Discovering Indian Textiles & Heritage
What do you do when your entire life is uprooted and, quite unexpectedly, your sunny California townhome is traded for India’s rickety roads and miles of dust?
The answer for me was to treat it as a rhetorical question. For the first year that my family moved to India, I alternated between denial and outright grief over the loss of what I deemed to be my entire world. I rejected our culture and felt misunderstood by the strict education system. It took a 4000-word research essay studying the evolution of a centuries-old local art form for me to fully embrace my rich heritage.
When the Extended Essay (EE) was introduced to our batch of fresh-faced, innocent DP first years, I eagerly proposed an EE in a subject our school had never undertaken: World Studies. The global aspect of it appealed to my own romanticized perception of myself: a nomad caught between her former home (America), and what was rapidly becoming her new one (India). I was set on concentrating on Culture, Language and Identity (one of six global themes), and combining Art with either English or History (the latter of which I was not taking as a subject).
I methodically constructed lists of potential topics, with various criteria (such as feasibility, scope, local-global emphases, personal interest, etc.) used to evaluate them. Ultimately, I narrowed it down to two contenders:
- an analysis of the evolution of comic books and the way they reflected societies of the time through the dual lenses of literature and art (a proposal funded in part by my own twin loves of visual and verbal content and our English Language and Literature study of Persepolis); and
- an investigation of the evolution of a traditional Indian art form known as Kalamkari.
To make the final decision, I engaged in long discussions with my instructors and researched about the two in-depth. At the same time, I came across a key piece of advice about research essays: it is crucial to pick a topic that retains a balance of personal interest and feasibility. I had to concede that, while I was invested in comic books, primary data collection (interviews with involved artists) and on-site research were more feasible if I chose the second option. Ultimately, I decided to investigate in what ways the evolution of Kalamkari art was shaped by globalization, urbanization, and technological advancements. Framing the research question itself was a long-winded process — I wasn’t satisfied until the one I’d carefully crafted suited the criteria for both history and visual arts.
What I Learned
When the time came for the final interview, my teachers asked me to explain how I had grown through the Extended Essay. I could feel my stomach lurch as I realized that the essay had served as my gateway into my own culture. Through the essay, I had uncovered the beauty of my Indian roots, and also traced a more global dialogue taking place between local crafts and their international consumers. Seeing the ripple effect of global forces that connected the histories of these disparate crafts made me feel like a international citizen and a proud Indian — it was an amazing feeling.