At 49, I Went from Being a Homemaker to a Scuba Diver Saving Coral Reefs

Tamil Nadu-based Uma Mani turned to deep-sea scuba diving on the age of 49. Right this moment, a decade later, she has made it her life’s mission to boost consciousness about marine air pollution.

Equipped in a wetsuit, flippers, a diving masks, and about 20 kg of different paraphernalia, 49-year-old Uma Mani was about to take her first plunge into the deep sea waters of Maldives. 

“I used to be standing on the fringe of the diving board and once I appeared on the huge sea, I bought scared. My scuba diver yelled at me to leap. However I refused,” she recollects in a dialog with The Higher India.

“It was like taking an enormous step into the water earlier than going deep inside it with the strain. Initially, this course of appeared a bit of messy to me. I doubted myself, however then I closed my eyes and remembered that it was my first and the final alternative. If I give up now, I’ll remorse it for the remainder of my life,” she provides.

Uma, who was coaching to turn into an authorized scuba diver, took this determination a yr earlier than turning 50. Since then, there was no trying again. “Once I dived, I lastly noticed the coral reefs for the primary time. My age by no means got here into my thoughts,” she shares fortunately.

With time and experience, Uma’s interest in the coral reefs slowly turned into a deep concern.
With time and expertise, Uma’s curiosity within the coral reefs slowly become a deep concern.

Right this moment, the homemaker-turned-scuba diver has made it her life’s mission to boost consciousness about rising marine air pollution and defending coral reefs.

From a contented homemaker to a scuba diver

Born right into a conservative household in Chennai, Uma didn’t have many aspirations. After pursuing larger research in literature from the Madras College, she bought married and moved to the Maldives in 2004 the place her husband labored as a physician.

“I used to be all the time fascinated by portray since childhood however I by no means bought an opportunity to be taught artwork professionally. I used to be not launched to an environment that fosters skilled progress or dialog for girls. So, I bought married and focussed on being a very good housewife,” she says.

“I used to be tutoring children at dwelling however I by no means did a full-time job. I travelled with my household, wherever my husband’s work took us. Though I used to be a contented housewife, I couldn’t assist however really feel that I ought to have focussed on my profession or pursued a PhD,” provides Uma, who at present resides in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.

Today, Uma depict the walls of the ocean on my canvas and paint their sufferings.
Right this moment, Uma depicts the partitions of the ocean on canvas and paints their sufferings.

It was solely on the age of 45 that Uma revived her curiosity in portray. “Once I began to color, I felt like I used to be reborn. Then, I noticed a documentary on coral reefs which inspired me to learn extra about them. I began portray them and holding exhibitions,” she shares.

As soon as whereas talking on the influence of air pollution on coral reefs, she was mocked by one among her cousins. “He requested me if I had seen coral reefs in actual life, or how the ocean even appeared underwater, or what the color of the ocean was. Though it seems to be blue and exquisite exterior, it’s stuffed with air pollution inside. This sparked my curiosity to dive deep into the water,” she provides.

Finally, Uma took up swimming to turn into a diver. “My household supported me on this determination. The identical yr, my husband and I have been to have fun our twenty fifth marriage ceremony anniversary. As a gift, my son paid for my certification course and inspired me to be taught to dive. I suggested myself to grab the chance because it hardly involves anybody at this age,” she says.

As Uma dived in deep, she was greatly surprised by the underwater magnificence. “It’s a surreal world. When the water envelopes your physique, you overlook concerning the exterior world and the concerns. Regardless of carrying such heavy gear on my waist and shoulders, I felt mild as a feather. It appeared the time had stopped, and earlier than me have been these fantastically colored coral reefs. I used to be overwhelmed to see them for the primary time,” she provides.

Uma has made it her life’s mission to raise awareness about rising marine pollution.
Uma has made it her life’s mission to boost consciousness about rising marine air pollution.

For oceans turning into rubbish bins

With time and expertise, Uma’s curiosity within the coral reefs slowly become a deep concern.

“Each time I dive into the water, I see the coral reefs destroyed additional by irresponsible waste disposal, oil spills, untreated sewage, and poisonous chemical substances which can be dumped into the ocean. That is very disheartening. Oceans are the largest carbon sink serving to us breathe good oxygen however we maintain utilizing them as our largest rubbish bins,” she says.

Because of this, coral reefs — thought of one of the crucial vital marine ecosystems — are dying at an alarming price. Motivated to take motion, she met documentary filmmaker, Priya Thuvassery, to induce her to make a movie on coral reefs.

In 2019, Uma was featured in an award-winning documentary titled ‘Coral Woman’.
In 2019, Uma was featured in an award-winning documentary titled ‘Coral Lady’.

And her efforts paid off and the way!

In 2019, their award-winning documentary titled ‘Coral Lady’ was launched, that includes Uma’s journey to boost consciousness of the harm being brought about to marine life. “In India, we don’t discuss concerning the coral reefs, so this movie was an eye-opener,” she provides.

Over time, Uma hosted a number of portray exhibitions throughout the nation to attract curiosity to the topic. “The coral reefs in my work are usually not pleased anymore. Right this moment, I depict the partitions of the ocean on my canvas and paint their sufferings. I consider artwork is a really highly effective medium to result in social transformation.”

It has been a decade since her first dive, however Uma continues to boost consciousness about marine air pollution in colleges, faculties, and company organisations. Just lately, she was named the ‘Earth Champion of the Month’ by Sony BBC Earth. 

“Personally, the transformation from being a homemaker to a scuba diver has given me an immense sense of accountability. The oceans wouldn’t have a voice. I’m one of many few who may talk the fact. My work is small and it’ll take a whole village to convey a few change. We don’t simply want to speak the discuss however stroll the stroll as properly,” she provides.

(Edited by Padmashree Pande; All photographs: Uma Mani)

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