GOING by first impressions, people can be forgiven if they thought that 35-year-old Martha Prasad is like any other woman with social standing with the accompanying taste for the finer things in life.
Once you start talking to the businesswoman of the garden island of Taveuni, you'd be very surprised — her feminine voice barking orders in a no-non sense manner to the male crew of the Taveuni Princess paints a totally different picture of this slim built Fijian of Indian descent.
However conversing with the outspoken Ms Prasad, who owns the Taveuni Princess boat, that services the Taveuni and the Buca Bay route, one will learn of her daily challenges in an environment usually dominated by men.
The experiences and hardships Ms Prasad goes through daily taking her passengers to and from the Taveuni-Buca Bay sea stretch is certainly no easy task.
She is continuing in the footsteps of her parents who now reside overseas with her three siblings.
For 50 years now the Prasad family has run a boat business to service the daily route. The family used to own Grace Shipping company.
"I had attained a Class 6 Master in Engineering from the Fiji Maritime School in 2006 and it was a strange sight seeing a Fijian of Indian descent walk into the classroom dominated by males," said Ms Prasad.
"I was often called names back then but looking back now the struggle was worth it and I do not regret taking the course."
"We had sold the Grace in 2005 and had initially thought of naming our new boat (the Taveuni Princess) the Grace for being a family of ardent Seventh-day Adventist believers we believed in the grace and providence of God but our buyer did not change the name of the Grace since he bought it so I came up with Taveuni Princess," she said.
"I am currently encouraging our boat crews to undergo training with certificates in boat safety and short courses in firefighting and Red Cross first aid in boats," she said.
Ms Prasad said it had been hard at first with stubborn crew members but for the safety of our passengers we had no choice but to get in other new ones who were willing to go through the changes.
"Our maximum capacity in a day is 25 passengers and I always tell my crews that the most important thing during the course of our voyage every day are the passengers therefore their treatment in our boats has to be paramount at all times," said Ms Prasad.
"Like any business it was really new for me at first but now I sometimes surprise myself with the way I handle situations and myself in the boat especially during trying times like bad weather and other conditions.
"Anything is possible in this world all we need to do is put our heart into it and persevere, everything will fall into their place at the right time," a determined Ms Prasad said.