He has his style. Rahul Gandhi, exhibited it in Leh last weekend, moving incognito in the town, a paradise for domestic and foreign tourists because of its Buddhist monasteries. He played chess in a local restaurant and insisted on paying the bill, saying "I am an MP and it’s illegal for me to take any thing free of cost”.
Rahul Gandhi has left an imprint on the minds of Manohar Lal, steward of Continental Golden Dragon restaurant where he ate Indian and Chinese food. "It was the biggest occasion of my life,” Manohar, 26, who hails from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, told Hindustan Times over phone.
The steward remembers each and every word, even the first sentence, "Bhaiya, khane mein kaya, kaya milega” ( what All can we get to eat.)
"We did not recognize him. He walked in like any other customer, before we had a closer look and his mannerism revealed his identity to us,” says restaurant owner Rinchen Namgayal, 31. His restaurant serves all kinds of food -- Indian, Chinese, Ladakhi. But Rahul ordered veg pakora, mutton masala, dal fry, sweet corn soup.
Sporting beard, wearing jeans and T shirt and half jacket and sports shoes and eyes covered with sun glasses, Rahul, 39, stepped out of Grand Dragon, a three star hotel of 53-rooms on Saturday evening and moved to the market – a 15 minute walk, with his security personnel trailing him from a discreet distance of 200-300 yards.
Ghulam Mustafa, 50, the owner of the hotel, is elated that Rahul checked into his hotel. "I felt great," he said of AICC General Secretary and a face that the world recognizes as the man of the future for India.
Rahul and his two friends moved around Leh market, where artificial jewelry, Tibetan paintings and large red and green frames of dragons and precious stones distinguish it from other markets before landing in the restaurant where he and his two relatives or friends spent almost two hours, tried their hand at chess too.
"We were playing chess, when he entered. He stopped for a while, then asked, "can we also play," recalled Channdramani, 27, a cook, also from Mandi, HP.
When it came to the payment of the bill, "we said that our tradition doesn’t allow to take money from a guest and especially who is a great leader of our nation,” said Namgyal. To this, Rahuil replied: "No, it is illegal for me as an MP to accept anything free of cost. If you are insisting so much, get me a 10 per cent discount," Namgyal said.
The treasure with the restaurant are the remarks of Rahul Gandhi with his signatures on the guest book, "Thank you very much for a very nice meal”.
Rahul spent the night at the hotel and left at 7.30 Sunday morning to the airport .
"We were told that a VIP is going to check into the hotel, we had kept a suite ready, but Rahul Gandhi opted for a double bed room,” Mustafa said.
"Since he was on a private visit,” Mustafa said, “ I also did not make any extra effort. Had it been his official visit, I would have listed the problems of hotel industry and Leh before him.”
What impressed him and others most was his simplicity. "He alighted from a Himachal Pradesh taxi (Innova) for his car BMW had developed some snag mid-way on 224 Km-long Manali-Leh road, which passes through exotic and snow covered Rohtang pass ( 13,400 feet). "Rahul made us extraordinary by his stay here and his simplicity.” Mustafa observed.