Beauty Mantra

Three Gen­er­a­tions of Busi­ness Women

mailife - - Contents - Words and images PRIYA DARSINI

Nes­tled in the foothills of the Hi­malaya Moun­tain range in In­dia lies the re­gion of Hi­machal Pradesh, home to the in­fa­mously scenic city, Simla. If you started in Simla, and drove fur­ther in­land for about thirty-one kilo­me­tres through wind­ing dirt roads and over snow­capped cliffs, you will ar­rive at a col­lec­tion of small vil­lages called Bhu­jal. The jour­ney isn’t over — keep driv­ing with win­dows wound down as you breathe in the fresh moun­tain air and marvel at the pruned ap­ple or­chards with cows graz­ing upon lush spots of green­ery. Even­tu­ally, you will stum­ble upon a small, al­most per­pet­u­ally, snow-cov­ered vil­lage of barely fifty peo­ple called Sir­mour. Put your car in park, set­tle onto a hay bale and lis­ten closely — this is where our story be­gins. In 1978, 30-year old Geeta Kaur, born and bred in lit­tle Sir­mour was liv­ing well ahead of times. She had made a name for her­self as the ayurvedic skin ther­a­pist in Bhu­jal and while break­ing bar­ri­ers as a young fe­male en­tre­pre­neur in ru­ral In­dia in the 70’s, was also sin­gle-par­ent­ing her 12year old daugh­ter, Prat­i­bha. Rosy cheeked and fair skinned, Prat­i­bha from in­fancy had clutched at the apron of her mother while she brewed her se­cret skin­care recipes over the com­mu­nal fire pit ev­ery night. As she grew older, the scent of san­dal­wood which swirled with the moun­tain air all but dis­sem­i­nated into her be­ing and she found her­self pick­ing and press­ing lo­cal plant oils into the coarse paste of turmeric to add her touch to the herbal oint­ments her mother had spent year’s cu­rat­ing. The sum­mer of 1978, a whirl­wind love-story un­folded in the North In­dian alpines when a young man from a far­away is­land, who was on a teach­ing sab­bat­i­cal in Hi­machal Pradesh, stole Geeta’s heart. Be­fore long, they were mar­ried and the mother-daugh­ter duo left Sir­mour to set­tle into their new home — a trop­i­cal is­land half­way across the world, called Fiji. Ar­riv­ing in the for­eign land with record tem­per­a­tures in pos­i­tive dig­its which they had only ever ex­pe­ri­enced be­low zero, both Geeta and Prat­i­bha quickly re­alised that this lifestyle was go­ing to be noth­ing like life in the snow-capped Sir­mour. Prat­i­bha en­rolled into St Joseph’s Sec­ondary School and Geeta picked up right where she had left off in In­dia - in 1979, Geeta Kaur opened Fiji’s first skin­care and day spa,

