Tuesday 23rd May is a usual working day for the almost 800,000-strong Indian Australian community, however, almost 21,000 have decided to take a mid-week furlough from the work schedule.
They will be attending a grand welcome ceremony for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sydney at Qudos Bank Arena Stadium. Among these are 177 lucky people who have booked to be part of a special flight called “Modi Airways” from Melbourne to Sydney.
It was in the month of March in one of the Indian Australian Diaspora Foundation’s organising committee meetings that the idea of a #ModiAirways charter plane was floated.
Jay Shah is one of the Directors of the Indian Australian Diaspora Foundation, a local organisation that supports Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is organising the Australia Welcomes Modi event.
Mr Shah told The Australia Today, “The idea that we will chant Modi Modi at 10-15,000 feet in the skies excited everyone the moment it was proposed in a planning meeting in March.”
“We then made a few calls to fellow Modi fans to validate and received the same excitement in response. Now we were confident and we straight away delved into filling up the seats and making it grand and memorable. “
“With Modi Airways we are creating a history”.
Dr Sachin Dahiya is a General Practice Clinic owner based in Victoria’s regional town of Ballarat.
“Me and my partner at the clinic both wanted to go and listen to PM Modi in Sydney but the issue is we can’t close the clinic as looking after the patients is our first dharma,” said Dr Dahiya.
“We decided to toss a coin to decide who between us will go, and luckily I won and now he will look after clinic on 23rd and 24th May,”gleefully said Dr Dahiya.
Dr Dahiya told The Australia Today, “I take a lot of pride being a member of the team which is spearheading this transition from Modi Express train to Modi Airways charter flight”
“a lot of friends who could not get tickets to travel by #ModiAirways are still coming at 7 am for dhol, dance and dhokla at Qantas terminal.”
All passengers travelling in Modi Airways will assemble at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport at 7 am on 23rd May for an extraordinary show of Indian cultural dance on the beats of dhol and some sweet-savoury breakfast.
Ashwin Bohra is an experienced hand to have on the team when such an event is to be organised by Victoria’s Indian Australian community.
He was the hands and legs of the team responsible for the Melbourne to Sydney Modi-Express train nine years back when Indian PM Modi last visited.
Mr Bohra says, “We Indian Australians are the second highest personal tax-paying community in Australia.”
“And this event is a show of strength for us, not only to inform and educate but also to seek our rightful representation in the social, political, business and cultural avenues in Australia.”said Mr Bohra with confidence.
He says ‘Dhokla and Laddu’ are favourite to PM Modi, this time we wanted to make sure we have these two items to taste on this journey on Modi Airways.”
“We have ordered enough so that we can distribute ‘Dhakla and laddu’ to all who are coming even just to participate in the cultural program at the drop-off.”
Tapan Desai is a Melbourne-based entrepreneur, who runs Metropolitan Carpet Court and Desai Entertainment.
Mr Desai told The Australia Today, “When I heard of #ModiAirways I straight away booked my tickets.”
However, that was not enough for Mr Desai. Three weeks back late in the night he called Dr Dahiya to ask if his team will allow Indian tricolour pagadi (Indian headgear) for all passengers.
Before they could ask anything about the costs involved Mr Desai himself clarified it will be a gift from him to show pride in the cultural values of the Indian Australian diaspora.
Mr Desai said, “After three weeks of order, and follow-ups our consignment has reached Melbourne and is ready to be worn by Modi Airways passengers.”
“Now I am happy to welcome fellow passengers with ‘Tilak and Pagadi’, very similar to what we do back home in India”
Yogesh Bhatt is spending his evenings dedicated to arrangements for Modi Airways, which defiantly means less family time.
He told The Australia Today, “I have never left my wife and young son alone in the last few years but for this trip, I have bribed them to let me go for two days.”
“I am cooking dinner for the last two weeks and have promised my wife this whole month dinner is my duty.”said Mr Bhatt with a naughty smile.
“She knows we will be having a blast in Sydney at the event and she can’t make it because of work commitment, the only way to compensate is her favourite curry.”
Another passenger on Modi Airways Gurpreet Verma an IT consultant based in Melbourne’s west has taken two days of annual leave to attend the Australia Welcomes Modi event and travel by Modi Airways.
Mr Verma told The Australia Today, “I like to plan things in advance so as soon as Modi’s reception event was announced, I talked to my supervisor and got two days annual leave.”
“I have a few friends who waited a bit long and had trouble getting leave from work.”
So what do you do if your annual leave is not approved to attend the Australia Welcomes Modi event?
Amith Karanth is also an IT consultant, He attended all the programs including Modi-Express nine years back and has an idea.
Mr Karanth told The Australia Today, “One of my friends called in sick to travel on Modi-Express but due to so much media his boss saw him on TV News.”
“Believe me it took a lot of persuasion on his part to convince his boss, so let’s think that now in the age of Twitter and Instagram pictures and videos will travel fast.”
He says, “This time journey is short, almost 1 hour and 35 minutes but we have arranged some exclusive in-flight entertainment shows.”
“I am sorry can’t tell more as it’s a surprise piece for Modi-Airways passengers. I think the copyrights of pictures and video will be hot property.”quips Mr Karanth.
Dr Dhaiya says, “We have also arranged lunch at Sydney Airport which will be packed box with Indian food delicacies.”
“Yes, yes, yes Sydney Airport to The Qudos Bank Arena Stadium is also going to be a unique experience as we have specially decorated buses ready for Modi Airways passengers.”
“Please join the convoy if you want to be part of this historic journey”, said Dr Dahiya.