Here are two elderly women entrepreneurs who are committed to giving the best homestay experience to their guests at Granny’s Inn, Varanasi.
Keeping oneself active, creative and setting up a purposeful rhythm is important to everyone irrespective of age or gender. Of course as kids we would have done all this and much more, most of the time without even feeling conscious about it, and that’s the beauty of childhood.
As and when we become mature enough to take care of self and our families, there is something that comes in between you and your purposeful self and that is called ‘responsibilities’. It is definitely a joy when you nurture your kids, look after your families, act as a support in running a household, etc, but the act of nurturing self unknowingly becomes sparse. Often people tend to forget to pursue things that make them happy and get caught in a web of to-do lists and busy schedules, making it look like a means for just survival.
By the time one realizes this deep impact, one would have a good number of gray hairs showing up! Social norms dictate retirement for the elderly, so one might then not do anything to keep oneself active productively!
To realize one’s passion or to make your life purposeful on your own terms need not be indirectly proportional to your age. As they say – age is just a number. What all of us need is inspiration, and that is available in abundance to those willing to listen.
So if you think you always had a dream of living your passion or have plans to make life more colourful but feel that this is not the right age for it, then please continue reading! Because I am going to introduce you to two grannies (can be called so, only because of age!) who are leading lives with a better meaning and spreading warmth with their hospitality in the holy land of Varanasi.
Meet Asha Singh and Aruna Singh, better known as Asha granny and Aruna granny (and referred to as such henceforth)– the two faces behind the homestay, Granny’s Inn, Varanasi.
Let’s get into the details of their story of how it happened at this age!
Asha granny lost her husband at a young age and was content doing household chores, and was not financially independent. Though she has a major in home science, she never had any work experience. Whereas Aruna granny, although a housewife too, had started looking after their agricultural land after her husband passed away. Both of them are sisters and came together in this venture.
Shilpli Singh and Manish Sinha are Asha granny’s daughter and son-in-law, who run their own homestay in Gurgoan called Cinnamon Stays. Asha granny recalls, “I had gone to visit them and enjoyed meeting various guests who came and stayed with them. I then told them that I too wanted to run a homestay in Varanasi with my sister Aruna.”
Also the name, ‘Granny’s Inn’ was given by Shilpi and Manish. Asha granny says, “Shilpi and Manish felt the name had the warmth and love which we wanted to extend to our guests. They felt that ‘Dadi Nani Ka Pyar’ represents the best that Indian hospitality can offer in a homestay environment.”
Asha granny says, “Manish and Shilpi helped us restore the old house and helped us in setting up the place. They are the biggest supporters. They also helped us in training the staff.” However, things went seldom smoothly during the initial days. As Asha granny says, “Challenges are part of life. It took six months for renovation work. The house was very old and required more work than what we expected and the time needed for that was beyond what we had thought of.
Also, because we wanted the right crowd, we were very cautious of how to promote the inn. This meant initial couple of months we had very low occupancy. Another challenge was to set up the right team. But if one is determined to do something, things just fall into place. Now, we have a lovely team at Granny’s Inn.”
Granny’s Inn was inaugurated on 25th Dec, 2013. Asha and Aruna granny have a good support system in running the homestay. They say, “Shilpi and Manish do the marketing of Granny’s Inn and we look after the operations, guest relation, guest experiences. We have a team of four people for cleaning, cooking, sourcing, city experiences etc. We invited our cook’s family to stay with us and take care of his two kids and their education.”
Manish has designed and conceptualized an extension to their positive hospitality in their homestays. Asha granny adds, “We believe in responsible tourism. The artwork, paintings, wooden mirrors etc are all made by local artists. We promote local art and artisans, local entrepreneurship. Because of this, many tourists have bought and ordered items from these local artists.”
Asha granny and Aruna granny say that they have had many good experiences with their guests, and find it difficult to single out one. They recall, “We had a guest who had come from UK to volunteer in a local school. She was here for 3 weeks, a bit younger to me. We had a great time together. We developed a friendship and bonding which is so beautiful. We would share our thoughts and emotions and have become like soul sisters.”
Talking about another memorable instance, “when a mother who had lost her son was visiting us. She was very sad and fighting depression. Spending time with us, sharing her thoughts and emotions helped her in fighting her depression. We are not a healing centre but every moment here is a healing moment, a happy moment.”
And they had a celebrity moment too when Dia Mirza visited them for a shoot and had great fun with her. She had food with them and loved her visit.
The numbers talk for themselves, Granny’s Inn had guests from over 50 countries so far and they have many wonderful stories to tell, as they say it is the best homestay experience ever. Also the homestay has had rave reviews on popular travel websites and forums, showcasing their distinctive hospitality. The grannies say, “We are not a luxury place or out of the world place but we are a home where we shower our love. Conversations, good food with local flavours and right city guidance is what our guests like about us. Most of them say it is an oasis in Varanasi.”
The grannies say, “Self motivation is the best motivation. Happy guests motivate us to do better and better. The sense of purpose and appreciation we have got for our work is the biggest motivation. Now our friends, relatives, people younger than us say that we are an inspiration for them. It feels very good.”
However one might wonder if the body can handle so much happening at this age and they surprise you with their answer. Asha granny reveals, “Age is nothing. I started working at 65. I have found a new life. I am more active, more healthy since I started Granny’s Inn and I have reinvented my life with it. Yes, there are times we do get tired. But that’s ok, as I said, it keeps us agile and active.”
What would have happened to these grannies if there was no Granny’s Inn? They both say, “If not for Granny’s Inn, we would have continued to live a life feeling victimized by life. Life without purpose brings in mental and physical ailments. We would tell fellow elderly to just take the leap and things will start falling into place. Take charge of your life and if you need any help, my team and I would be happy to extend our support and help. It’s never too late!”
The grannies have a purposeful routine and their day starts at 7 am. They add, “Meeting guests for tea, having gupshup with them and then supervising kitchen for breakfast forms the morning time. Post breakfast, we supervise the cleaning activities and plan for the day and handle check ins, check outs, lunch and dinner planning etc. Taking care of accounts and expenditure also takes some time. We spend lots of time with our guests.
Sometimes, we ourselves take them out for city visit. We also have friends and families who visit us.” And they do not forget to take care of themselves in their otherwise busy routine and quickly add, “As we need to take care of ourselves, we do some Yoga and exercise to keep ourselves healthy and fit.”
Talking about the future and the path they are traveling on, the grannies say, “We are very happy with present work and have a good occupancy rate. We just want to continue with this setup. However, we want to help Manish and Shilpi to expand Granny’s Inn and encourage senior citizens like us to live life fully. As expansion happens, we would be training the new setups as well. We want to spread hope, happiness, wisdom and warmth. In the future, Granny’s Inn could also be an inspirational place for senior citizens. A place where more Silver Startups can get inspiration – in hospitality, wellness and related areas.”
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Images: Asha granny and Aruna granny