A girl terrified of lizards now protects the jungle

Sandhya Verma, a forest guard at Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh, fulfils her chosen vocation with spunk. She speaks about an incident that she used to convince her family she chose the right career.

Subha J Rao
| Updated: June 16th, 2021

Sandhya Verma, a forest guard in the Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Yash Sachdev

Your family is visiting you at your workplace and you decide to show them around. What happens during that trip makes them wonder if sending their daughter to work in this place was the right thing after all. The daughter convinced them she was happy doing what she did.

The daughter, Sandhya Verma, is a forest guard and her workplace is the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh. What happened during their safari of sorts was that a tiger at a waterhole roared and mock-charged towards their vehicle. 

Also Read: The animals here are like our children: Zookeeper Rajesh Kumar

A tiger. Photo: Pixabay

“We did not know there was a tiger at the water hole. Our car was on lower ground and we had to go up an incline. The driver revved the gear, and the tiger reacted. It bolted out and mock-charged with a roar,” says Verma in the Forester partner channel of The Slow App, which is the brain-child of writer-lyricist-storyteller Neelesh Misra. 

“Everyone in the vehicle was terrified, myself included. And my family worried for me. But I told them that this is my job, and I had to do it,” adds the forest guard.

Verma is among those tasked with keeping the jungle safe. In the seven months the park is open, she’s on reception duty and is the person registering guests, interacting with them and welcoming them to the park. After June 15 when the park closes for the public, she’s on park duty, sometimes walking as much as 10 kilometres a day inside the jungle. Sometimes, she travels in a vehicle.

Verma is on reception duty and is the person registering guests, interacting with them. Photo: Yash Sachdev

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All this might seem commonplace for some, but for Verma, each one has been a step forward in conquering her fear. “My folks were afraid that I was alone and what would happen to their girl who used to be terrified of even lizards,” laughs Verma. “I used to be so afraid of lizards that I would enter a room only after someone chased them out for me. Then I learnt to chase them myself. Then, I stopped fearing lizards,” she recalls.

The next challenge was greater — snakes. The first time she spotted one, she got help from another forest guard. “Slowly, I realised that I was in its territory and that I would have to get used to it. Now, I’ve progressed enough to stop when I see a snake to see if I can identify which species it is!” smiled Verma.

This episode of slow has camerawork by Yash Sachdev and Mohammad Salman, editing by Ram Sagar and graphics by Faraz Husain.

Also Read: When women forest officers run a zoo

Download The Slow App here.