Vinesh Khatwa: father, husband, entrepreneur, and the newest member of the Fairfield Parish Council, was kind enough to sit down with me for a chat about his vision for Fairfield, and just how passionately he feels for our community.
AF: Good morning! It’s so nice to see your face, even if it is over Zoom! Haha! Why don’t we start with you introducing yourself…
VK: Hi, my name is Vinesh Khatwa. I’ve been a resident of Fairfield Park for just over two and a half years, it’ll be three years in December. I’m the father of a toddler, and soon to be the father of another as of February.
AF: Such an exciting time for you! I know that you were recently appointed to the Fairfield Parish Council, and I’m curious to hear what made you want to be involved.
VK: It’s a bit of an interesting journey, which probably started four or five years ago when my wife Mansi and I visited friends here and absolutely loved it. You could feel the sense of community and we knew that we wanted to move here. It was totally different to where we lived in southeast London. We wanted to start a family, so we wanted to live somewhere that (a) was green and (b) had a safe, community feel to it. And everything we hoped was true! It is a fantastic community and we made friends quickly – straight away we felt like we had been here forever, which is an amazing feeling. But I don’t think that just happens – I think it’s being maintained, planned, managed… and that’s what the Council do, by providing a community spirit, or just kind of edging it along, really. So that made me think: I want to be part of it. I think maybe the size – that sort of “everybody knows everybody” style community, I felt that not only was it my duty, but I just felt that I wanted to be a part of it, and in effect, administer some changes.
AF: What kinds of changes?
VK: It’s constantly evolving, but I think the reason I joined was to provide a little diversity to the Council. There’s no one of my…colour on there, to put it bluntly. So I feel that it’s probably lacking a little bit when it comes to representing minorities in this community. And obviously there’s a melting pot of cultures here, so in some respect, maybe, those people think, “I’m not represented”. If me being on the Council shows them you can be part of this community, you don’t have to feel disenfranchised or anything like that – that’s the first step. And I want to get more people engaged. Whether you’re on the Council or you get involved in various activities, you don’t have to just sit around. There are loads of things we can all do! Councils sometimes seem a bit ‘red tape’ and people probably see that, and it creates this ‘us versus them’ mentality. Hopefully I can break those barriers down. I guess, root one to all of this is bringing diversity to Fairfield through events – and the best way to do that is food, drink and music! Celebrating all those different cultures. Because we celebrate Christmas, and that’s a fantastic festival to celebrate whether you’re Christian or not, and we celebrate Halloween, which is an interesting one because it’s actually a pagan festival…
AF: One could argue that the origins of Christmas are also pagan, if you go back far enough.
VK: Exactly! And we have Apple Day, which is special to Fairfield, but we don’t seem to celebrate things like Diwali, Eid, Hanukkah… There’re lots of things we don’t celebrate, and regardless of the demographic here, I think we should. Maybe people just don’t know enough about them, but through the music, food, and drink, I’m hoping to bring people together and educate them a little bit about what it’s like to be Jewish, Hindu or Muslim… and maybe through these events, begin discussing topics around racism, sexism, prejudice – things like that.
AF: The conversation you’re hoping to produce – where does that lead Fairfield?
VK: I’m hoping it’ll open up people’s eyes to what it’s like to be from a different culture because I think – and I know I’m speaking very generalistically here, but from what people have told me – they just don’t know about it, so therefore, what are they telling their children? What is it to be black? What is it to be Asian? What is it to go through life as a person of colour? So what I want to achieve is that sense of understanding, which leads to empathy.
AF: Do you feel like this phase of young fatherhood has coloured these desires in you?
VK: Absolutely. I think becoming a father has opened up a new sense of responsibility in me, certainly pushed me past the selfish person that I was when I was younger and single, when it was all about me! I dealt with racism when I was a child and I wouldn’t want my children to experience that. Children aren’t born with viewpoints on race or religion, it’s taught to them by their culture. This might sound like a large topic, but if we can have incremental change in a small community like ours, then you get the snowball effect, right? That’s what I was alluding to before – developing the understanding, and the liberalism, really. Getting across that these conversations are ok to have, that it’s ok to ask these questions. Being a father has definitely awakened that spirit in me.
AF: So I know you have your own small business. What is it that you do? Fill me in…
VK: Sure, I run a boutique recruitment consultancy. I’ve worked in recruitment for about 13 years, specialising in hospitality – restaurants, bars, etc. There’s also an arm of our business that does generic, head office recruitment. Obviously, since COVID, that part has taken up more of our time, since restaurants and bars have only recently come back to life. I opened my business about a year ago. I didn’t want to, actually, but because of changes in my old company that I wasn’t happy with, I thought it was time to do something on my own, and embrace it. Obviously not realising there was a global pandemic on the way.
AF: Who in the world saw that coming?? Haha!
VK: Haha! But to be fair, I think it’s been interesting going through this process. Obviously, getting a business up and running has taught me quite a lot, and, in a way, this pandemic has given me a chance to re-start my start-up. I’ve learned from the mistakes I made six months ago, so I can do things differently now, which is always a positive. We’re concentrating on opportunities within Hertfordshire, so we’re trying to be a local partner, both for people who are looking to recruit and people who are looking for work. And I’ve found a tremendous amount of talent in this community – whether it’s parents returning to work or people who don’t want to work in London anymore and would rather be close to home. There are a lot of qualified people in this area.
AF: Thank you so much for chatting with me today, and good luck with everything!
VK: Thanks, you too Amber!
Amber Fortier moved to Fairfield Park in 2017 with her husband and three young children. She is originally from New York.