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What do you do?
Ratna Singh is unapologetically in love. The one love she nurtured from her childhood. So when she had to part for a few years because she was studying in a boarding she couldn’t bear the pain. “I couldn’t adjust for a long time,” says Ratna, Manager-Naturalist Training at Taj Safaris’ Banjaar Tola lodge near the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Being born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh, where the jungle wasn’t too far from her place, she couldn’t help but fall in love with the wilderness and everything that constitutes a jungle.
Petite and soft spoken that she is, a particular marketing head jokingly refused to be in her custody as a guest. Now, he can’t stop boast of her capabilities.
Ratna grew up in a small village called Khairaha near Bandhavgarh National Park. Although belonging to a very conservative extended family, her grandfather and father encouraged the women in the family to break out of the mould of a traditional woman’s role. She studied at the La Martiniere boarding school in Lucknow, and then went to college in Delhi where she graduated in history. She pursued a post-graduate diploma in Human Rights and Refugee Law from the University of Delhi, and later worked with Afghan refugees in India as part of her job with the UN in Delhi.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
“That was my first job and as a 23-year-old it was too heavy for me. I worked there for a year and then got a chance to work with Taj Safaris. What happened after that is history and now I cannot think of any other profession than being with nature.
Can you describe a day at work?
“My work entails getting up early in the morning and driving the guests staying at the lodge into the dense forest of the park twice a day, to show them the wildlife. It is not a job for me, living and working with nature and wildlife, gives me an adrenalin rush.
Ratna is chatty and mention of wildlife and animals makes her happy, and she feels, she connects better with animals than humans.
According to her, a true naturalist should break myths about the jungle, the flora and fauna and tell facts. On a lighter note she says, “a naturalist isn’t anyone who can drive a jeep and wears a big hat. He/she has to educate tourist, teach them things about the jungle which they wouldn’t know otherwise.”