“Our home is an eclectic amalgamation of our journey through life,” says Geetanjali Kirloskar of their bungalow tucked away inside the Kirloskar Business Park, where the company’s offices are headquartered in the bustling Bengaluru suburb of Hebbal.
We’re seated in her lounge on the first floor, where the charming lady of the manor, the director of Kirloskar Systems Limited, is getting dolled up for her shoot with HELLO!. The monumental home boasts a vast garden, encapsulating a pool and an inviting gazebo, its interiors pleasing to the eye.
Every piece of home décor has a story that resonates with the family — from the sculptures from South Africa, puppets from France and tapestry from South America, to wall plates from Jaipur, carpets from Kashmir and dhurries from Bukhara, the home is an eclectic mix of colours, textures and forms, evident even in the napkins from flea markets, oil paintings and Baccarat glass works.
The home is dotted with Paithani miniatures, canvases by eminent artists like FN Souza, MF Husain and Paresh Maity displayed at strategic corners, as well as arresting graphic prints from England that blend with contemporary art from France, South Africa, Peru and other international destinations. Art aficionados would also appreciate the modern works by masters like Keith Haring, Paul Day and Claudette Schreuders, among others.
“Our furniture was mostly made-to-order from Virasp Batliwala in Bengaluru, and the woodwork is simple, modern, minimal. The side tables were picked up from old stores, while our coffee table was refurbished from an old bullock cart,” says Geetanjali, who worked closely with her husband Vikram, Chairman and Managing Director of Kirloskar Systems, to build their dream house.
“Our home was not an overnight quick fix by top interior designers. Vikram was the chief architect — supported by a team of professional architects — and I developed the interiors. The furniture, art, sculptures, carpets and accessories were all collected over several years from our various travels,” she adds.
It’s clear that Geetanjali and Vikram have been able to navigate their marriage of 40 years with remarkable success. Their diverse backgrounds only enriched their lives together, fuelled by their disciplined upbringing.
“My life was not a cakewalk,” says Vikram. “I went to Lawrence School in Ooty, where I did well, and then studied at MIT. I’ve worked all my life, beginning right after school. I even worked at summer camps in the US as I needed the money to entertain myself. I came back home only twice for a holiday in six years.”
On his return, like most scions of illustrious business names, Vikram joined the family’s core business of engineering.
“Ours is a 120-year-old enterprise. We’re a conservative company with zero debt and are lucky to have survived this long,” he says. “We may not be very huge, but we have a good name, offer great quality products and look after our customers”
Like Geetanjali, Vikram attributes his upbringing for the values he imbibed during his formative years.
“I try to do everything right. I focus on charity work and also doing what’s good for the country. Having said that, I can’t pretend to be poor because that would be farcical, as I’ve worked hard and done well in life.”
While Vikram enjoys his work and current stint as president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, he knows how to have fun. The husband and wife are avid travellers who’ve explored the world together since they tied the knot. While they sensibly opted to stay home in Bengaluru in the past two years, Vikram and Geetanjali took their first post-pandemic family vacation to the South of France.
“We stayed for three weeks. The sea was very calming, and it wasn’t too crowded. There are little restaurants that dot the towns there, and you can walk around, dressed casually,” shares Geetanjali.
Vikram, a contrast to his verbose partner, quietly agrees with her, adding, “We enjoy travelling, eating out and drinking wine together.”
An ardent wine connoisseur, he has a fabulous collection and enjoys wine from Burgundy and Rhone Valley.
“My wife also enjoys a glass of wine as much as I do!”
The couple is now gearing up for an experiential holiday in Norway, where they want to go hiking, drive around the villages and go on a cruise around the fjord.
“We’ve also hired a guide to teach us about the Viking culture and history,” adds Geetanjali. Vikram and Geetanjali will be celebrating their ruby anniversary this year. The two share an easy camaraderie and seem in tandem with each other, despite being polar opposites in many ways.
“I come from a bureaucratic-diplomatic background, which was very different from Vikram’s large and joint business family. I came from a nuclear family. But our clans have been friends for generations because of which we have shared values and culture, in terms of education and the importance of working,” says Geetanjali.
“The prime difference between us was that I was vegetarian, while his family, especially his grandfather SL Kirloskar, was a hard-core non-vegetarian. It was very hard on me initially. Whenever we travelled to Europe or got invited to places, Vikram would discreetly let our hosts know in advance (if we knew them well) and apprise them of my dietary preferences. Or I’d just eat at home and then step out.”
