Vijaya Pais is the founder of Offbeat Goa. She is a Mangalorean Goan and was born in Dubai where she did her preliminary education. When she was six, her family moved to Mumbai. Vijaya is the youngest of five siblings and her father was a self-made musician. Vijaya, being a quite studious girl, loved travelling and journalism and her deep compassion and love for the animal turned her vegetarian at the age of 12.
Although she had an interest in media and journalism, destiny never really goes to plan and at the age of 23, she moved back to Dubai to fly with Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant. She had to share her apartment with her elder sister who was already working with the airlines. She had majored in Psychology and literature. After flying for around 6 years, she decided to move back to Mumbai in 2009 only to find herself in Goa in 2012 where she still lives and works.
“I am into photography and I had a studio in Mumbai back then. I no longer do photography though. We had a studio in Mumbai where we used to do a lot of work in the fashion and commercial advertising domain before shifting to Goa where I decided to spend time doing social work and pursuing my passion for writing. I always wanted to do something that makes me happy. The writing just happened to me as when I moved to Goa, I wanted to do something and opportunities come my way. While I was writing, I decided to move into digital marketing and in the year 2014 I started a Facebook group called “Off Season Goa” for people visiting Goa.”
This group which started with just a few members in 2015 has now got some 20 thousand members in a space of just a few years. “The group was known as Offseason Goa to target those domestic tourists who usually come to Goa during the off-season. It all began with posting various places I had come across in Goa but later on, it turned into a community of people seeking information about Goa..”
Vijaya was not looking for any visibility or fame when she started the group it was just made to help people with updates on Goa. “It all happened organically. As time passed, I started moving towards healing, and organic food and this came to me when I started thinking about why people fall sick and realised that it was from the kind of food they eat and the lifestyle they follow and that was the beginning of my new initiative called “New Earth Gathering.”
The New Earth Gathering is a marketplace where people would sell items that are connected to a healthier lifestyle. “This also includes awareness of and helps to stop the usage of single-use plastics. Vegetables are non-toxic and chemical-free as they are naturally grown and groceries were organic we also encourage the distribution of seeds and saplings as a part of our initiative to encourage people to grow their own vegetables and even cleaning products that were sold in the marketplace were chemical free,” she added.
When asked about veganism, Vijaya said “I tried to be vegan but that did not work since I was travelling a lot I decided to stay vegetarian since I love animals and try not to eat meat. I believe that if you want to stay healthy and live a healthy life then you need to change to a vegetarian lifestyle and the New Earth Market provides that. The market that started with the purpose of providing organic foodstuff soon turned into a community where people from various walks of life would come together and network. This market does not have a fixed physical location and every month we choose a new place to set up,” she said.
Vijaya believes in a more sustainable lifestyle and that is the reason she decided to work towards reducing waste. “Waste bothers me a lot since I myself was a huge consumer of expensive clothes while I was flying and when I moved back to Mumbai I had 90 pairs of shoes! I decided to donate things I don’t use but the question was where or to whom? If I gave my items to an orphanage it will be of no use to them so I decided to have a sale and whatever proceeds were generated could then be given to the orphanages in Goa. Today this community has grown exponentially and we keep holding the sale periodically wherein people donate their clothes and unused items and the proceeds of the same go to various NGOs,” she said.
“Most NGOs in Goa do not have a social or online presence and since we have a great platform with a strong social and online presence, we try to help all those NGOs through our platforms. Online shopping has changed the entire perspective of consumerism and people keep buying left, right and centre, then they have so much that they don’t know what to do with so much surplus and that is where we come in because clothes are the second largest environmental hazard on the earth since blended fabrics cannot be broken down into the soil. Besides this, a lot of water is being used to clean up the dyes used in these fabrics and the Good Karma Shop is the answer to all these problems. I am passionate about spreading the mindset of making use of second-hand products in India. If people start recycling and reusing, in the long run, it will make a bigger impact on society.”
. “I moved to Goa in 2012, a decade ago and I have done whatever I can in the short span of time but I have a lot more to do. I always believed in giving back and Goa is no different for me. The reason behind creating these volunteering networks is to give back and anybody can make use of these platforms to contribute their share. We have also created a separate group for job seekers in Goa. I have seen many people travel to Goa and they want to take up employment here and this platform helps them a lot.”
Besides setting up the Offbeat Goa group, Vijaya has also set up a community for women known as the “Sisterhood of Goa”. “In this community, we have regular meetups and discuss issues concerning women in Goa. We have a lawyer on board who speaks to the women about their rights if, for example, they have been mistreated by their husbands or in-laws. We tackle all the subjects that women tend to struggle with. We also do self-defence workshops for women and in the near future I am planning to create an app-based platform that will connect people who need help to the ones who want to lend their helping hand”.