Vidhi: “You only have the present moment. Live fully in it."
Issue XVI EMERGING EMPOWERER mpower
Interviewed by Rachna Mohan
Vidhi Bubna, 24, is India’s youngest female master scuba diver, founder of Coral Warriors, CEO of Everest Communications, Youth Ambassador of India and Bhutan, India Ambassador to Space for Humanity, Global Governance Initiative Fellow, and a Royal Society of Arts, London Fellow. With both national and international accolades, Bubna champions for several causes including gender equality, marine life awareness, space exploration equality and empowerment of marginalized communities.
What does Coral Warriors mean to you? How does this translate to the more significant impact you hope to emulate as a founder and a humanitarian?
Vidhi: Coral Warriors means everything to me. The more time passes everyday, the more I realize the importance of an organization like Coral Warriors. In a way, Coral Warriors itself signifies hope. For people who could never learn diving and want to experience it with us. Even for people who never in their wildest dreams imagined a shark and are now watching videos about it and running their own workshops for shark conservation. The more significant impact I want to reach overall is to influence one million people to understand marine conservation by 2025. This is a bright and wide goal I have set. As a humanitarian, the entire idea is to make more people humanitarian and help them connect with their most human side and dimension. Coral Warriors is all about an adventurous journey filled with hope, it opens up your world almost like watching Avatar. And that is what I hope to do with this world. Open up its mind and expose it to a beautiful world.
How and why did you start scuba diving? Was it something you were always drawn to?
Vidhi: I started scuba diving in Andamans. It is something I had always wanted to try. After I found the opportunity to go diving, I could not stop because the marine world captivated me. As an avid traveler, I had met a few scuba divers in my life and always wanted to try it after being inspired by them. I was always drawn to the ocean. I knew how to swim and snorkel at a young age. Little did I imagine that I would get to be a master scuba diver. However, when it happened and I completed the requisite courses and dive requirements, I was as happy as I could ever be. When I look back, the little Vidhi in me does not believe she did this and is thrilled at the experiences in life she has had.
In addition to your non-profit, Coral Warriors, you are a freelance journalist; what has been the most impactful memory that has prompted you to advocate for social justice issues?
Vidhi: My most impactful memory has been experiencing sexism myself as a young girl, teenager and a growing woman. I believe the sad reality is that sexism is very common globally. People don’t discuss it enough even though we see information about it everywhere on social media these days. Change needs to happen in India fast and I have always wanted to be a part of that powerful positive change. Hence, I got into freelance journalism to highlight the truth and bring the issues women are facing globally to light. This has ensured that I myself have interacted with various people who have experienced gender discrimination in various forms. My view to help people experiencing sexism of any kind has been to bring issues they face to light.
Tell me about your journey with Coral Warriors; what specifically about coral intrigued or called to you?
Vidhi: That’s an interesting question and one I get very often. Honestly, I was most intrigued about corals when I realized that most people in India don’t even know what corals are. They play the role of plants in water. The same way plants are the basic food units on land, corals are the most basic food units on water. I was intrigued when I completed the PADI coral conservation course and realized that we need to protect corals since they are endangered species. The world is seeing mass coral bleaching and protecting corals is essential to ensure ecological balance on our little planet. We definitely need to work on protecting corals, especially in India. Hence, Coral Warriors was formed with a specific focus on coral conservation in India. I would encourage everyone reading this to google the image of a coral and feel awed. One of my professors - Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan - at university also taught Animal histories and made us reflect on the relationships humans and animals share. This changed my perspective on various things and led to Coral Warriors in many ways.
Do you feel that marine conservation and the debilitating effects of climate change under the water are getting enough attention from the media? If so, how can we improve our response?
Vidhi: I don't think that marine conservation is spoken about enough. Most people solely focus on climate change on land. Most stories cover how climate change will impact humans but very few stories cover how climate change is impacting other species. I think we can all improve our response by doing our bit to understand marine life and realities of the ocean. Documentaries are a good place to start and there are many on most OTT platforms. After watching these documentaries, we can ourselves act as ambassadors of climate change and spread the word among friends and family. This will be impactful enough.
You have accomplished a lot in a young age. Have you ever faced imposter syndrome and how do you deal with the responsibility and stress that comes with youth activism ?
Vidhi: This is something I have always wanted to talk about but never found the opportunity to talk about. I felt imposter syndrome for the longest time. When I got my admission letter to Ashoka University, one of the most premium institutes in India, I felt like I did not belong there. A lot of students there had diverse interests and knew much more than me so I did not know how I fit in. I constantly felt like an imposter. Once, I had the opportunity to interview the Foreign Minister of Bhutan. After the interview was published, I could not open it and read my own name there because I was still surprised that the opportunity was presented to me out of so many deserving youth. However, it has taken me a while to get over it and gracefully accept what comes my way. I think I enjoy youth activism so it does not feel like stress to me. I have cut down on activism a little after moving to London because too much activism can have implications on one’s future visa and I am a student here.
RAPID FIRE ROUND WITH VIDHI
Three things you can't live without
A piece of advice you would give to young Vidhi?
Your success mantra
What constitutes your “perfect” day?
Your biggest accomplishment
What would be the biggest gift you would give to yourself ?
Describe in one word where you want to be/ or what you want to feel in 5 years.
Earth, water and the beautiful blue sky
Don’t chase people and always put your self respect first.
Do before you talk about it.
When I wake up early, cook a nice breakfast, spend time reading, write in my gratitude journal, talk to my parents and get at least 7 hours of sleep
Building self confidence in life in general
A trip to Antarctica where I can meet penguins and see glaciers
Your dream for this world’s future in three word.
good happy people, a happy mother Earth and greater imagination for everyone
Three values you always stick to
kindness, continued learning and being humble
Your book “A Woke Guide to Life” details how to empower oneself to lead a better life. What does “woke” mean to you? Are you currently living a “woke” life? What would you improve?
Vidhi: “Woke” means the ability to know oneself and the honest reality of the world around oneself. It stems from the word awareness. I wouldn’t say I am leading a totally “woke” life because I haven’t been able to gain all the information in the world to get there. However, I am stepping there slowly. I think to lead a more woke life, I would simply improve my interest in global politics and take it back to the days in 2021, during the pandemic where I was reading news and discussing it everyday. Also, ever since I moved to London, I have been spending more time on social media. A key tenet of the book is reducing the time one spends on social media because data giants are always trying to steal our data. I hope to change that.
Why did you need to write your book “A Woke Guide to Life?”
Vidhi: I felt like I lived in a bubble where I was aware of things happening in the world globally that other people were not so aware about. I wanted to explain to people how politics works and how the media plays a key role in shaping our perceptions. Coming from a university like Ashoka University in Delhi where most of our conversations revolved around politics, going back home felt like living in a bubble where most of my friends were not aware about politics. Hence, I was trying to bring the political conversation I had experienced in Delhi back home.
Lastly, what motivates you to keep going everyday ?
Vidhi: I remember earlier in 2022, an article about Coral Warriors and my work was published in Mid Day. It was a full page about my work. My parents opened the newspaper like they do everyday and they saw the article there. They rushed to wake me up. As soon as I woke up, they were congratulating me for the article and telling me about how they felt extremely proud of me. I think what motivates me most is seeing my parents happy and proud of me. I am also deeply motivated by reading the newspaper and understanding the harsh realities of the world because it makes me realize that I am in a privileged position to make a difference everyday.