NEW YORK: From New Jersey, Aamir Ali and his wife Farida blended in with the large contingent of Dawoodi Bohra community who attended the Madison Square Garden address of Prime Narendra Modi on Sunday.
He sat along with his community members and cheered along when Modi delivered the punch lines to the audience of 19,000, mostly who had helped him from US with his election campaign.
But, Aamir Ali is originally from Pakistan. "I came through the community association who brought a big group. I really wanted to listen to Mr Modi," said Ali, as his wife beamed at the end of the speech.
"He is very impressive. I think he can change India," said Ali, who left Pakistan over two decades ago. Large number of Dawoodi Bohras had migrated from Pakistan, after some of them faced discrimination.
While Ali came rather near, other South Asians got an indirect look-see ferrying the large number of Indians who had invaded Big Apple for Modi's visit. With South Asians accounting for 50 percent of New York's 30,000 yellow taxi drivers, they got a front-seat to the excitement of the Indian-american community.
Iqbal Butt, a Pakistani taxi driver from Lahore, had got a number of trips taking Indians from across town to the Madison Square garden. "You people caused the traffic jam," he said jokingly.
He believes Modi will be good for India. "Look how much protocol the US have laid for him. and look at Pakistan. Please ask Imran Khan if what he is doing is good for the country. We didn't even know that our PM was in town, except for the UN protest," he said.
From Jessore, Razib Mamun, an Awami League supporter and an agricultural researcher also had words of praise for Modi. "He is very patriotic. I think India-Bangladesh ties will be good," he said, even as he ranted on the presence of BNP supporters among his fellow compatriots in New York city.
But, not all South Asians were equally friendly. Outside the White House in Washington, Kashmiris from the Pakistan side of state had come with families in 3 big buses from New Jersey.
"I have cousins both in Azad Kashmir and Indian kashmir. I speak and chat with them. I know that they want to be free," said Moinuddin Khan, a 26-year-old who bemoaned the lack of coverage of their protests to coincide with Modi's visit.
As they packed up for the day on Monday, Zubair Hussain, who said that he was originally from Rawalkot, asserted, "tell your government, unless Kashmir is free, there will never be peace".