FOR a typically quiet midweek night, a humble Indian eatery on Lygon St in Carlton was doing an especially booming trade.
Every seat at Namaste Indian Restaurant was filled on Wednesday evening, and its owners were even forced to turn some patrons away.
And Namaste wasn’t the only one, as more than 17,000 people dined out at Indian restaurants across the country as part of the grassroots campaign Vindaloo Against Violence.
Begun by 35-year-old Melbourne web designer Mia Northrop, the event was a peaceful protest against the recent spate of racially motivated attacks against Indians in Melbourne.
Talk of a campaign was sparked during a discussion between Ms Northrop and her friends on how they could rally behind the Indian community.
And what better way, they thought, than to get everyday people to come together to support their immigrant communities in true Melbourne fashion – through great food.
Thus, the Vindaloo Against Violence campaign was launched, and quickly caught on, attracting more than 10,000 followers to its Twitter and Facebook pages.
News of the event then spread throughout the Indian community, and hundreds of Indian restaurants signed up to participate.
Shiva Thati, co-owner of Namaste, said he found out about the event two days ago, after receiving several “back-to-back” calls for dinner bookings on Wednesday for unusually large groups.
But while Mr Thati supported the campaign wholeheartedly, and acknowledged there were some racist attitudes towards Indians, he said it was unfair to brand all the recent attacks as racist.
Some of the attacks, he said, were opportunistic, and targeted people who were out late at night with obviously expensive possessions.
“It might have been [perpetrated against] any nationality,” Mr Thati said.
“If people are safe, don’t show off their expensive equipment, and travel with the normal crowd at normal times, they’ll be fine.”
But some diners, like Margaret Swan, disagreed, and said the element of racism was “definitely present” in the recent attacks against Indians.
“I felt really helpless,” Ms Swan said.
“These attacks were happening when all I wanted to do was to reach out and show them that they were welcome.”
So when she found out about Vindaloo Against Violence, Ms Swan jumped on the bandwagon immediately, gathering her friends and family in a show of solidarity with the Indian community.
The campaign had also caught the attention of the international student community.
Occupying a large table at Namaste on Wednesday was a group of interstate and international students from Melbourne University.
Vee Vien Tan, from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, said she and her friends had chosen Indian fare that night in light of the campaign.
“It shows that we care,” she said.
On the Vindaloo Against Violence website, Ms Northrop said she hoped the event would give ordinary Melburnians a peaceful, easy way to express their anger and disappointment that racially motivated violence was occurring in their city.