Saif Ali Khan, Anil Kumble at India day parade in New York

Saif Ali Khan, Anil Kumble at India day parade in New York

Thousands of Indian-Americans gathered at Madison Avenue in Manhattan here for the annual India day parade to commemorate the 66th independence day of their homeland, with actor Saif Ali Khan and cricketer Anil Kumble gracing the occasion as special guests.

The 32nd 'India Day Parade', held yesterday, has become a regular fixture in the city's cultural scene and is one of the biggest parades organised in the US to celebrate the Indian independence day.

Khan, dressed in a crisp white kurta-pyjama, was the grand marshal of the parade and waved out to fans as the float carrying him made its way through 10 blocks of Madison avenue.

A visibly delighted Khan said he was proud to be a representative of India at the parade, adding that the event was an opportunity for him to express his gratitude to his fans in the US.

"Whatever fame we have is because of the movie industry and I am happy to see such a massive outpouring of love here. I want my fans in the US to know that we love them and are thankful to them and I hope they continue to enjoy our films," Khan said.

Khan was accompanied by Indian Consul General Prabhu Dayal. Kumble, who was the guest of honour at the parade, said it was a matter of pride for him to be part of one of the biggest independence day events held outside India.

"Indians have made cricket popular in the US and I hope America too becomes an important member of the cricketing fraternity," he said.  The Cricket World T20 Trophy was also displayed at the parade. Apart from Indian-Americans, who had come from neighbouring New Jersey and Connecticut to witness the parade, several New Yorkers also stopped to look at India's cultural heritage and diversity which was displayed through tableaux and dance performances in the parade.

People waved the Indian flag and wore tri-colour sashes as patriotic Indian music wafted through the air. Thousands of Indians waited on the side of the roads to catch a glimpse of Khan and Kumble during the nearly three-hour parade.

A contingent of the New York Police Department led the parade, which is organised every year by the Federation of Indian Associations. The parade is a culmination of various events organised in the country to celebrate India's independence day.

On August 15, Dayal had rung the opening bell at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange while Kumble rang the closing bell on Friday. Several other parades and cultural events were organised in cities like Dallas, Chicago and Boston to mark August 15.

Last year, Indian actress Rani Mukherjee was the grand marshall of the parade. The other main attractions of the parade were colourful floats, street fairs, food courts and merchandise booths as well as cultural programmes by various dance schools. 

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