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The Prime Minister, Pan and Tassa on Madison Avenue - India Day Parade 2010
Float bearing Women In Steel and Young Generation Tassa Group at the 2010 India Day Parade

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The Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar on float
The Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar on float

New York: The Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, was front and center as Guest of Honor on the lead float for the India Day Parade on Madison Avenue in New York.  And Steelpan, Tassa and carnival masqueraders were a proud part of the parade pageantry.  Scheduled to be part of the  cultural showcase were Pantonic Steel Orchestra, Women In Steel, the Young Generation Tassa Group and carnival masqueraders from Antoine International.

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Air India float at the 30th India Day Parade on Madison Avenue, New York
Air India float at the 30th India Day Parade on Madison Avenue, New York

An at times slightly cloudy day was no match for the sea of color which ruled the allocated ten-block stretch from 38th through 28th Streets in New York City.  Multiple floats highlighting Indian culture, associations, businesses, supporting corporations and the like paraded southbound against what would have been the regular flow of traffic on Madison Avenue, as thousands on the sidelines cheered them on along the route.

Band from the Passaic County Sheriff's department practises
Band from the Passaic County Sheriff’s department practices

The floats had been in holding bays on 37th and 38th Streets prior to the parade while thousands of people milled around in preparation for the event.  Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar could be seen standing quietly atop the float while things were in motion all around her.  Nearby, a band from the Passaic County Sheriff’s department could be seen and heard putting the final touches as they did a quick run-through of Trinidad & Tobago’s national anthem.

Officials at the India Day Parade 2010
Officials at the India Day Parade 2010

Parade officials had advised When Steel Talks (WST) just before the floats moved off, that the steel orchestras would be not too far behind the Prime Minister.  But Women In Steel, Young Generation Tassa Group heating up the tempo, and the Carnival masqueraders would eventually be seen on the penultimate float of the long procession which had begun two and a half hours earlier at 1:00 p.m.

Members of Antoine International await their turn to join the 2010 India Day Parade on Madison Avenue, New York
Members of Antoine International await their turn to join the 2010 India Day Parade on Madison Avenue, New York

There had been no sign of this complemental Trinidad & Tobago contingent in the early formation of the parade, so WST made their way back up to the parade’s originations where, on 37th Street among the floats awaiting their turn to join the celebration, was a float with steelpans at the ready, along with some members of the tassa group.  Women In Steel’s president Claudette Baptiste was close-by, waiting with those from Antoine International portraying carnival characters.

Women In Steel await their turn to join the parade
Women In Steel await their turn to join the parade

Women In Steel Instruments at the ready
Women In Steel Instruments at the ready

Arranger & percussionist Leon "Foster" with Pantonic's Sade Constantine
Arranger & percussionist Leon “Foster” with Pantonic’s Sade Constantine

It would turn out that parade organizers  appeared to be of the opinion that somehow two stage side steel orchestras and one tassa group would fit comfortably atop one small float.  That being naturally impossible, Women In Steel who arrived first were directed to the float.  Reportedly when Pantonic Steel Orchestra turned up, there was of course no place for them, leaving their musicians to stand around unable to perform with no float assigned to them.  It was a pity that there appeared not to be a clear understanding that two stage side steel orchestras required two floats.

The Young Generation Tassa Group in the 30th India Day Parade, Madison Avenue, New York
The Young Generation Tassa Group followed by masqueraders from Antoine International & Women In Steel in the 30th India Day Parade, Madison Avenue, New York

In the meantime, when the float bearing Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar went by, amid the thousands and thousands of waving Indian flags, a few Trinidad & Tobago flags were seen thrust into the air determined to be seen.  Interestingly, Madame Prime Minister - who wore a large sash in the colors of the Trinidad and Tobago flag - was in actual possession of only a very small flag of Trinidad & Tobago which was hardly visible.  One enterprising Trinbagonian behind the barricades separating the crowd from the parade, determinedly made it her business to change that. 

The Prime Minister holds the larger flag of Trinidad & Tobago aloft
The Prime Minister holds the larger flag of Trinidad & Tobago aloft

This lady ensured that her personal and reasonably-sized larger flag was given to someone on the float, to get this much better national representation into the hands of the Prime Minister.  After a few minutes, this flag did indeed make its way to her, by this time having been placed on a handy wooden stick.  And then - it was Trinidad & Tobago pride displayed in a much more visible manner as Madame Prime Minister waved it aloft.  The original owner of that flag - the lady on the sidelines  - could be seen looking extremely pleased with this turn of events!

The Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar on float with Grand Marshall actress Preity Zinta
The Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar on float with Grand Marshall Bollywood actress Preity Zinta to her right

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Indian lineage dates back to the time when her fore parents, who were among over one hundred thousand indentured laborers, traveled from India to Trinidad in the mid-nineteenth century.  For the India Day Parade, she was alongside the event’s Grand Marshall, Indian Bollywood actress Preity Zinta. 

The Federation of Indian Associations leads off the 30th India Day Parade
The Federation of Indian Associations leads off the 30th India Day Parade

Organized by the Federation of Indian Associations, New York’s India Day Parade is in its 30th year as India celebrates the anniversary of her independence from her old colonial masters - Britain.  August 15, 2010 marked India’s 63rd year of Independence.
 

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