Paving the Way to Success: Rachel & Chitra Narayanan

One of the guiding principles of ELYSIAN is the idea of women supporting women—encouraging, teaching, mentoring.  And as we prepare each edition of ELYSIAN, one of the things we most look forward to is the opportunity to connect women who have accomplished great things with those who are just beginning to discover their passions and starting to dedicate themselves to personal and professional goals. 

We were thrilled recently to bring together ELYSIAN Inspiring Woman and Publisher’s Nonpareil, Chitra Narayanan, and our Winter Issue cover model, Rachel Castellani. 

Chitra is a former journalist and Ambassador of India, serving as a diplomat to European countries including Switzerland and the Vatican. With a wealth of experience and insight, she currently works as a consultant to businesses and think tanks. She is sought after for her understanding of governments and cultures throughout Asia as well as her insight on corporate diversity and gender issues. 

Rachel, a first-year student at Clemson University and an aspiring lawyer, was well-aware that her conversation with Chitra was an extraordinary opportunity. She asked multiple questions and listened closely to Chitra’s life story. 

Chitra’s father was K.R. Narayanan, a career diplomat who went on to become the president of India. Much of her upbringing was in Vietnam, but her family traveled throughout the world. These experiences were vital to Chitra’s perspective as she launched her career in journalism and diplomacy.  

She told Rachel, “It’s been my parents who have taught me very much to have respect for different opinions. You don’t have to agree. I can say my opinion, I listen to another opinion, and from that maybe something will come up. Always be curious, have an open mind, and there’s so much waiting for you and me.” Rachel, who loves to travel and seek out new cultural experiences, has always been inquisitive. “I am interested in history and the customs of the countries I visit,” she said. “I ask questions and listen to what people say about their life and experiences. It’s not just learning from a textbook—you’re learning people’s heritage, the way people act, and it allows you to remember it a little bit more.”Rachel also has a passion for helping others. She has particular concern for victims of sexual abuse and envisions working as a prosecutor of these unfortunately-too-common cases. She has considered getting into politics as well. To practice for a life of law and leadership, Rachel became involved with several extracurricular learning opportunities in high school. Her experiences include Youth in Government and the MockTrial Program at Stanford Law School. These activities helped her to develop a set of valuable skills that she will use for the rest of her life.Impressed by Rachel’s commitment to making a difference, Chitra shared her views on leadership: “Fundamental is really to have self-belief and conviction, which provides a moral compass, an appreciation of right and wrong. And from that, you naturally and seamlessly set an example that others will follow. You have to say what you mean . . . You’d be amazed what resonates and how many other people feel what you feel. Just have faith that it is possible todo it, and believe.”

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