Born to Punjabi parents who settled in Sheffield, England in the 1960s, Anita comes from a family of lawyers and she herself worked as an immigration lawyer in the UK Visas and Immigration department of the British Government before shifting to Goa 4 years ago. Anita loves to travel, see new places and meet interesting people and it’s this passion that inspired her move to this tiny, beautiful place and start her new journey in the hospitality field.
Anita added that she has a brother, sister, 4 nieces and a nephew and a wonderful family there in the UK. You might ask why then did she leave the UK? “My parents purchased a 10-bedroom hotel from an elderly couple more than decade ago and after it was renovated, I decided to take a 5 year career break and run the hotel for them,” she said.
Despite being a strong, independent woman, Anita has had to mark out her place in this male-dominated society. “The first issue I had was the language barrier: having been born in the UK, Hindi was my third language and Konkani I could not even understand let alone speak, which made me vulnerable to fleecing by various vendors and shopkeepers,” said Anita adding, people would take advantage considering she is an outsider, “Just looking at me, people would inflate their prices. I knew it’s not going to be a smooth road for me but I was determined and whatever I achieved during these past 4 years makes my parents proud.”
As I mentioned earlier, Anita loves to travel and she has a flair for writing and when I asked her how she manages to balance work, writing and leisure, she said, that as she ensures she has cover whilst she’s away, nothing comes in the way of her business and writing she does in her downtime throughout the day.
“Travelling I have to organise around the running of the hotel. I have good friends here and I limit my travels to under a week at a time so as to cause minimal impact on the daily running of the business. I do however take my laptop with me because when you own and run a business, work never stops,” said Anita.
Anita also shared some personal and brave stories with me and ones which are important to the person she is today. She has had mental health issues but has battled and won and she is proud of it.
“Depression and anxiety doesn’t define me but they are very much a part of me and I’m not ashamed of it in any way,” she said, “There is a stigma in India around mental health, depression and anxiety. It is worse than that of an alcoholic which is frankly a disgrace. It needs to be openly spoken about and not hidden. You don’t have to worry about what people might think if they feel more than just a little sad. Feeling sad is normal and having a depressive episode is also normal but it’s more serious and so hiding it or pretending it isn’t happening is terribly damaging for you and your future will very much be detrimentally affected,” she added.
According to Anita, depression had taught her untold empathy, love, kindness and happiness. “I try to give to people in and outside of my life and this very much stems from this deep-rooted understanding of grief, sadness and darkness,” she said.
Besides being an entrepreneur, creative content creator, and an avid traveller, Anita also advocates the Save Girl Child movement. When I asked Anita about it, she told me that she is disheartened by the lack of balance and equality given to the female population in this day and age. She wants to help girls who are abandoned or ill-treated to make their way in the world. When asked about adoption, which is close to her heart, she stated “Well, the process continues as does everything in India… at a snail’s pace!! So, let’s see what the next year brings for me. None of us know what will happen in an hour so it’ll be something I can only wait and see about.”
Just like all of us Anita also had to face the brunt of the pandemic as it hit the entire business community but more severely the hospitality industry. When I asked Anita about it she said that the first time it was complete disaster, “The world literally shut down but the realisation of the fact that I am not alone in this gave me huge moral support. I’m grateful that I have family back-up and never saw the worst that hit so many needy people across the nation and the world.”
While talking about the pandemic and shut down of the hotel industry, Anita did not forget to mention the role of the authorities and officials connected with Tourism who failed to provide any kind of support but instead doubled their fees putting the last nail in the coffin for so many small hoteliers.
“Despite the closure of the hotel business due to pandemic, the registration fees were doubled by the authorities and there were no reductions in electricity or water bills,” said Anita adding that, even the local Panchayats provided little support during the lockdown and still charged full annual taxes as usual. “We still had to furnish all the NOCs for Fire, Pollution etc. during the lockdown time even and although there’s a website to go through for this, it often crashes, is completely inadequate and papers still have to be submitted in hard-copy form to offices across Goa which makes doing anything online a bit of a waste of time.”
She added “It’s been radio silence from the politicians in this state towards hoteliers and especially small businesses like mine. I know many people who have had to close down for good because of huge financial losses and ever rising demands,” added Anita.
Anita also gives credit to technology for supporting her during the pandemic. “It’s been tough through the last two years we’ve been in these virus times but I give huge thanks to WhatsApp which has enabled me to speak to and see my family every day! I can’t imagine what life would have been like without technology to be honest. As soon as flights open up, my family will be coming over so I’m very excited to see them.”
Just like all of us Anita also has her little plans with with what she wants from life. Although the future is unknown, she said “I have little ideas: I want to adopt a child, buy a lovely little beach-side cottage and live a tranquil life,” said Anita adding, she wants to setup her own side business in immigration law and be in position to expand her hotel to greater levels. “At the moment, it’s a lovely, small 10-bedroom place with a restaurant, beautiful gardens and a pool but if I can invest more time and money, I’d wish to make this a luxury boutique hotel and have a certain level of exclusivity.”
“Also, I love animals and we have many on the property so I’d also like to raise more awareness of animal welfare in this area because so many strays are badly treated which breaks my heart,” she added.
“My message to those women who either already are, or intend to be, living independently – you go girl! Literally nothing functions in this world without us so use this to your advantage, stand up and fight for your rightful place in any field you wish to enter. Let’s together change people’s perceptions of women needing male back up. I’d like to see more women in the armed forces, more women applying to command our naval ships, more women in high-ranking posts in all areas of work.”