It has been over three years since Gandhi Mahal, a well-known and popular restaurant at 3009 27th Ave. S. in Minneapolis, was burned down during the social uprising following the death of George Floyd.
Immediately after the loss of his business, owner Ruhel Islam made a statement that soon went viral: “Let my building burn. Justice needs to be served. Put those officers in jail.”
Islam quickly put together a smaller restaurant, Curry in a Hurry, at 3025 E. Franklin Ave. The restaurant is managed by his daughter Hafsa. “It has been hard,” Islam said. “We have had a lot of break-ins and business has been slow.”
Since Islam said he does not directly operate the new location but serves as a consultant, he has been able to take some time away to think. “Sometimes you need to take a break to think about the future,” he said. “This is what I am doing.”
He has been spending some time working on projects in his native Bangladesh, in the village where his grandparents had land. He is focused on growing food there.
“I also took a course in human rights and civil rights training in Washington. All around the world, we are happy to be a part of that,” Islam said.” I also have permission to participate in Ukraine, and there is the possibility in being a part of that.”
Islam said he is finding more opportunities to spend time with his children, a luxury he did not have when he was running Gandhi Mahal full time. But he also misses the connections he had with the community, giving food and being a part of a thriving business where he raised fish and his own herbs and vegetables to serve fresh in his restaurant. “I still try, and I hope my daughter will continue,” he noted.
For the most part right now, however, Islam wants to take the time to think about what comes next.
“I don’t know what to say about what all is going on,” he said. Although he had originally planned to rebuild Gandhi Mahal, Islam said he does not think the restaurant operation as it was will be able to come back. “It is too much, it is too costly, and we cannot afford it,” he stated.
Islam said he did receive some grants when he lost his business, and he has worked with the Minneapolis City Council. “Right now the Minneapolis Foundation is trying to help out, and I was thinking about all the businesses on the corner at our old location. So, we are looking at a project.”
The Minneapolis Foundation is helping with funding, and Islam said he loves and respects the team he is working with. “I can only hope something will come up, and the foundation and the city and community will support it,” he said.
He said the project would involve different vendors and all flavors of food. There would be curry and Japanese, Somali and Mexican food. “We would have a Halal butcher shop and a coffee shop. One building with all these different cuisines. And above the shops would be apartments. People could live upstairs and work downstairs.”
According to Islam, a wonderful team is putting the plan together. “But it is not easy,” he added. “Hopefully we can work together. When you build something, you must make it last. You do it so it makes sense for it to last for hundreds of years.”
Reflecting on the past few years, Islam said that when his building burned down he said it was okay. He wanted racial justice to prevail. “We also need safety and security; that is very important,” he said. How can we do business if we have problems?”
He talked about the importance of a democratic world. “We must do things that make it better for everyone, not just to impress some people.”
Islam said he just wants to have his freedom, and he came from a country where that is sometimes hard. But he said he is confused about the leadership we have.
“Climate change, for example, is caused by the western nations but can affect Bangladesh. We have a democratic system here, and need to set an example for the whole world.”
In this small corner of the globe, Islam wants to do his part. If his project is successful, it would take place within the next couple of years.
“We are hoping we can build it,” he said. “We are trying to step up and invest in the community.”