FIFTY-YEAR-OLD Shanta Bai Sariyam has not done any course in hotel management. She dropped out of school in standard three. But she has weathered the vicissitudes of poverty through sheer grit and determination.
From making simple dal chawal within the domains of her small hutment, this Gond tribal stepped outside her small terrain to carve a position for herself, both socially and financially. Today she is the proud owner of a restaurant inside the Pench Tiger Reserve area. She has also ‘recruited’ two youth to assist her in her work.
The Shanti Bai Dhaba Maya Restaurant situated just in the adjoins of the Forest Rest House in the Tiger Reserve Area speaks volumes of the courage of this woman, whose family once lived below the poverty line.
“There used to be a lot of tourist rush and since there were very few eating joints, in 1997, I was offered some amount to cook in a small room in the precincts of the rest house. I started cooking for the visitors and gradually I developed confidence on doing something on a larger scale.
So I decided to open a dhaba cum restaurant on my own.” Shanta Bai was given some financial help initially by the government but it was more her acumen and sagacity that helped her to transform from a housewife to an entrepreneur.
“I earn around 6000 per month but then there are some lean periods also when the park is closed or the tourist inflow is poor,” she says.
What was she planning next? “My lodge of two rooms would be complete by next month. This will further bolster my confidence. I also want to buy a Gypsy jeep,” she says as she goes inside the kitchen to make chicken curry for a customer.