An exemplar of excellence and success in her field, distinguished by achievements with transcending influence and impact.
Leading the World with Creative Expertise
Inspired by her father, a career diplomat and later president of India, and her mother who was Burmese, Chitra Narayanan was bound for a global career. Numbered among her many roles are a mother, journalist, editor and publisher, Foreign Service Officer and Ambassador of India to six countries. Chitra now shares her leadership and cultural expertise as an independent consultant to high-level corporations and think tanks around the world. She believes that excellence, creativity and strategy, above all else, are paramount to success.
Your mother was Burmese and your father Indian. At a time when such a marriage was rare, particularly in the Indian culture, how was that perceived?
It was very difficult for my mother. My father was in the Foreign Service, and they were the first internationally mixed couple of their generation, station and culture. It was a great romance. My father had to get permission from Prime Minister Nehru. Because they broke with the tradition and were the first couple to marry outside of their nationality, my mother adapted. She was amazing. She took the Indian nationality and changed her name from Tint Tint to Usha, which means, “dawn.” For her, it was a new beginning. At home, there was obviously no problem. My regret is that I did not know either Burmese or my father’s language, Malayalam. They were so correct that English became the home language. That was my mother tongue. She merged seemingly effortlessly into Indian life. As fate would have it, their first posting was Japan. She had been in Burma during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War, and she had suffered. She also lost a brother, but she just took that in her stride. I was born in Tokyo. Japan was a happy memory. I marvel at her remarkable ability to adapt and make adjustments.
Her ability to forgive?
Exactly. I appreciate that only recently, after she’s gone. I never really understood what she was able to do. As a child, growing up in the family, you are not as aware of these things. Recently, I have come to understand how truly remarkable she must have been to accomplish that and always have friends from Japan.