Hello folks! Thanks for following me and being such a wonderful support system over the past 4 years since I got this blog – now my personal/professional website – up and running! It really means a lot to me.

Life has been overwhelmingly busy these past few months. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by family – my aunts and cousins visited and brightened up the house for an entire month! It felt quite unreal to have so many people at home, and while we enjoyed spending time together, we made sure to follow all COVID protocols. Safety comes first, after all! But I finally got to celebrate my birthday with my little kiddos, so that was definitely a win!

I’ve managed to be fairly productive, though not so much on the research front (oops). Well, not on the MAIN research front; I’ve been fairly busy with an exciting National Geographic project for which I am a research consultant. The project focuses on one of my absolute favourite wetland ecosystems – Myristica swamp forests – and it has been so exciting to delve into the geology, paleobotany, zoology, and conservation of these swamps as a part of the project. I have the privilege of working with some incredible people, and as the project comes to an end, I can safely say that it has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in conservation thus far, if only for its uniqueness! More on this later!

Apart from work, I sat for my Senior Diploma Pt. 1 examination this past month. The exam is part of the B.A. Bharatanatyam track I am pursuing from the Hindustan Art and Music Society (HAMS) and University of Kolkata (they now take exams online!). It was split into practical, viva, and written portions, and I’m happy to say that I cleared the exam (after prolonged agonized studying and then waiting with baited breath for results to come). On to the Senior Diploma Pt. 2, the final stepping stone before I tackle the Kala Visharad. Practicing for the exam has kept me on my toes. Dance has a way of testing your mental strength and your physical strength. Not only was I practicing adavus, jathis, and working every single facial muscle I possess for abhinaya work, I was also learning Sanskrit shlokas, memorizing the many uses of the hastamudras (hand gestures), and studying the history and mythology of Bharatanatyam and Indian classical dance in general. Note: the Natya Shastra is your bff for this exam, so pick up a copy (translated, if you prefer) on Amazon and save yourself the pains of trying to look up the syllabus material online (hint: you won’t find anything good).

Writing has been the MVP in my life these past months, with a couple of different things going on. Firstly, Youth for Nature hosted an art and essay writing competition for children ages 6-18 (don’t worry, there were different age categories for judging). We received over 200 entries from across the world and after much deliberation, we announced the winners. The winning essays, poems, and artwork will be featured in the July 2021 issue of YFN, which comes out this week, so stay tuned and PLEASE follow the magazine (link to the website HERE).

Apart from YFN, I have been hosting a bunch of writing workshops. You can check out the full list of all past, present, and (hopefully) future workshops on the Workshops page of my website. I came up with the idea of holding my first workshop on popular science writing because a few friends had asked me for tips on science communication. COVID cases had started to rise again (hello second wave…) and I wanted to do something useful while sitting at home. Thus began my series of fundraiser writing workshops. None of those workshops would have been possible, or succeeded in raising money, had it not been for the amazing people who spread the word, attended, and donated hundreds of rupees towards COVID relief efforts. Thanks to the passion and determination to help those in need, we were able to raise over Rs. 80,000 to support organizations such as Milaap, Goonj, GiveIndia, Hemkunt Foundation, Hasiru Dala, Project Stree, Akshayapatra, Khalsa Aid, and many smaller organizations trying to spread good cheer and health during these difficult times. This was my attempt to help my country and my people, but it would have been impossible without you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out and supported this venture – you are the real heroes!

Note: if anyone is looking to donate, all the aforementioned organizations are verified, reputable, and create change on the ground in India. They are all still accepting donations and work on a variety of issues in different parts of India. Please check them out, each name is linked to the websites!

Fundraising and teaching efforts aside, I have another exciting piece of news to share with y’all. I have been selected by Scholastic India to be a mentor in their newly-launched Young Writers Academy. This is a venture by Scholastic to mentor teenagers in 10-day workshops on various aspects of storytelling and short story writing. Each session culminates in an anthology of the short stories written by the children during the workshop, to be published by Scholastic India! As a mentor, my job will be to help the children develop their plot ideas, work on different aspects of good story writing, and teach them skills that they can apply later in life as well. I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of this programme (it’s a part-time position that I’ll be juggling alongside my PhD research, so keeping my fingers crossed!) and help mentor the future writers of India. Watching children grow as writers, storytellers, and communicators is so rewarding, and this is a way for me to help children receive mentoring and the kind of extracurricular activity that I would have dearly loved to do at that age! Better late than never, I suppose!

PhD work is set to resume once travel opens up (again, fingers crossed because I really miss the work atmosphere). I am so grateful to have received so many opportunities despite the pandemic, and cannot wait to begin working on wetland ecosystem services and conservation. More than anything, I can’t wait to get out into the rain-soaked air of the Western Ghats, wander through the mangroves at Kumta, Kannur, and Mumbai, and trail my fingers through my darling Kabini River once more. The wild is calling to me, and I cannot wait to be back in its embrace!

Stay safe, stay positive, and for the love of god, mask up when you go outside! We really don’t want a third wave of COVID, do we?

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