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Down syndrome is no barrier for this successful Mumbai hotel owner

We start a series of stories on achievers with Down syndrome from today. Stories of people who are showing the world their many possibilities and potential. Our first story is on Aditi Verma, who runs a successful restaurant in Navi Mumbai.

Aditi's Corner looks like any other busy restaurant during lunchtime. Customers line up to choose their meals from the range of tasty dishes displayed.

Unruffled by the crowd and noise, owner Aditi Verma, takes orders calmly, with a smile on her face. She has Down syndrome, something that you barely notice as she starts talking about why she loves the food business.

I like the fact that customers come and chat with me. It makes me very happy when they tell me which dishes they liked. Most of my customers are regulars, who come here during the lunch break. I love coming here and meeting new people - Aditi Verma, Owner, Restaurant owner

Got hooked to cooking as a child

Her most popular dishes are cupcakes and Maggi noodles. She prepares many variations of Maggi. Vegetable Maggi is a particular hit. The range of meals here is quite vast, which is because Aditi started cooking at a young age. Her cupcakes are also very popular among customers.

She got interested in cooking when she was 13 years old. She would watch cooking videos on YouTube and experiment at home - Reena Verma, Aditi's mother

Her family decided to support this passion. On New Year's Day in 2016, they gifted her with a small restaurant in Navi Mumbai. In less than two months, Aditi broke even. For her parents, it was a reassuring sign of how far she had come.

When Aditi was born with Down syndrome, her mother went into depression. Aditi was the first child for her parents.

Down syndrome refers to a set of physical and mental traits caused by a gene. It happens before birth. Children who have Down syndrome have certain features, such as a flat face and a short neck. They also have some degree of intellectual disability. This varies from person to person. In most cases it is mild to moderate. The condition is lifelong, but with care and support, children with Down syndrome, can grow up o lead happy, productive lives.

Equal Treatment

With her husband's support, Reena soon snapped out of her depression. The family decided they would everything in their power to support Aditi.

To start with, there was no special treatment give. No distinction was made between her and her younger brother. She would walk to the school bus stop on her own, like the other kids.

I explained to her the dangers of talking to strangers. I used to follow her initially without her knowledge to make sure she was following my rules. A couple of incidents happened involving strangers, but she was adamant about sticking to my rules. That reassured me. - Reena Verma, Aditi's mother

Running a hotel is a tough business. Aditi's day begins early. She likes to prepare the food items at home. These are then taken to Aditi's Corner, where she has two people to assist her. One does the cooking. The other delivers meals to offices nearby.

Apart from snacks like Maggi, sandwiches, tea and coffee, Aditi's Corner also serves lunch meals. The items are priced low, something Aditi is clear she doesn't want to change. She says there are many customers who cannot afford to pay more.

Big dreams ahead

Going ahead, she has plans to expand.

I want to introduce some new dishes in this restaurant. Like ice-creams, which are in popular demand. In the future, I have plans to open a five star hotel - Aditi Verma, Restaurant owner

At 23, this young girl is setting serious career goals. She has represented Maharashtra as an entrepreneur at the Self Advocates Forum of India (SAFI) in Bengaluru. She was nominated as the state representative for SAFI.

Aditi's family hopes that her story will change attitudes towards people with disabilities in India. To realize that given support and opportunity, they can be independent and productive.


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