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A Christmas chat with Otara Gunewardene

22 Dec 2021

It’s that time of the year again – cold air, busy streets, and an overall buzz of excitement and cheer.  This season, Brunch decided to speak to a few familiar faces to see what they’ll be up to this Christmas. We had a chat with the passionate and empowering Otara Gunewardene – a lady that indeed needs no introduction. She is known as one of Sri Lanka’s most recognised entrepreneurs and philanthropists and for her work as an animal welfare advocate and conservationist.  We took a look into what she has planned for the season.  How will you be spending Christmas this year?  At home, mostly, together with my family. I’ll just be engaging in things that I enjoy doing. What would you say Christmas means to you? For me, Christmas is always an extremely busy time of the year because when you’re in retail, it’s always a busy time. But you do see a lot of people and how they celebrate and you feel like you’re a part of it when you’re in the same trade.  Christmas is a very special time – the family gets together no matter where they are. Sometimes my kids are away but they always get back home for Christmas, so it’s a season to spend more time with the family and celebrate everyone and enjoy special moments. What’s your most unforgettable Christmas memory?  I can’t think of one! Everyone is different and everyone is special; it’s difficult to specialise one in particular, but maybe it’s Christmas two years ago. I got to spend Christmas with my family in Sri Lanka and then spend the rest of the holidays in Barcelona with some of my very close friends. After that, we couldn’t travel for about two years since we had no idea what was coming so it was quite a special moment. But with that being said, every year is special, and I don’t try to compare one with another.  Holidays can be stressful sometimes. How do you like to unwind? Generally, I have a regular routine of workout and meditation while listening to music. I spend time with friends and family and when possible, taking a break on the beach or somewhere. So whenever possible, I continue with these things.  What would your perfect Christmas look like Each person has a different version of a “perfect Christmas”. For me, it’s just to be able to spend it with my family and enjoy each moment that comes, whatever it may be. Maybe I wasn’t like that before, but it is what I try to practice now.  Best gift you’ve gotten and given?  Oh my gosh! There have been lots and lots; there’s nothing specific I remember. I don’t tend to remember material goods so much. This year, as a family, we decided not to give each other gifts because we’ve gotten more conscious of enjoying the moment rather than buying material things that we don’t even need sometimes.  Over the years, excluding the last two due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Embark has gifted and donated goods to the less fortunate and to many charity occasions. It’s not really Christmas-specific; we do this throughout the year, but Christmas is a time of giving.  Any New Year’s resolutions? Haha, no not really. I honestly don’t have anything that I specifically want to do on 1 January. If there is something I want to change, I do it on any given day of the year that I decide to. I’m just going to try to enjoy each and every moment rather than judging what’s wrong with a moment or what happened in the past or what will happen in the future.  What’s 2022 looking like for you? For Who We Are, as we started it one year ago, it has come with a lot of ups and downs because of Covid-19 and lockdowns, so I hope to focus more on that and see where I can take it.  I will continue with Embark as well and see what other opportunities await me. Hopefully, I’ll get to travel a little as well! 

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