Chitra Arora was born in the northeastern Indian state of Kanpur in 1982. Her parents met through an arranged marriage and moved to her father’s ancestral home in Kanpur. Arora’s grandfather on her mother’s side was a railway worker. Arora recalls stories of her mother’s travels throughout India with her father. Born in Punjab but raised in Calcutta, her mother was one of eight children but maintained an active role in family life. She attended college and majored in home science. Arora’s father was born in Kanpur, and since the city was known for its leather and textile industries, his family owned a hand loom business where carpets, rugs, bedsheets, and other textiles were exported within and outside of the country. Arora’s father did not attend college, due to an accident that resulted in a loss of hearing.
Arora grew up in a city-like environment where her community was close-knit, and her neighbors were treated like extended family. Furthermore, the neighborhood reflected India’s diversity. As a child, Arora visited her mother’s family’s in Punjab, which involved a ten-hour train journey. Spiritually, karma was important as well as religious ceremonies that were celebrated with neighbors and family. One such ceremony was a puja, where neighbors and family members gathered to chant religious phrases. Culturally, her parents traditions did not differ, although growing up Arora lived in a Punjabi and Hindi speaking household.
Arora attended the same private school from kindergarten to high school, where she was involved in a number of activities and enjoyed studying math and economics. She graduated high school in 2000.
In college, Arora majored in economics and attended the same college as her older brother. While working towards her degree, she taught kindergarten students and various other groups of people how to use and work with computers. Arora graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce. In addition, she was one of a few women who received a three-year diploma in computer programming, where she developed banking software and built websites.
At the age of 20, Arora was married to her husband, who was 24 at the time. After their marriage, the couple decided to move to the United States. It was the first time Arora left India and early on the couple struggled to make a life in the U.S. These early struggles were in part influenced by the post September 11, 2001 environment, where Arora’s dependent visa would not allow her to work or study. Initially, the couple lived in the small village of Groton Connecticut. At this time, Indian restaurants and grocery stores were scarce in Groton and so the couple made trips to New Jersey for Indian groceries. In her first few years in the U.S., the number of South Asian communities were much smaller than today. Eventually, Arora and her husband moved from Groton, and after brief stays in Texas and New York, the couple made a home in New Jersey.
Upon receiving her work visa, Arora initially worked part-time until her children reached kindergarten. Also, she took online courses with the American Bankers Association, utilizing this knowledge to begin a career in banking. Working her way through the ranks of JP Morgan, she now manages $200 million in client assets.
Living in the U.S., Arora never abandoned her roots. She is currently involved in an Indian Cultural Society which promotes Indian culture and encourages children to participate as well.