This is Amruta. I met her more than three years ago while traveling across Maharashtra on a project for Getoff Ur Ass. I had spoken to her over the phone and she sounded welcoming, but I had no clue how she would be in person. I shouldn’t have even wondered! I got down from the State Transport Bus in a strange small town, took an autorickshaw to her house and there she was. Smiling with morning sunlight freshness and welcoming me into her home. She was a like a little phataka, a firecracker, with bursts of of energy & spirit. And this is a bit of her story.
Amruta has grown up in Sawantwadi. Educated, married and with two young children life seemed smooth.Her husband is a chemist and runs a pharmacy in the town, she helps him out and takes care of her two young children. But this wasn’t enough for her. She had a plot of ancestral land in the outskirts of the city, with chikku and mango trees surrounding it. It was lying unused when she decided to make that into a homestay with the help of a local travel organisation. From being a wife and mother, she became the Founder and CEO of Nandan Farms! Amruta has her own Scooty (Scooterette), zips around town and takes runs her own business. She says her husband doesn’t interfere in her decision. In her town, she is the go-to person for anyone who is considering anything to do with tourism. The evening that I was there, I tagged along as she met this young girl who was thinking of converting her family fish farms into fishing vacation homestays. She was asking Amruta if it made sense, and how to go about setting it up. Amruta manages to be ambitious but at the same time, is grounded and radiates oven-like warmth. I met her for the first time that afternoon, yet she invited me, a stranger, into her house, served me a great dinner and chatted with me late into the night.
I walk around with this aura of being a city-girl, with arrogance of being the 4th generation educated person and 3rd generation woman driver (my maternal grandmother zipped around Chennai in an Ambassador). When I meet women from small towns and traditional families I have a pre-conceived notion that they’ve had it tough, that their family doesn’t support them, that their dreams have been squashed and independence questioned. Yet, when I encounter women like Amruta, I am surprised, thrilled and extremely proud of her and my country. This doesn’t mean all women have found themselves, but some have and that is pleasing.
I haven’t spoken to Amruta in 3 years but think of her often and of her willpower and determination. I think of how she didn’t let the small town or traditional background stop her from striving for her dreams. How she is spirited and ambitious without being aggressive (a.k.a. most city women) And I am always inspired.
So, if you happen to go to Sawantwadi and see a woman zipping around on a Scooty — it might just be Amruta… Give her my regards and wishes.