Opportunity Awaits

– Rachel Hentrich


When I was a freshman, I had heard about the Eye on India Festival and the different events and competitions around it. One such competition, involving the beautiful saris left me completely mesmerized.  There was an air of excitement around the competition, and I desperately wanted to be a part it.  Unfortunately, I needed to wait for my skills to improve so I could be up to the challenge.

During my sophomore year, the time for the Eye on India competition finally arrived and I got my chance to participate along with my fellow classmates during our ‘Surface Embellishment class’.  On the day we chose our saris, I was so excited that I arrived to my class 40 minutes early, so that I could choose my sari right away.  Initially, 2 saris caught my eye – a sage green and gold organza sari with muted accents, and a bold purple sari with citron green and gold embroidery.  I went with my gut and chose the organza sari because of its understated glamour and elegance.

Over the next two weeks, I researched about Indian culture and fashion, which included (but was not limited to) dreaming about the home cooked Indian food that an old friend used to make for me while we were in Germany together. It was my first exposure to the Indian cuisine – I was delighted by the first bite and went back for the encore experience.  I also took some time to watch the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’, and spent some time researching influential women in Indian history.

That research led me to Sarla Thakral.  She was born in 1914, and at 16 years old she got married into a family of pilots.  The next year, she had her first child.  Soon after that, she expressed an interest in aviation, and she was encouraged by her new family to earn her pilot’s license.  In 1936, despite being only 21 years old and a mother of young children, she fulfilled her dream and became India’s first female pilot.  It was Sarla’s bravery and ambition that paved the way for future Indian women to pursue careers in aviation, and it acted as the inspiration for my Eye on India entry.  Her story left a lasting impression on me, and the thought of a woman’s flight suit lingered on in my mind as I worked with my sari.  I tried to honor Sarla’s legacy by creating a modern jumpsuit.

Participating in the Eye on India competition was an enlightening experience — one where I learned about the Indian culture, engaged with the Indian history, and grew overall as an aspiring designer.  I enjoyed every moment of the challenge and I hope to be able to participate in the competition again before graduation.

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Eye on India is a young and dynamic organization whose role is to serve as a facilitator and integrator. Promoting appreciation for diverse programming in the cultural landscape of Chicago, the festival’s uniqueness lies in its ability to create and inspire collaboration among various cultural, community and business organizations across Chicago and other cities in the US and India.

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