Three Generations of Business Women
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