HELLO! traces the vibrant path of mother-daughter duo, Jyotika and Karishma Jhalani as they breathe life into their vision of building a global lifestyle brand and crafting a stunning home.
During a childhood summer vacation spent in Srinagar, Jyotika Jhalani remembers unintentionally knocking over an inkwell and a glass of milk on to her mother’s priceless pashmina shawl.
“Swirling streams of blue and white everywhere! I had to do something, I had to save the heirloom… But I was frozen. The enzymes of the milk were magically absorbing the ink into the warps and wefts of the shawl till there was no blue left. Where did it all go? A subtle chemistry took place that day in my private theatre of magic… mysterious cashmere in blue. That was my starting point for a world of discovery,” narrates Karishma, Jyotika’s daughter, describing the latter’s journey on screen.
She is relaying this story in a film that shows the beautiful cashmere shawls made by her designer mother while simultaneously capturing her creative and curious spirit.
A Vision Set In Motion
Jyotika is the founder and creative director of the global lifestyle brand Janavi India, and Karishma is its art director along with being a writer and filmmaker. After 25 years in the business and with multiple verticals under its coterie— home décor, baby products, and ready-to-wear collections for women and men being a few—the brand is growing from strength to strength.
This is evident in the quiet assuredness that emanates from the talented mother-daughter duo. Comfortably ensconced on a blush pink sofa in their cosy and colourful apartment at The Lodhi in New Delhi, they cut a pretty picture in matching printed co-ord sets. Poignant paintings depicting the ghats in Varanasi adorn the wall behind them and a bright red baby elephant set amid a slew of lush Persian carpets pulls the lively image together.
“I didn’t have a degree or background in fashion or art, but I have always had the ability to curate things well and I was quite clever with colour, seeing it in ways different from others,” says Jyotika, referring to her home and her business.
With ornate mirrors, beauteous silverware from Gem Palace Jaipur, well-crafted furniture from Lotus Arts de Vivre Bangkok, bold art, delicate finery, royal rugs, breezy curtains and more, her living room is decorated in many layers. It is an apt reflection of her strong and effervescent personality.
“Anything I look at, whether it’s art or texture or embroidery or anything on a surface–it must have a tactility I can respond to. It must speak to me in some way,” she asserts.
For Jyotika, the act of designing is a process. She is blessed with the ability to shut her eyes and create pieces that come together with a synchronicity that may not have been evident at the start.
“I have that vision and it’s my biggest strength.”
Continuing The Creative Lineage
As the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Karishma is also a powerhouse of creativity. She was bitten by the cinematic bug at the young age of nine when she was cast in Deepa Mehta’s award-winning film, Fire, in 1996.
“I was on a set, and I didn’t completely understand what was going on, but I saw that there was magic happening around me, so I started practising in my own way, by making short films. And then when I was in college, I continued doing that,” she explains. Her last film, The Waiting Place, successfully did the festival circuit and she’s currently writing the screenplay for a full-length feature film that she hopes to shoot next year.
Her close involvement with her mother’s passion shaped her personality. She fondly recalls being 14 years old, accompanying her mother from store to store, suitcase in hand, to display her beautiful work to buyers.
“My role was essentially to open and fold the shawls, but I could watch her intimately and learn the essence of entrepreneurship and persistence from a young age. My role as the shawl folder has evolved over the years to Art Director. Janavi has been an integral part of my life for the past 25 years!” she smiles.
Effusive with praise for her mother, she adds, “My mother is the embodiment of passion. Her every thought, every idea revolves around creating beauty. The act can be as simple as rearranging the pens on her desk or as complex as designing an entire home. Motivated by beauty, her every breath is filled with passion for the task at hand.”
Traversing The Path Less Taken
Despite this innate talent however, Jyotika did not begin her professional journey in this field. After completing her class ten board exams from Delhi’s Modern School with stellar grades, she surprised everyone by deciding to opt out of academics. Eschewing the well-trodden path, she skipped college to pursue an office management course, followed by a stint at the Taj Hotel on Mansingh Road, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become Hospitality Manager. Soon, she landed a coveted job with the World Bank and worked with them for ten years, in the span of which she lost her father, got married and gave birth to two children.
“Everything I did, I excelled at; I also took on more responsibility after my father died,” she says. In her late 20s, she underwent a transformative experience that changed the path of her life.
She shares, “I suffered a severe injury when a wooden carving fell on my head. It was very traumatic, but that event changed me, and put me on a spiritual path in life.”
Those who know Jyotika, are aware of her deep-set connection with Buddhism. She describes herself as a spiritual nomad who has been drawn to gurus like Osho, Deepak Chopra, Sadhguru and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. She’s also completed several energy healing courses such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Reiki.
“I kept meeting these inspiring people who would share things with me, such as Gregory David Roberts, or Shantaram as he is better known. Why did they come into my life? It became clear that I had a purpose to fulfil, and I never intended to do it for the money. I help people because they need help,” she says self-effacingly.
The Next Chapter
Then five years ago she visited The Farm at San Benito in the Philippines for a restorative stint that changed her. She returned 30 kilos lighter, and a beacon of positivity and mindfulness. This electric positivity was then infused into putting together her beautiful home which she moved into a little over four years ago.
“I made it mine the day I moved in. I change spaces wherever I go. I’m an energy being, and I shift things based on colour and texture. I like to layer things and I’m quite a maximalist,” she says.
She prides herself on every single piece. Even a pair of Birds of Paradise she spotted and bought on the way to Jaisalmer look so grand that people ask her where they were commissioned from. This same passion is also going towards making Janavi, “the most loved cashmere brand in the world”.
Karishma, her “muse, strength, inspiration and sounding board” cheers her along the way, whether it is through her steadfast support or the brand films she lovingly creates to bring her mother’s vision to life.
She summarises, “Every collection at Janavi is defined by colour, and my series of films brings to life the emotions of colour while telling a story about the brand. We define this through the six standard colours in the Janavi palette: natural is the natural state of being and it signifies a beginning; blue stands for inspiration and the elements; orange is an explosion of creativity; and blush shows the gentleness that underlies a process.”
Interview: Noor Anand Chawla; Photos: Anil Chawla; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Make-up: Nikhil Agarwal; Hair: Azhar
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s September 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!