US President Donald Trump joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the NRG stadium in Houston, Texas as the over 50,000-strong raucous crowd cheered ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’. The event, titled
‘Shared Dreams, Bright Futures,’ has been organized by Texas India Forum. Modi welcomed “a very special person whose name is familiar to every person on the planet."
Trump kept his hand on Modi’s shoulder as the two walked together on the stage. The proceedings, long underway before Modi arrived at 9.40 PM India time, had the U.S. anthem ‘Star Spangled Banner’ played which was followed by the Indian national anthem, ‘Jana, Gana, Mana.’
The event is nothing short of a major Hollywood premiere as Trump arrived 50 minutes later at 1030PM India time and was received by India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar.
Modi wore a grey checked waist jacket with a matching handkerchief tucked inside the left side pocket of a yellow Nehru shirt on top his trademaek white coloured ethnic sherwani.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was the first to speak on the occasion as he welcomed Modi and a Congressional delegation to the stadium. A fusion gospel choir sang Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite song, “Vaishnav Jan Toh," a prayer penned by 15th century poet Narsimha Mehta.
More than two dozen lawmakers and governors of various states like Ted Cruz, Steny Hoyer, Ami Bera, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Brad Sherman and John Cornyn among others stood on the stage to welcome Modi. Cruz, a Senator from Texas, was the first lawmaker to speak, immediately after Turner, and he profusely praised India and the Indian diaspora in the U.S.
The event is being streamed live on Fox News and CNN in the U.S. and all news channels and apps in India.
The crescendo had been in the making all day with reports talking about long queues outside the NRG stadium, leading to traffic snarls. Thousands had taken their seats at the 71,000-capacity NRG stadium several hours before the PM arrived at 9.25 PM India time. The NRG stadium plays host to American football games and hosts a retractable roof. Some stands in the stadium were left vacant due to security reasons.
Before leaving for Houston, Trump had tweeted, “Will be in Houston to be with my friend. Will be a great day in Texas." Modi responded in equal measure, tweeting: “It surely will be a great day! Looking forward to meeting you very soon."
The occasion was marked by several dance, music and yoga performances with large number of non-resident Indians as well as foreigners among those participating. The artists included Indian-origin Americans, school students, doctors, engineers, bankers, analysts and various others from several walks of life.
The programme was a blend of classical Indian and western performances even as the super-sized TV at the centre of the stage displayed the ‘Howdy, Modi’ text with the PM’s picture in the background amid raptures of ‘Modi, Modi’.