On Friday afternoon, while Indian citizens lauded the efforts of Kailash Satyarthi, the latest recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, for his relentless work in the field of child rights, a street urchin was turned away from a popular restaurant in Mumbai. The owner of Satkar Hotel in Churchgate stopped Kasturi Kalita, a college-going girl, from treating Rahul David, a street urchin, to food at the eatery. Kalita was shocked when the owner informed her that her little friend couldn’t sit and eat at the restaurant, as ‘other customers would not like it’. He, then, asked them to step out of the hotel and pick up the food as a takeaway from outside the restaurant.
Rahul David accompanied collegian Kasturi Kalita for a lunch treat to Satkar Hotel at Churchgate, but was denied entry. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
What exactly happened?
Twelve-year-old David has been living on the streets of Mumbai ever since he can remember. He currently resides near the signals at Marine Drive where he’s regularly spotted on the streets with a neon green headset stuck on his ears, breaking into a dance move and entertaining his friends. This was how he caught the interest of a group of college students, who eventually became good friends. “We have known Rahul for a long time now as he regularly talks to us when we sit at Marine Drive, after college hours. My friends were busy in college on Friday so I decided to take him for lunch. Then we were supposed to meet up with the rest of my friends,” said Kalita, a second year student of Sydenham College.
Satkar Hotel, situated right outside Churchgate station, was the obvious choice for Kalita, who has frequented the restaurant with friends ever since she started studying at Sydenham College. However, what the 20-year-old didn’t expect was the reaction of the hotel owner as she entered the AC section of the restaurant. “Even before I could find a seat inside the hotel, the owner stopped me and asked me where I was going with Rahul. I clearly told him that I’m paying for him but I was categorically told that this is a posh hotel in South Mumbai and if Rahul eats there, other customers wouldn’t like it,” added the youngster. After being shown the way out, both Kalita and David were offered chairs and were asked to pick their parcel from outside.
“I felt bad for Rahul. I know he must’ve felt insulted. But he showed such good manners. When the hotel waiter came out to offer us a glass of water and our food parcel later on, Rahul thanked the waiter before walking away with the parcel,” said Kalita. She pointed that while the restaurant might have rights to reserve admission to people into their hotel, they cannot violate the rights of a child who wishes to eat at their hotel. “This incident has affected me a lot but every time I ask Rahul if he felt bad about the way the hotel owner behaved on Friday, he quickly smiles and assures me otherwise,” she added.
Twelve-year-old Rahul David was denied entry into Satkar Hotel on Friday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
When sunday mid-day contacted Saurav Kamath, co-owner of the hotel, he said, “I never misbehaved with the student or the child. I only requested the boy to wait outside and pick a parcel from the hotel. He wasn’t wearing any footwear and looked very unhygienic. I also offered them water while they waited outside for their parcel.” He added that the decision to deny entry to the child was only on the basis of hygiene.
“Previously we’ve had instances where many NGO workers have brought children from the streets to our hotel for food and other customers have complained about the same,” he added.
Amidst all this discussion, ask David whether such behaviour by people affects him and he says, “I live my life the way I want to. What people say doesn’t affect me. I’m happy dancing on the streets.”