Seventy-year-old Asha Singh’s life changed five years ago when she started running a homestay in Benaras. “I have been a housewife all my life and never got the opportunity to work before. But I always had the desire to do something,” says Asha Singh aka Granny Asha. Her homestay ‘Granny’s Inn’ is located on the ghats of Benaras and hosts guests not just from India but all over the world.
Asha spent her childhood and most of her married life in Patna, Bihar. She lost her husband when he was only 47. Though she visited her married daughter and son frequently, she always looked out for chances to talk to new people. This is one of the reasons she often stayed with her daughter Shilpi, who also runs a homestay in Gurgaon.
Starting the homestay
Asha enjoyed the company of guests from around the world at Shilpi’s homestay. In the early 2000s, Asha’s cousin Aruna, who owned the property in Benaras where Granny’s Inn is now running, had come to visit Shilpi and Asha in Gurgaon. Aruna liked the homestay concept and took Asha as partner to start their guesthouse.
“I discussed it with my daughter, Shilpi and son-in-law, Manish, and they got excited about the idea too. It took us six month to renovate the house. We faced several glitches initially but we managed to start our Granny’s Inn,” Asha told SheThePeople.TV.
Neither Aruna nor Asha had lived in Benaras ever, yet they decided to do something in their old age. Today, they run a six-room guesthouse with facilities catering to their foreign as well as Indian guests.
Asha’s daughter Shilpi says, “My mother is a very social person and she adapts with people very easily. I think that is why she has enjoyed running Granny’s Inn so much and it received recognition so early.”
Taking challenges in her stride
Talking about the challenges that a new place brings in, Asha says that they were so involved in the project that the difficulties did not bother them.
“I was super excited to run a homestay that I did not want to accept defeat at the first few complexities. My eagerness would make me even make tea or snacks for the guests if they asked for it at 2 am in the initial days,” smiles Asha
When a senior citizen does something out-of-box, people — specifically relatives — have their own stereotypical views about it.
However, her daughter said that economic independence silenced everyone. “Till the time my mother wasn’t earning, everyone had a view on how she should lead her life. But now nobody has the authority to say anything. The confidence she has today was not there five years ago.”
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“Now I don’t get time at all as all my time goes into looking after the guests. I supervise the laundry, cooking, gardening in the area etc. I and the guests have breakfast together and that is also the time when we talk about their needs in the guesthouse and other general talks. It is also the time when we see off guests and welcome new ones,” explained Asha.
“I also sometimes take the guests for shopping or do yoga with them or teach them Hindi,” she said. Shilpi and her husband manage online marketing for the guesthouse, Asha added.
Granny Asha a big hit
People from around the country and different parts of the world visit Granny’s Inn when they go to Benaras. Many keep in touch with Asha even after their stay with her, she says.
“Internationally, I have had guests from UK, US, Australia, China, Japan, Nigeria etc. I talk to everyone and I can understand what they are saying too. Obviously I am not very fluent in English because I did not study in English medium school but I used to teach my children when they were in school. So communication is not a problem for me.”
Asha is also a fitness enthusiast. “I belong to a zamindar joint family where life was only about eating food and enjoying life. But I was married in a bureaucrat family and there, I felt very conscious of my weight and that’s when I started exercising, walking etc. I developed an interest in fitness and like to read how successful women keep themselves fit and try to implement them in my lifestyle as well,” she said.
“Here I conduct yoga sessions and city walks to show guests around the tourist places in Benaras.”
Homestay featured on TV
In 2017, actor Dia Mirza visited Granny’s Inn for a shoot on the homestay. Recalling her experience, Asha said, “I had never seen a film actor in real life and she is very beautiful. My whole family knows that she came and I have a picture with her. This incident has inspired me a lot to do more work. Now several of people visit us after watching us on TV after she did a program with us.”
Granny’s Inn stays house-full in the peak season (November to March) and does good business in the rest of the year as well. Since, Aruna keeps ill most of the time, it is largely on Asha to take care of the homestay.
In future, Asha wants to expand their business and open a saree shop for her guests who look for authentic Benarasi wear. Sky is the limit and Granny Asha a true inspiration!