named Prim­rose, in Suva’s Vanua Ar­cade. With a lux­u­ri­ous menu of treat­ments rang­ing from lus­cious milk baths to toxin-rid­ding sauna bed treat­ments, Geeta soon be­came a house­hold name in Suva. The fe­male work­force in Fiji’s cap­i­tal was on a rise and with this so­cial shift, her clien­tele base grew larger. Women from chiefly fam­i­lies had stand­ing ap­point­ments for Geeta’s sig­na­ture fa­cial treat­ments which she car­ried out us­ing the same herbal range she had brewed ev­ery night in Sir­mour - only this time, the in­gre­di­ents had been adapted for all cli­mate con­di­tions and lo­cal Fi­jian plant oils had been added to the mix. A keen stu­dent and devo­tee of na­ture, Geeta was well-known for her strong re­solve in us­ing only nat­u­ral Fi­jian plants, herbs and reme­dies, even for se­ri­ous med­i­cal ail­ments. As Prim­rose ma­tured with the years, so did Geeta; and although her vi­va­cious per­son­al­ity and cu­rios­ity for life was far from sub­dued by age, in 1999 she de­cided to hand the reigns over to her daugh­ter and re­tire to a life of pil­grim­age back in In­dia. Prat­i­bha, who was at the time of the han­dover, a mother of three daugh­ters, trav­elled to Aus­tralia to qual­ify as a skin­care ther­a­pist fol­low­ing a prom­ise to take her own mother’s legacy one step fur­ther. Prim­rose un­der­went a brand­ing change to Beauty & Style, re­main­ing in the same Vanua House lo­ca­tion for a num­ber of year’s be­fore Prat­i­bha re­branded to Suva’s iconic skin­care and day spa, Beauty Mantra, which op­er­ates out of Suva Cen­tral and Sports City to­day. With the series of re­brand­ing came a shift to­wards in­tro­duc­ing top of the line skin­care prod­ucts to Fiji - with the likes of En­v­i­ron from the US and De­cleor from Paris, Prat­i­bha fol­lowed through her prom­ise by bring­ing the best of the world to her clients in Fiji. Geeta’s se­cret nat­u­ral skin­care recipe was also in­her­ited by Prat­i­bha who con­tin­ued her mother’s tra­di­tion by brew­ing the recipes over her stove at home — only this time, she did it for her daugh­ter’s who grew up clutch­ing at her apron. All three re­lied solely on their grand­mother’s skin­care prod­ucts to get them through the awk­ward teenage years of skin angst and till this day, will call their mother to brew a batch of ‘Nani’s magic oint­ment’ in lieu of an im­por­tant so­cial event — just in­case they ex­pe­ri­ence a skin break-out the night be­fore.

The apron which seems to har­bour an el­e­ment of hered­i­tary sig­nif­i­cance rubbed off on the youngest of Prat­i­bha’s three daugh­ters, Nandika who ear­lier this year, fol­lowed in her grand­mother and mother’s foot­steps by open­ing her own skin­care clinic in Auck­land, New Zealand. ‘Malkia Beauty by Nandika Singh’ has a clear mis­sion of tai­lored ex­pe­ri­ences of bliss for each in­di­vid­ual client. The spa serves up a range of treat­ments from De­cleor & En­v­i­ron fa­cials to lav­ish pedi­cures and pesky hair re­moval. Fol­low­ing her mother’s pur­suit of world-class train­ing, Nandika grad­u­ated from Elite in­ter­na­tional, New Zealand’s premier beauty academy, be­fore ob­tain­ing an in­ter­na­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion through CIDESCO; which is the world’s most pres­ti­gious qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Aes­thet­ics and Beauty Ther­apy. In 2013, Geeta re­turned to Fiji where she spent the last three months of her ad­ven­tur­ous, pur­pose-driven, life be­fore peace­fully lay­ing to rest on the ocean-bed of Ka­davu’s wa­ters. The sea-burial was her fi­nal wish which was humbly and re­spect­fully granted by the Fi­jian Navy. Although she is no longer with us in per­son, Geeta’s legacy and pas­sion for skin­care lives on through her daugh­ter Prat­i­bha at Beauty Mantra and now, her grand-daugh­ter Nandika at Malkia Beauty. This is a story not only of a woman who quite lit­er­ally shaped the fu­ture of women in her lin­eage, but also of a woman who was bold, fear­less and re­lent­lessly driven. It is a story of how a grand­mother, by way of an ex­em­plary life of suc­cess through pas­sion, con­tin­ues to in­spire and drive her daugh­ter and grand­daugh­ters each day, till this day.

Prat­i­bha at Beauty Mantra

Geeta dur­ing her early days in Fiji

Nandika Singh at Malkia Beauty

Geeta and Prat­i­bha at a fam­ily wed­ding in In­dia

Geeta dur­ing her early days in Fiji

Geeta and grand­daugh­ter

Prat­i­bha with the Beauty Mantra Staff in Suva

Prat­i­bha with her daugh­ters Nandika, Ur­vashi and Priya (L-R)

Prat­i­bha as a teenager at Prim­rose Beauty Sa­lon

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