The yoga practitioner and her suave husband, a descendant of the late PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, invite HELLO! into their peaceful Pushpanjali farms retreat to discuss living mindfully and upholding their strong foundation of family values.
It was almost three years ago that I bumped into Mini Shastri at an upscale furnishing store in South Delhi. I was in the last trimester of pregnancy, and Mini was putting the finishing touches on her brand-new home, a two-acre farmhouse on the outskirts of New Delhi, which she shares with husband Diwakar Shastri.
When we meet again, my son has grown into a toddler who is already asserting his independence. Mini’s house has transformed into a fully established home, complete with vast stretches of manicured lawns, mature trees, a wealth of biodiversity, and three family dogs that enthusiastically run around, greeting visitors with unbridled excitement!
It comes as no surprise when Mini reveals that she undertook the challenging task of designing this home entirely on her own. Free-spirited and fearless, she has always wholeheartedly embraced challenges. In her 20s, she initiated her extraordinary yogic journey, accumulating 500 hours of Vinyasa Krama training, obtaining certification from Sivananda Yoga and Yoga Alliance. Subsequently, she earned a diploma in Ayurveda and continually broadens her wellness expertise whenever she gets a chance to learn something new.
“One of the things I have really admired about Mini is her ability to dedicatedly complete a task when she takes up something. I can be lazy at times, but Mini is very committed to her goals,” says Diwakar.
Harmony Between Soothing And Sophisticated Aesthetics
With its lofty ceilings, expansive French doors, cluster of banana trees and a charming lily pond at the entrance, the Shastri house achieves a delicate harmony between being raw and real, and sophisticated and luxurious, truly capturing the essence of its residents’ personality.
Proud homeowner and husband, Diwakar confesses to just signing the cheques while his better half makes important decisions about setting up the house. One of his top contributions to the décor is an aerial photo of the Rann of Kutch, taken by Navtej Singh, which he instantly loved.
The rest was Mini’s domain. She thoroughly immersed herself in creating a space for the family that would accommodate their assorted needs and tastes. Her own preferences, influenced by her role as a yoga teacher and avid wellness enthusiast, are evident in her choice of art and artifacts. Religious, spiritual and culturally symbolic decorative pieces are strewn throughout the house, creating a haven of peace and quiet — a tranquil celebration of life. From a ceramic baby Krishna to a tapestry depicting goddess Tara from Sri Lanka and a beautiful picture of butter lamps by Dinesh Khanna who, coincidentally, was also photographing Mini and her family for HELLO!
Twenty-five years ago, Mini embarked on her journey as a yoga teacher. Some of her earliest students, including her sister-in-law Jyoti Shastri (Diwakar’s brother Vibhakar’s wife), remain dedicated learners who have continued their practice with her over the years. It was at her erstwhile studio in Vasant Vihar that Diwakar first met Mini as her student.
“I asked my sister-in-law to introduce me to Mini, but she refused. I thought of directly approaching her by becoming her student,” Diwakar says with a laugh.
Now married for over 19 years, the dynamic between teacher and student has transformed into an easy friendship between husband and wife.
While Diwakar may no longer take classes, he adds with a smile, ‘I still have a sheet from her with a set of exercises that I follow religiously,” even as Mini adds that their relationship thrives on “not sweating the small stuff, mutual respect, and a continuous commitment to self-growth to earn that respect.” This enduring connection serves as the foundation of their partnership.
A Family That Easily Blends Tradition And Modernity
Over the years, Mini’s conscious lifestyle choices, inspired by ancient Indian wisdom, have percolated down to the rest of the family.
In the Shastri household, typical days begin with chanting of mantras, followed by pranayama, mudras and exercises in the yogashala, which is an annexure to the main house, strategically built along the length of a swimming pool. Sundays break the monotony with some tennis and cycling added for good measure. Diwakar also enjoys donning the apron on weekends, engaging in culinary indulgences that typically deviate from the mostly vegetarian lifestyle the family follows. “I sometimes make mutton but now it’s just me and my daughter Devika that enjoy it,” he says.
The couple’s eldest daughter Gayatri lives in the US, working as a brand strategist for Victoria’s Secret, while the two younger children, Gayatri and Kartikeya, are currently pursuing their school education and reside in New Delhi with their parents. They are a close- knit bunch that enjoys travelling together. Their frequent getaways involve visiting their home in the hills of Seetla in Uttarakhand, situated 6,500 feet above sea level. “We also travel a lot to tiger reserves and forests including to Bandhavgarh, Corbett and Kanha. Some of our other favourite holiday destinations include Sri Lankan beaches and the tea estates of South India,” informs Mini.
The youngest of the three, Kartikeya, has developed an interest in yoga and practices with his mother whenever he gets the chance. “We’re clear that we lead by example. Our effort is to live mindfully, to prioritise mental and physical health and take time out to be in nature every couple of months with the kids. We also practice slow living and clean food as often as we can,” adds Mini.
Family plays a central role in the lives of Mini and Diwakar. A businessman who specialises in providing lighting solutions to residential and office spaces, he also serves as a legacy bearer, being the grandson of India’s former Prime Minister, the late Lal Bahadur Shastri. Bearing a strong physical resemblance to the late PM, Diwakar is very much a chip off the old block. There is an old-world charm around him as he reminisces about staying in a joint family with his grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins at Lal Bahadur’s house in Janpath, which was later converted into his memorial.
“Those were fun days and the way we celebrated festivals was quite memorable,” he recalls, a hint of nostalgia in his voice. However, one thing that was not celebrated in the house was birthdays!
“In the Shastri family, we never celebrated birthdays but when my grandfather became Prime Minister, his birthday was celebrated by people around him and the next year he passed away. My grandmother, who was superstitious about it, made a strict rule to not celebrate any birthday within the family after that,” he explains.
While the elders in the family refrain from birthday celebrations, the Shastris have relaxed the rules for their children. Clearly, the family embodies a unique fusion of traditional and modern values.
A Yogic Journey With No Compulsion To Conform
The couple are early risers, and while Diwakar begins his day by taking their Golden Retriever, Naaya, for a walk, Mini’s daily routine comprises yoga and meditation. The conventional belief is that yoga practitioners are sticklers for discipline, so she surprises me with her revelation of being flexible about her regimen.
“The brain likes routine, but I am not rigid about it. Somedays even if I don’t exercise or chant, I am still okay with it. I don’t beat myself about it,” she shares.
But the way Mini has shaped her personality, one can clearly see how she has no compulsion to conform or confine. “To prioritise balanced living, to eat in balance, to live in moderation and choose where to expend or save energy is what I have learnt in my yogic journey. To generally cultivate and practice the right principles to live by, to measure one’s worth not from external things but from a place of lasting joy and kindness towards others, to not be negative or judgmental or gossip loosely... these are natural outcomes of a yogi’s life,” she summarises.