An altercation in which three international students were asked to leave a local cafe has drawn an allegation of racism, which the restaurant manager and owner have denied.
Anagha Bhandary and two friends sat at a corner table in Another Broken Egg Cafe in the early morning Dec. 22. They had just ordered their food, along with two pitchers of mimosas, when Bhandary said they were approached by an older man from another table.
“This man came from the (other) table and told me to shut up,” Bhandary said between sniffles, her voice quivering over the phone, three weeks after the incident took place.
Bhandary and her friends are international students, all from India. The three had been speaking in Hindi the entire time they were seated, she said, and were discussing their plans to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
Bhandary described the man who approached them as “American” and “much older” than college age. The man went on to tell the trio to “stop cursing,” according to Bhandary, even though they were speaking Hindi, not English.
“I didn’t understand what was happening,” Bhandary said. “You’re just thrown off the edge when something like that happens. You don’t know exactly, why was his reaction like that?”
After the man returned to his table, Bhandary said he approached one of the waitresses to complain, and the waitress quickly brought the check to her table and asked them to leave without hearing their side of the story.
“As a person who is serving us, you should have at least come to me and asked me what exactly happened before just walking up to me without me finishing my food and giving me the check,” Bhandary recalls having said to the waitress.
Fifteen minutes later, Bhandary said the manager arrived and told them they didn’t have to pay for their order, and that they could stay and finish their meals.
But for Bhandary, the damage had been done.
“I do not want free food,” she says she told the manager. “I just wanted respect.”
After her conversation with the manager, Bhandary and her friends walked out of the restaurant.
The manager, who said his name is Josh and declined to reveal his last name, gave a much different version of the story.
“Her and all her friends were completely intoxicated, and they were screaming and yelling,” Josh said on Jan. 11, more than three weeks after the incident. “They were upset because they were cut off (from their drinks) and they were yelling at everybody around them.”
Bhandary said only one of the three was drunk, and she claimed he was not being loud.
The Exponent was not able to contact the other two members of the group to corroborate the story.
“If only one person was drinking that one person drank two pitchers of mimosas all by herself,” Ryan Craig, owner of Another Broken Egg, said Friday. Craig offered to provide a copy of the check to prove the amount of alcohol ordered, but later decided against it, citing corporate policy.
Bhandary said the group had not finished their mimosas when they were asked to leave.
Although Bhandary said a waitress initially approached them to request that they leave, Josh said he was the one who first came to their table.
“I spoke to them after several guests had come up to me and said how loud and disrespectful they were,” he said. “One of the guys was threatening to fight and beat up everybody around them.”
Even after physical violence had allegedly been threatened, the police were not called.
“We usually give them a chance to leave under their own accord,” Josh said. “This guy obviously wasn’t going to do anything (so we didn’t call the police). We’ve had to cut people off before, (but) this is the first time they’ve been combative.”
Josh also said that the group refused to pay for their meals, so he was forced to cover the cost. This differs from Bhandary’s story, which details Josh offering to pay as an apparent apology for their treatment.
Craig, who was not in the restaurant at the time of the incident, says he stands behind his manager and denies any allegations of racial discrimination.
“I can tell you from our group and our standpoint, we’re on Purdue campus for a reason,” Craig said. “Purdue is a very diversified campus. We have and are open to any clientele that comes into our restaurant on a regular basis.
“They were drinking, they were asked to leave. It has nothing to do with race.”
Shortly after Bhandary left, she called the cafe. The first person to respond was the same waitress who was serving her and her friends. Bhandary said she requested to talk to someone of higher authority when the waitress hung up the phone on her.
After Bhandary called back, Josh answered the phone.
Bhandary said he was apologetic for the waitress having ended the call. Josh said Bhandary was continually “belligerent” with him and the waitress over the phone.
Josh said on Jan. 11 that Bhandary spoke on the phone with Josh’s district manager, “and she was very belligerent to him as well.” Later though, on Jan. 15, Josh said he offered Bhandary a phone number for his district manager, but she did not call.
Bhandary said she did call, and never received a response.
In the wake of the incident, Bhandary also reached out to Purdue President Mitch Daniels, explaining the incident in an email, and received a response from Dr. Gina DelSanto, Daniels’ chief of staff.
“The president is very disturbed and sorry the incident you described happened,” Delsanto said in an email that Bhandary shared with The Exponent. “We will check with management of Another Broken Egg to ask if it was a first time occurrence. Hopefully it was a misunderstanding and not an instance of racism. I trust this was a single incident, since in your message you don’t indicate this has ever happened before.”
Bhandary described the response as “very diplomatic” but unhelpful.
A Purdue spokesperson confirmed administration had contacted management of the cafe. He provided no further information.
Even after the passage of weeks, Bhandary said the events still hurt her.
“For the first two weeks I was not even able to talk about it,” Bhandary said with tears in her eyes. “That’s how bad it was affecting me.
“To this day I’m not able to sleep properly,” she added. “I clearly see a change in my mental health.”
“It’s not like I want them to have harsh consequences. I know it’s human to (make) mistakes. I want them to hold themselves accountable for what happened and not repeat something like this in the future.”