SP Malhotra, as he was widely known, was born on 22 May 1927 and grew up in Rawalpindi, where his father ran a household goods store and flourishing auction business. When his father died, he was only sixteen years old, and he stepped bravely into his role as head of the family. His entrepreneurial abilities, evident even at this tender age, soon resulted in remarkable business success.
Sadly, fresh tragedy lay in store. The young Satpal lost his beloved mother when he was just nineteen. The following year, Independence and Partition put him and his family on the wrong side of the new border. Fleeing a riot-torn Rawalpindi, he arrived in Delhi, dazed and disbelieving at the turn of events, anonymous in the huge influx of refugees, penniless, and grateful to be alive.
After a few weeks of travelling to various places in India in search of a new home, he stopped looking the day he arrived in a small town which had much that reminded him of his hometown of Pindi. It was 13 November 1947.
Pune in those days was still a small, slow-paced town, well known for its excellent climate and cultured people. Satpal Malhotra, along with his little brothers Bahri and Harish, were among the early settlers who brought new dimensions to it. Most significant of these was the spirit of enterprise. Starting with nothing, SP Malhotra built up his company Weikfield in the dark era of India’s license raj. A landmark on the Nagar Road for decades, it was also a brand that carried sweet memories of family treats of custard and trifle to an entire generation.
SP Malhotra was the quintessential entrepreneur. The most inspiring phrase I heard from him, a man of wealth and position willing to face any trial of life with courage, was: “So what if I lose everything! I can always buy a cart and sell bananas.”
Above and beyond this was his love and commitment to his family. They were his world. His brother Bahri, the face of Weikfield and perhaps better known than SP himself, worked side by side with him with utmost respect and devotion. Through all the years and changes in his life, the memory of his love for his parents remained fresh in his heart. Perhaps it was this which took him back to Rawalpindi, to visit his childhood home. Perhaps it was this which made him a constant crusader for peace between India and Pakistan.
SP Malhotra is survived by his wife Rajinder, his sons Mukesh, Puneet, Ashwini, and his daughters Urvashi and Pooja. As a young bride, Rajinder reared SP’s little brothers as her own children. In his autobiography he writes, “Jinder came into my life with a quiet warmth which has continued to grow. As the years have passed, her magnificent inner beauty has also grown day by day. And she has stood by my side every step of the way, hardworking, self-denying, utterly practical, consolidating all that I have built, growing together from childhood to adulthood, and stepping gracefully and comfortably with me into old age.”
While SP Malhotra’s sons have ably multiplied his business and assets, his two daughters have honoured his legacy by achieving exceptional success in their chosen fields of education and art respectively.