By Glenn Collins
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 12:32 AM
Rajesh “Raj” Patel came to America nine years ago from India and, today, his family owns 11 gas and convenience stores in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The 29-year-old entrepreneur moved to Haleyville three months ago after purchasing what was once “Wavaho,” and is now “EZ Mart.” He opened the store and began building a loyal customer base.
Two weeks ago, “The Rumor” started. Many customers, in disbelief, brought it to Patel’s attention. They were in disbelief because they knew him, and knew he could never have said what he was ‘accused’ of saying. “People who know me know I didn’t say these things,” Patel said.
People who did not know Patel came into the store ready to confront him. “I never said this kind of thing,” he told them. Then, they talked. Then, they knew what a rumor truly is.
There are those who do not know him. “[They] don’t want to confirm the rumor. They just stopped coming,” Patel said.
This reporter will not give the rumor itself any mention in this space because it is noteworthy in its not being worthy of the keystrokes. I write only to rectify injustice. I have not read or heard the rumor, have no connection to anyone participating in this baseless, hurtful defamation that is circulating on Facebook and through texting.
Unable to go to the source of the rumor, I went to Patel and his response to the rumor is this: “I never said it.” Face-to-face, mano-a-mano, eye-to-eye, that is how I dealt with the rumor. In a world where everyone treats others the way they wish to be treated, that ends that.
Let us squash some other stuff: Patel is not Muslim, he is Hindu. Patel is no relation to the owners of the motel. I have checked geographical references dating back over 200 years and India has never been included in the Middle East. An Indian is not an Arab.
Now, if the person who allegedly heard him say anything akin to the rumor wants to come forward, HBTV will gladly interview you, ON THE RECORD. Bring it, if you got it.