Panel Discussion: Being Ganga: The Many Pasts, Perils & Possibilities
Date & Time: Tuesday, March 22, 2022 | 7.30pm – 8.15pm
Bidisha Banerjee has been fascinated with India’s River Ganga ever since her family taught her to pretend, during her bucket baths as a child, that tap water was holy Ganga water. She trained as a social ecologist at the Yale School of the Environment, and in ethnicity, race, and migration at Yale College.
Harvard Divinity School recognized her as one of 80 “spiritually innovative community leaders” for her work as a founding program and curriculum director for the Dalai Lama Fellows – 100+ social innovators in 30+ countries working at the intersection of justice, peace, and ecology.
Her book, Superhuman River, which would have been impossible without the support from her family, friends, and babysitters, is a multi-strand narrative combining science, politics, economics, history, mythology, sociology, and personal narrative.
The book explores questions such as: Will we let the Ganga river dolphin go extinct by allowing the National Waterways Act to turn the Ganga into a canal? How might we understand the roots of our longing and belonging, and confront our anger, fear, numbness and shame in order to heal the ‘dirty, sacred’ river? What can we learn from those who fought their entire lives to protect the Ganga? What can we learn from women living in wilderness near the river, or even from music of different folk traditions, including the Bauls? During this decisive decade for humanity’s future, Bidisha believes that stories of the Ganga can shed critically important light about the relationship between personal and social transformation.
She was inspired to write this book while working as an eco-club educator in Tamil Nadu and rural West Bengal. And the idea took flight during the India Climate Solutions Road Tour, initiated by the Indian Youth Climate Network, during which she, her friends and a solar-powered rock band drove solar-electric, jatropha, and pongamia-fueled vehicles from Chennai to Delhi and empowered youth to create, communicate, and celebrate their own responses to climate change. In the decade since, Bidisha has been influenced by the African saying, “the times are urgent; let us slow down” because “we are the world in its ongoing actioning.”
Bidisha lives between Kolkata, Kansas, and Oakland, California. She advises organizations about the intersection of mental health and social-ecological resilience, and as an embodied leadership coach, also works with people one-on-one. You can reach her here.