When asked about the secret behind their long-standing marriage, Vikram appears quite amused by the question.
“I’m willing to accept any point of view. I know I’m not perfect. Earlier, I was very rigid, but I now look for the good in my wife,” he smiles.
The couple met many moons ago, when Geetanjali was an 18-year-old college student at Pune University, while Vikram had just returned to India after graduating from MIT. Geetanjali distinctly recounts their first meeting.
“A mutual friend had thrown a party. He had invited both of us and our families asked his parents to introduce us to each other. Vikram was from MIT; sober, intelligent and six years older. I was impressed by his charming style.”
“After the party, he offered to drop me home. I was a confident girl, having gone to boarding school at Lawrence, Sanawar. I thought if somebody had to drop me home, why not him? Vikram took me to his home instead; his parents were fast asleep. The next morning, they were amazed I was at their home and wondered whether he had already proposed. But we took our time. What finally worked was the fact that I wanted to study and work after marriage, and Vikram had the same expectations of his partner.”
Vikram has quite an interesting narrative of his own. “I was fascinated by the humanities field after I took a course at MIT. While engineering came very organically to me, I was fascinated by people who could write. And here was this girl, a writer and actor. I was drawn to her,” he laughs.
And four decades later, their marriage and partnership stands on solid, stable ground.
“Romance is one aspect of the relationship, but its respect that’s truly important,” Vikram stresses, while Geetanjali concurs, “That exciting romance doesn’t last. The only heart fluttering you feel at 60 is one from a heart attack! Romance converts to fun in the form of travelling, hiking and exploring new restaurants together. It’s fulfilling and keeps the spark alive.”
A successful professional in her own right, Geetanjali has held multiple roles in her enriching career. For the longest time, she was an advertising professional and headed her own firm, Quadrant Communications, as president. She also set up the insurance services wing of Kirloskar Systems.
While admired for her professional achievements, Geetanjali garnered immense respect for her work with the Government of Karnataka during the pandemic, when she set up a unique modular 100-bed centre for Covid patients.
“It’s about us, as privileged individuals, being sensitive to the needs of those who suffered great trauma in these times...” she says.
The couple has a daughter, Manasi. She’s an Executive Director with Kirloskar Systems and recently joined the board of Toyota Motors. Married into a prominent Mumbai- based family of industrialists, she has a son, Jeh.
“I didn’t give her any marriage advice, hoping she’d have already observed us. She’s seen both the upsides and the downsides and has learnt from them. Marriage is the most personal equation, and she has to navigate her way through her marital life in her own sensible and sensitive way,” adds Geetanjali, who loves playing football and prancing around with her little grandson.
There’s great bonhomie and laughter during the HELLO! shoot.
Geetanjali breezes through the multiple wardrobe changes with the air of a professional before a camera and knows exactly what she wants to wear. She’s well-versed with new- age fashion trends and credits her daughter for this evolution, defining her style as sporty chic.
“Having spent years in the advertising industry, I’m clued into the nitty gritties of fashion and shoots. I wear a lot of Abu-Sandeep’s chikankari creations and also love Tarun Tahiliani’s sarees. In fact, I wore his sarees for my daughter’s wedding. Internationally, I love Chanel for their shoes and clothes, Dries van Noten for his grunge looks, and Stella McCartney and Balmain for their blazers. I mostly shop in New York and Singapore, but also love picking clothes from local boutiques in Europe.”
Vikram, on the other hand, has not shopped in years!
Despite their varied tastes and contrasting personalities, this couple has worked through their differences to make a lasting relationship. Their secret: “Ours is a marriage of equals. Love will come and go, and romance has its own challenges. But what makes it work is great respect and trust. It’s also about integration. I learnt to enjoy the Opera, after our marriage, while he opened up to Indian classical music.”
Not one to live in a state of flux, the two have their future goals in place.
“I’d like to look at startups and get digitally literate. I also want to get into philanthropy on a larger scale,” says Geetanjali.
Vikram, who continues to be actively involved in his core business, has made zero-carbon technology the prime focus, though in his personal space, “I’d like to lose weight!” he laughs, giving us the best possible conclusion to an enlightening conversation.
Photography: Gokul Rao Kadam; Styling: Anushree Sardesai; Hair & Makeup: Florian Hurel
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s August 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!