Like Lakshmi, Anita is also from Nepal. Once, before Lakshmi came to the brothel, Anita tried to escape the brothel—and the goondas, men Mumtaz hires to keep the girls in the brothel in line, caught her and beat her so badly with a metal pipe that her face became permanently disfigured. As Shahanna explains to Lakshmi:
[…] one side of her face is dead. She could not smile, even if she had a reason to. (103.UnderstandingAnita.7)
Clearly there's some nerve damage—and quite a good reason for the girls to fear the goondas who work for Mumtaz.
Anita's disfigurement colors everything we understand about her. She, more than Shahanna and Lakshmi, is jaded about her existence and life. When Lakshmi first arrives, she doesn't know what to think of Anita:
I cannot tell from her always-frowning face if she is being kind or cruel.
That new girl, the one in your old room, she says. Yesterday morning Mumtaz found her hanging from the rafters. (95.EverythingINeedtoKnowNow.17-18)
Yet Anita, even with her air of fatality and hopelessness, doesn't kill herself. In fact, she's one of the people who saves Lakshmi from depression—and being sold to another brothel—after Shahanna is taken:
I sit up, as if waking from a long sleep, and see this poor girl with the lopsided face. She is all I have left in the world. (148.AllIHaveLeft.7)
Anita values very little in the world of the brothel, but Lakshmi is one of the things she holds dear. And the friendship works both ways—Lakshmi tries to convince Anita to go with her to the Americans in the last chapter.
Herein lies a key difference between Anita and Lakshmi: Although at one point Anita may have wanted to escape the brothel, her broken face has made her afraid to—life is easier when she believes Mumtaz and her lies. Anita can't bring herself to believe that salvation is possible. And when Anita "lets go of my arm, closes the door between us, and I hear a sad and final sound: the lock sliding into place" (177.TheWordsHarishTaughtMe.20), Lakshmi realizes that Anita values the safety and predictability of the brothel more than the possibility and uncertainty of freedom.