the PMO was to keep the event completely free for whoever wanted to attend. The organisers were also told that the Indian government, which had hosted public receptions for visiting Indian Prime Ministers before, was not going to pay for it this time.
The organisers were on their own, and MSG does not come cheap, being accustomed to hosting blockbuster rock shows, boxing matches, political events and, even a pope. Initial estimates put the cost in the range of $400,000-$700,000.
With nothing on the account books at the time, when a decision was taken to hold the event, some of the organisers put up their own money to book the venue. But once the whole effort got organised, with a website where contributions could be made, money flowed in.
Around 85% of the money, said on of the organisers, came from middle class Indian Americans. Though chuffed by the response, the organisers also felt relieved they didn’t have to approach “big money”.
“Narendra Bhai won’t have liked that,” said one of the organisers.