ARC Photography via Facebook
Harmesh and Raksha Bhatti with Tucson Mayor Rothschild during India Oven's 20th Anniversary celebration in 2014.
Consider visiting a restaurant that is as warm, familiar and familial as a friend’s kitchen. Imagine the walls, lined with family photos, and the smell of cumin, coriander and chilies lingering over good company.
Since 1993, Tucson’s India Oven (2727 N. Campbell Ave.) has proudly served up a taste of Indian home cooking. Harmesh and Raksha Bhatti, the proprietors of this longtime Tucson-staple, find their second home inconspicuously nestled in a Campbell mini mall. The restaurateurs, as much as the restaurant itself, attract patrons from across the valley to experience the welcoming warmth of India Oven.
For 24 years, the Bhattis, as dedicated proprietors to their business, arrive some hours before the restaurant’s opening, and stay hours after close. On one such day two weeks ago, the Bhattis returned from a full day of work to find their home ransacked and burgled.
“We had been working here all day,” Raksha said. “We no go home until very late, sometime like 10:30 p.m., and to see our home like that…very sad. They took everything.”
It would seem the burglars left no stone unturned. Tears well in Raksha’s eyes, as she explains the totality of the burglar’s damage. Generations of jewelry, all gone; the delicate gold bands that linked Raksha to the communal memory of her parents, as well to the memories of her wedding day and granddaughter’s birth, all lost. A 65-inch, flat screen television Raksha bought for Harmesh on Thanksgiving: gone. Computers housing files and photos, as well as cameras used to document the many journeys of the Bhatti family: gone.
In addition to the many family heirlooms and memories lost to the burglary, the Bhatti’s home was also destroyed.
“They smashed up the whole couch and throw our clothes across house,” Raksha said. “They smashed up everything: all my paperwork… everything. It is very scary.”
Though Tucson police responded to the scene, no leads have been determined. Additionally, the Bhatti’s home was uninsured during the time of the accident.
“Our people do not think about it that way,” Raksha said. “I have little idea how to take insurance, I never thought we’d need it. We work 24 year in this place. We think America is good… We never think something like this could happen in our community.”
The Bhattis now set out to rebuild their home. Though the police have yet to catch the culprits of this crime, Raksha remains hopeful that good will prevail.
“At least I have this business,” Raksha said. “We will build again. It is no easy for me, but we will build again with community help.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated.