I wrote this piece as part of a positionality exercise.
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Someone once asked me why I work in marine conservation. I told them that I followed the path of the river Ganga, and it led me to the ocean.
I was born in the U.S. but spent the next 18 years of my life in India. I was always aware of my ancestry, half North-Indian and half Bengali, and have been proud of it. I was never just one thing, always an amalgam of the two, highlighting the various aspects of two distinct cultures that were born in the same country.
Somehow, the Ganga connected these two cultures, carving its way down the Himalayas, into the plains of North India–through my paternal ancestral home in Haridwar, Uttarakhand–and ending at the Bay of Bengal–past my maternal ancestral city of Kolkata.
I would spend most holidays, family functions and trips along the banks of the Ganga, away from the capital. I was introduced to riverine and terrestrial fauna there and fell in love with nature. I was raised in a Hindu household, where our philosophies and practices intermingled with the environment, following the lunar cycle and agrarian culture. We were taught from an early age that the divine are in the natural world.
We were also raised following a fundamental right in our Constitution: India is a secular country. My family, friends, and I learned about the different religions practiced around the country and would celebrate all of them. I would always be keen on learning and celebrating different religions and cultures. I strongly believe that this is one of the best ways we can showcase our appreciation of them. To this day, I try to go to as many cultural events as I can.
Unfortunately, there are people who do not care for such environmental philosophies and secular views, despite claiming to be devout and accepting. I always found that odd and frustrating; and thus, became more active in equity efforts within environmentalism. Along the way, I have experienced sexism, homophobia and, when I left India, xenophobia. I hope to bring my lived experiences, education, and philosophies from my home to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. I want to focus on connecting with people and highlighting how differences are to be appreciated, celebrated, and not subject to discrimination.
Manjari Misra (She/Her)
Manjari is a marine conservationist and enjoys engaging with various stakeholders about marine wildlife and ecosystems. She has a multi-disciplinary background: intern at the Wildlife Institute of India, research assistant at the documentary production company, Sparklework Films, and an analyst in the Climate Change and Sustainability department at KPMG. Currently, she is a Senior Marine Science Educator and a co-chair of the Equity Team at the Seattle Aquarium.
She has a B.Sc. Zoology (Hons.) from the University of Edinburgh and a Masters of Marine Affairs from the University of Washington. She recently had her paper published in the journal Regional Studies in Marine Science.