VJ Carlotta Zambonelli came to India to realise a dream, but got abused and assaulted
This is one story that makes Atithi Devo Bhava sound not just hollow, but paradoxical too. An Italian video jockey loved India and dreamt of owning a chocolate shop in Goa. But sooner than she could have imagined, Carlotta Zambonelli’s happy trip turned into a nightmare.
Once here, this 24-year-old Italian VJ was cheated, robbed of all her belongings, beaten by her boyfriend and left with a baby out of wedlock. It’s now a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea for Carlotta and her mother.
In January 2010, Carlotta came to India on a tourist visa.
“We came across a person called Ganesh Hegde at the Indo-Italian Chambers of Commerce, Basavanagudi. He told us Goa was the best place to start our business and that he would take us there,”she said.
The nightmare began once they reached Goa, where a year of hell unfolded for Carlotta and her mother Augusta Zambonelli.
Bitter experience in Goa
“Once in Goa, our money began to disappear. From the cab driver to our business partner, everyone cheated us. We are now left with nothing and have nowhere to go,” she said.
Carlotta was introduced to Pasquale Ferrera, another Italian and a self-proclaimed chef, who promised them the moon and more.
“We saw a few places to rent and start our own little cafe. We liked one and decided to take it. The place was called Baba’s Cafe. The owner agreed to give us some space in the hotel to set up our shop. We came back to the hotel, signed an agreement and paid Pasquale Rs2.5 lakh to give to Alex Baba, the owner,” she said.
In June last year, Carlotta and her mom went back to Milan to get a business visa.
They sold all their belongings and shifted to Goa in July. Pasquale posed as a businessman and told them that he owned a small hotel in Anjuna.
“After I shifted, I needed a bike to commute and one of Pasquale’s employees took us to Alex for buying a bike.
To my shock, he asked me why I was not interested in setting up the coffee shop.
Pasquale had been telling them that he had arranged for everything. This was when we realised that we were being taken for a ride,” Carlotta said.
In the meantime, Pasquale, who was in Tunisia then, handed over the responsibility of his business in Goa to Carlotta. “I was making payments to his workers from my pocket and he was away in Tunisia. I spent close to Rs56 lakh on rent, business and salaries for his employees. I came from Italy with 30,000 euros but I had spent more than three-fourth of that money,” she said trying to brave tears.
Pushed, punched while pregnant
While this turmoil was churning in Carlotta’s life, she fell in love with one of Pasquale’s employees, Yuvraj, who promised to marry her.
“I was pregnant with Yuvraj’s child in December and we were to get engaged in February. But Yuvraj, too, turned out to be a cheat. He abused me and my mother. On one occasion, he slapped me, pushed me to the wall, punched me and kicked me in my belly. All this, when I was pregnant,” she said and began sobbing.
Pasquale came back to Goa in December 2010. “He came back with a Tunisian girlfriend. Though he had given me a contract of nearly Rs1 lakh as salary per month, I was not paid a single dime. His girlfriend began to abuse my mother. We felt like prisoners in an alien land,” she said.