It would have been exceptionally dull Saturday afternoon for the staff of New Yorker restaurant on Mumbai’s famous Chowpatty beach had it not been for Congress general secretary, Rahul Gandhi.
The World Cup special traffic restrictions had ensured that no more than four customers dropped in since morning, and the bored restaurant staff were waiting for the match to begin when the fifth customer walked in.
“Around 1.25 pm, I was talking to a friend when I suddenly saw Rahul Gandhi walk in. My first reaction was disbelief, but when I saw his bodyguards I realised that it was really him,” said Perumal Pillai, the manager of New Yorker.
Gandhi, said the staff, had come with a group of eight friends, one of whom was a woman.
“Gandhi and his friends ordered five pizzas, one penne Alfredo pasta, a Mexican tostada salad and six diet Pepsis. They ran up a bill of R2,233,” reported Pillai.
After the quick meal — it barely lasted half an hour — Gandhi took time to speak to the restaurant staff and even posed for photographs with them.
“He asked me my name, where I lived and since when I was working here. I felt very happy,” said Joseph Fernandes, a waiter.
When the time came to settle the bill the manager refused to accept any payment from Gandhi and his guests, but to no avail. “I refused to take the money from a distinguished guest like him. But his bodyguard said he always pays everywhere he eats. I tried to convince Rahul sir after that but even he insisted,” said Pillai.
Finally, according to Pillai, Gandhi and his friends went Dutch. “I saw Rahul sir, and at least three of his friends take out money from their pockets and pay the bill,” said Pillai.