They were still smiling half an hour after he left, exchanging photographs on their cellphones and calling their families with more details of their unexpected meeting with Rahul Gandhi.
“All I had wanted was to watch the cavalcade pass,” said Satish Kumta, an employee at the Vile Parle branch of the Bank of India.
Kumta had stepped out onto SV Road and was waiting to catch a glimpse of Gandhi’s car when, “suddenly, I saw it pull over… and then he was shaking my hand.”
Kumta asked Gandhi if he would like to see the branch office where he worked.
“He immediately agreed,” said Kumta, shaking his head in disbelief.
Over the next 10 minutes, the Gandhi scion posed for photographs, signed autographs and even dialled his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, so another bank employee could pass on her regards.
“I told him to give Soniaji my regards since I have huge respect for the ‘iron lady’,” said Yogini Hasabnis. “He immediately tried to connect to her on his mobile but she was not available. I was surprised at how down to earth he was.”
Gandhi also went into branch manager G.C. Narang’s cabin, exchanged notes on the bank’s functioning and signed the guest register.
“When he entered the bank, he started shaking hands with everyone and asking us how we were doing,” said Narang. “A few of our customers took autographs and photos with him. We were stunned at his simplicity.”
Perhaps the most excited was bank security guard Popat Antade.
“It was magical,” said Antade, who rushed to call his family as soon as Gandhi had left. “Such a big man who I have only seen on television asked me how I am and shook my hand. I can still feel it.”