The streets of Hicksville on Sunday were the scene of a celebration of India and America at the annual India Day Parade. Newsday TV’s Steve Langford reports. Credit: James Carbone

As hundreds of Indian Americans paraded up Broadway in Hicksville on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, Suresh Thakkar readied bottled water in two ice-filled coolers.

“Seventy-five years it’s been independent and it’s going forward,” Thakkar said on the sidewalk in front of 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 fluttering green, orange and white flag, Hicksville’s 11th annual India Day Parade drew up toward Thakker, who leapt into action handing out bottles to all comers in the 90-degree sun. The procession of floats and marchers — some sashed in patriotic colors and others wearing traditional Indian saris — rounded East John Street toward a lot near the Long Island Rail Road station where booths for restaurants and local vendors formed a U around a stage.

India gained independence from Britain on Aug. 15, 1947, and with a population of more than 1.4 billion, according to the United Nations, the country is the world’s largest democracy. Many at the parade took pride in being 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 country of heritage and the synergy between the two countries has made our lives very meaningful,” said Tony Kejriwal, 62, who stood beside a banner for Long Island Desi Golfers, a group he formed during the pandemic when the Hewlett businessman took up the sport. Kejriwal said golf is not very popular among India’s middle-class but on Long Island it’s brought together a community of Indian Americans.

“This is just to not stay home and it has worked very well, we found common people with common interest,” said Kejriwal who picked up the sport last year.

Prachi Tehlan, one the grand marshals, a former basketball player and current actress in Bollywood films, came to Hicksville from India to lead the parade.

“This is after COVID that everybody got the opportunity to be together and celebrate it and come out,” Tehlan told Newsday. “This is [my] first time in Long Island and I’m looking forward to having a great day.”

Mohinder Singh Taneja, one of the founders of the parade, said they were celebrating the whole of Indian culture with people from all different parts of the country as well as Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Jews.

“The whole of India’s diversity is being represented here,” Taneja said. “Every religion is in India so every religion is celebrated.”

But Taneja's inclusive mindset wasn't shared by everyone. At a booth near the stage Arish Sahani of Corona, Queens, advertised a Hindu religious school with a banner that said "I wish one day India is declared a Hindu nation" and that converts to other religions should be brought back to Hinduism. 

"If you're born Hindu, you should remain a Hindu," Sahani said. 

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