Narinder Badwal threw a party at his friend's Milpitas restaurant after learning that the 7-Eleven store he owns in Santa Clara had sold one of two tickets for last week's $99 million Super Lotto jackpot. He was due a share of the $247,500 commission.
What Badwal didn't know until the next morning was that he had sold one of the winning tickets to himself -- and that he had won $49.5 million, representing his half of a jackpot that he shared with an aspiring actress from Southern California.
Today, the San Jose resident and 16-year-owner of the 7-Eleven store at 815 Bing Ave., Santa Clara, told reporters he didn't bother to check his tickets right away because it was so busy at the store.
But on Friday morning, his brother, Parminder Badwal, knowing no one had stepped forward to claim the prize, phoned and suggested that Narinder check his tickets. Narinder, who was at home, bought them about 90 minutes before the deadline.
Narinder told his brother the tickets were in his office, and that he should check them for him. He had picked the same numbers for the past four months but never figured he would win.
Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang.
" 'I think you are the winner,' " Narinder said his brother told him. "And I jumped."
Before he would believe it was true, Narinder said he had to check the ticket for himself.
Narinder Badwal doesn't know what he'll do with the money, which he elected to take in 26 annual payments -- other than to increase his charitable giving.
The first big beneficiary will be the Sankara Eye Foundation, which works to cure blindness and provides eye care to the poor in India, he said.
Lottery officials said it was not the first time a store owner had won a Super Lotto jackpot, but it's very rare.
Badwal's wife, Lilla Singh, 43, said she knew the family had already won the commission and was stunned when the call came in Friday morning from Parminder Badwal.
"I really didn't believe it at first. I still didn't believe it until we actually went to the Lotto place" and got verification. "It so great, because I've been working ... since I was 9 years old. I think I needed a break."
Although the first party turned out to be premature, Narinder Badwal said he hadn't planned an encore.
He said he's planning no significant changes in his life, and is keeping the store despite the jackpot that could put him at leisure for the rest of his life.
"I'm 49 now, 49-and-a-half. A million per year," he said. "I don't know how it happened, but I'm 49-and-a-half," he said.