A Christmas conversation with Otara Gunewardene

It’s that time of year again – cold air, busy streets and a general buzz of excitement and joy.

This season, Brunch decided to talk to a few familiar faces to see what they’re gonna do this Christmas.

We had a conversation with the passionate and thought-provoking Otara Gunewardene – a lady who indeed did not need to be introduced. She is known as one of Sri Lanka’s most recognized entrepreneurs and philanthropists and for her work as an animal welfare advocate and environmentalist.

We took a look at what she’s planning for the season.

How are you going to spend Christmas this year?

At home most of the time with my family. I’m just going to engage in things that I love to do.

What would you say Christmas means to you?

For me Christmas is always an extremely busy time of year because when you are in retail it is always a busy time. But you see a lot of people and how they celebrate and you feel like you are a part of them when you are in the same business.

Christmas is a very special time – family comes together no matter where they are. Sometimes my kids are away, but they always come home for Christmas, so it’s a season to spend more time with family, celebrate everyone, and enjoy special moments.

What is your most unforgettable Christmas memory?

I can’t think of one! Everyone is different and everyone is special; it’s hard to specialize in particular, but maybe it was Christmas two years ago. I was able 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 as we had no idea what was to come so it was quite a special moment. But that being said, every year is special, and I’m not trying to compare with each other.

Holidays can be stressful sometimes. How do you like to relax?

In general, I have a regular routine of training and meditation while listening to music. I spend time with my friends and family and, if possible, take a break on the beach or elsewhere. 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 every moment that comes, whatever it is. Maybe I wasn’t like this before, but that’s what I’m trying to practice now.

The best gift you have ever received and given?

Oh my God! There have been many and many; there is nothing specific that I remember. I don’t tend to remember material things that much. This year as a family we have decided not to give each other gifts as we have become more aware of enjoying the moment rather than buying material things that we do not even need sometimes.

Over the years, with the exception of the last two due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Embark has offered and donated goods to the less fortunate and on numerous charitable occasions. It’s not really specific to Christmas; we do it all year round, but Christmas is a time of giving.

New Year’s Resolutions?

Haha, not really. Honestly, I have nothing to do specifically on January 1st. If there’s something I want to change, I do it any day of the year I decide. I’m just going to try and enjoy 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 does 2022 look like for you?

For Who We Are, as we started a year ago, there have been a lot of ups and downs with Covid-19 and lockdowns, so I’m hoping to focus more on that and see where I can take it.

I will also continue with Embark and see what other opportunities lie ahead. I also hope to be able to travel a little!