Dosai diplomacy

He felt like he had front row seats at the opening gala of a Bollywood movie.

Mr Janardan Rai, 53, runs Meena Gold Jewellers just beside Komala Vilas restaurant in Serangoon Road where India's Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, Singapore's Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, and his wife, Madam Ho Ching, shared some dosai on Monday night.

Mr Rai was told about the visit by one of his workers who heard gossip that Mr Modi was heading to Little India for supper.

"For the entire day, all everyone could talk about was whether or not the rumours were true," Mr Rai told The New Paper.

By evening, the buzz had attracted a crowd of more than 500 who wanted to catch a peek of Mr Modi, said the managing director of the jewellery store.

He even extended the operating hours of his shop by an hour since "it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Mr Modi in person".

Mr Rai said there was a lively atmosphere on the streets and the crowd was cheering and clapping when they saw Mr Modi alight from the car with PM Lee.

Before entering the restaurant, Mr Modi briefly waved at the crowd, including Mr Rai.

"I was so close to him. It was like meeting a celebrity," he gushed.

Indian national Suresh K. Subramaniam, 36, was also awestruck but had to keep his excitement down over his rare opportunity to speak to his Prime Minister.


Mr Suresh, who was supervising the restaurant's operations that night, said: "After his meal, he turned to me and said he enjoyed the South Indian spread. I felt so happy."

Mr Rajakumar Gunasekaran, the operations director at Komala Vilas, told TNP over the phone that his staff had actually planned to put flower garlands on the two politicians, but he stopped them from doing so.

"I wanted them to have a meal in peace. I think that is what they would have wanted," said the 29-year-old.

He said the restaurant operated as per normal all the way till 8.30pm when they were informed that their VVIPs were on the way.

"We ushered customers sitting on the first storey up to the second storey so that the two leaders could dine in peace on the first storey," he added.

Afterwards, Mr Gunasekaran was a relieved and happy man. His grandfather, Mr Murugiah Rajoo had migrated to Singapore in 1936 and set up Komala Vilas in 1947.

"I am proud that a restaurant that my grandfather founded was chosen to host the Prime Minister of India."

He said Mr Modi, PM Lee and Mrs Lee shared a platter of vadai and idly and two different types of dosai.

To wash down the food, they had traditional Indian drinks - sweet yogurt lassi, mango lassi - and lime juice.

It appears to have been a refreshing end to a spot of dosai diplomacy.

This article was first published on November 25, 2015.
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