Sanjay & Manisha Gandhi
Welcome to our second Free Spirits feature, where every person and their home have a story to tell. Every few months, we sit with a different member of the Freedom Tree Tribe, and delve into how their creativity spills into their interiors and lives. Today, we introduce you to Sanjay and Manisha, a power-couple living their best life.
Sanjay & Manisha Gandhi
We enter their airy, tree-facing apartment on a leafy bylane in Pali Hill, Sanjay Gandhi already has the pans out and is rustling up some kung pao chicken and rice. The ex-hedge fund software developer who built a tech company with his wife Manisha Pandita- is an amateur cook whose repertoire swings between traditional dishes and inventive original recipes. Today, we’re getting authentic Chinese, a go-to comfort food staple in this house.
As Sanjay brings the food to the living room, Manisha tells how their relationship began at Harvard University and endured long distance between NYC and Boston before they both moved to India in 2013. Manisha’s move to Mumbai from a top Boston-based consulting firm stemmed from a desire to shift from an academic approach in development economics to an executional role on the ground. Meanwhile, Sanjay, who enjoyed fine dining in New York so much that it inspired him to cook better at home, reached out to Chef Alex Sanchez of The Table to begin working at the restaurant as a humble line chef.
Sanjay Rustles up some gourmet Chinese in his well lit kitchen
The ever-elegant Manisha holds forth on her decorating style
Freshly cooked Kung Pan chicken laid out on our Elae Serverware
Although Sanjay’s stint in the professional kitchen only lasted a few months, his and Manisha’s home bears testament to their love for cooking and hosting. Recipe books from Sanjay’s favorite restaurants line the bookshelves and are opened from time to time before their bimonthly dinner parties. The dining table - a handsome live-edge industrial design from Freedom Tree - was the first piece of furniture they bought and fittingly lies at the center of their home. And, the kitchen is open plan - a must on the couple’s wishlist when apartment hunting - so that the cooking, dining, and living spaces could seamlessly blend into each other.
A home office was another apartment requisite when Sanjay and Manisha moved in last year amidst COVID lockdowns. In 2017, the two teamed up and ventured into the tech sphere with the launch of EasyPlan - a money-saving app with the vision to improve financial access and encourage smarter saving. With enough room to be creative while democratizing impact (a win for both of them), EasyPlan took off to inspire better investing, especially amongst the younger generation. In 2021, Jupiter roped in Sanjay and Manisha to incorporate their tech-driven financial inclusion app into their new digital bank, ushering in the need for a larger apartment with a dedicated workspace.
A transitional style from industrial to retro and vintage pervades the home
A handsome Kashmiri carpet ties the well-lit space together
A Personal Style
Framed with plenty of outdoor greenery (inspired by their extended lockdown stay in Goa) and filled with personal mementos, Sanjay and Manisha’s home is a space built for them to grow. Practical, emotional, and environmental choices dictate its airy and contemporary design with each room balancing a thoughtful mix of local materials and traditional elements.
“I wanted the space to have a transitional style - which is an easy mix-match of traditional and contemporary pieces. I also wanted to showcase accents that reflected my Kashmiri heritage.”
This approach is exemplified by the sparing but impactful use of tropical wood, typical for vernacular furniture. Two low-seated Chandigarh-inspired chairs sit in the living room with the acacia wood dining table just behind, simultaneously infusing the space with warmth while retaining lightness. The hand-knotted Kashmiri carpet anchoring the living area and set of crewel embroidered cushions on the window seat are nods to Manisha’s Kashmiri heritage. These signature pieces were consciously purchased to champion their sustainable material and craft processes and their ability to endure through the decades.
Artisanally crafted cushions bring a cozy softness to the window ledge
Handwoven wicker on the Chandigarh-inspired seating
Color and Curios
All around the house, little details reflect Sanjay and Manisha’s interests and curatorial instincts. The bookshelves are stacked with an assortment of design books, travel books, and cookbooks from Sanjay’s favorite restaurants. Objets d’art run from a row of tiny hand stitched Mexican dolls on the bookshelf to a beautifully carved Kashmiri drum by the window. A row of Japanese feline paintings line one wall while a pair of carved tribal masks hang on the other. Each object bears a sense of story and place, offering unexpected moments of color and texture.
Color also finds expression in the array of textiles that dot the rooms. A deep blue velvet sofa topped with printed Freedom Tree cushions punctuates the otherwise neutral living room, while softer variations wash over the bedroom. The leafy green trees that blanket the exterior fill the many window frames, building a color palette that’s easy on the eye.
Curios and pick-ups from the couple’s global travels
Books, books, and more books! Recipies, artifacts, and manuals for life
Bongos and guitars - almost required decor in any millennial home
Multi-colored florals in the bedroom a dramatic foreground to ever-present greenery
As Manisha, an avid bird watcher, gazes at the blossoming gulmohar tree just outside the living room, she describes the variety of birds that come to perch amidst its leaves. This perk accentuates the serenity that permeates their interiors, providing a complementary soundtrack to its aesthetic sensibility. For Sanjay and Manisha, this is a home that has achieved its goal.
"The best advice I got when doing my home was to take my time. Not try and finish and furnish everything at once. Home evolves like people do, leaving some blank corners or walls allows you to imagine future possibilities." -MANISHA