One look at Nayantara Jain’s Instagram and you know she is all kinds of #LifeGoals.
Living the life and doing the work that most of us only talk about hypothetically got us all kinds of curious. We caught up with the thirty-year old scuba diver and marine conservationist one breezy afternoon and pretty much spoke about everything under the sun.
Nayantara is a philosophy student, who started diving when she was all of sixteen years old. “I’ve always been passionate about the sea, but never considered marine biology or diving seriously as a career”, she explains. So what brought the dramatic shift in careers? “I went to Andaman with my parents for a vacation, after I completed my undergrad studies in philosophy. At that point, I did not really know what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to stay on the island, started working at a dive centre, and became a scuba professional. I did that for about two years.” It was during this time that Nayantara grew very passionate about marine conservation, especially after having seen firsthand how marine life was being degraded. This led her to pursue a Masters in Marine Biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography – UC San Diego, California. Today, she works at ReefWatch – a non-profit organisation dedicated to marine conservation – as the Executive Director.
What does life on the island look like? “I’m up by 6:30 am latest”, Nayantara replies. She spends the first half of her day out in the ocean, diving. “We have a couple of projects such as coral transplanting, artificial coral reef structures, coral reef rehabilitation projects which we require a lot of diving and exploring”, she explains. The remainder of her day is spent teaching the local kids how to swim, dive or snorkel, educating them about marine biology, or writing reports based on her findings from the dive.
Baring her skin to the sun and the salt and making it out unscathed must be quite the effort. However, Nayantara is full of surprises, “Considering how much time I spend under the sun and water, having an elaborate routine feels futile, since it’s not going to hold up anyway. There’s no room for makeup in my job either!”
What about when she is on the mainland? “When I am in Bangalore, I have the space for a more dedicated routine. Even then, I just make sure I moisturize regularly and follow the same cleansing routine”. For Nayantara, skincare is all about adjusting based on where you are and how your skin feels. She adds, “I have been using the same cleanser for the past 8 years now. It is this soap by Clinique, which hasn’t let me down to this day! Oh and I use lots of lip balm, since my lips dry up too quickly”.
A cleansing soap in a world full of oils, gels and foams? Nayantara is quick to explain why, “Well, for one it lasts much longer. Secondly, as a conservationist, it is important for me to minimize the waste I generate as much as I can, especially when it comes to plastic. A foam based cleanser gets over too soon, and the bottle just ends up adding to an already high pile of plastic waste”. Nayantara does not believe in self-indulgence at the expense of the environment.
As an island girl, is sunscreen her best friend? Her answer is one we are too curious to hear. Her answer is full of perspective we forget to take into consideration, “Quite frankly, I’m not a fan of sunscreen. The humidity makes sunscreen feel sticky. However, that is just a small part of it. Sunscreens are loaded with chemicals that are quite harmful to marine life. Then again, there’s the whole thing about plastic bottles and tubes. Doing what I do, marine and environmental health is always a higher priority for me.” We make a mental note for the next time we hit the beach. But, a girl’s got to have some tricks up her sleeve. Nayantara laughs, “My go to sun protection weapons are a wide brimmed cap and really, really large sunglasses that cover up pretty much my whole face. Everyone makes fun of me for how ridiculous I look, but hey, it works!” What about the tan? “Once a week, I use a home remedy to clear out the tan and nourish the skin. It is a mix of limejuice and honey. I leave it on my face for 15 minutes and then rinse it off. It also keeps my skin hydrated.”
In a nutshell, Nayantara’s mantra is simple – you are how you live. “I live a pretty healthy and active life. I am a vegetarian who loves her greens and salads”, she says. She firmly believes that what shows on our skin has a lot to do with what we put inside our body. That, and of course, yoga. “I do Ashtanga Vinyasa, which is quite an intense form of yoga. It flushes out all the toxins and cleanses the whole body inside out”.
How has living a life that is anything but ordinary, shaped her ideals of beauty? “Frankly, beauty is letting your best version shine through. I am attracted to beauty in its simplest forms, and that is a value I set for myself too”, she explains.
With that in mind, we ask her who her heroes are. She’s quick to reply, “Professionally, I really look up to Dr. Sylvia Earle – a marine biologist, TED Fellow and a National Geographic explorer. She has done wonders for the ocean and marine conservation. Every sentence she speaks is a good quote! There’s also Asha de Vos, who works on green conservation in Sri Lanka; someone whom I deeply appreciate”.
We love conversations that leave us more thoughtful than before, towards not only ourselves but also the environment. Nayantara’s life is a wonderful example of mindfulness towards everything from yourself, to the environment you live in; to the environment you don’t get to see but still matters deeply.
With the sea breeze caught in her hair, the dream of a better world in her eyes and a deep love for the ocean in her heart, we know for sure that Pocahontas exists, and her name is Nayantara Jain. And we wish her all the very best in all her oceanic adventures.