“Growing up Steve Irwin was my biggest inspiration. It was my life long dream to work with him together but unfortunately the world lost their single most amazing hero. But the spark that he lit fuelled my love for animals. I still remember this one time when we were vacationing in Malaysia, one of the zoo officials exhibiting a Python, just placed the snake on me. It was so sudden that I didn’t have time to react but, feeling the texture of its skin, something in me shifted and I had a sudden epiphany about how misunderstood they were and further reinforced my belief to choose a career that would allow me to show the positive side of these truly fascinating creatures.
This eventually saw me work through zoology for my graduation and fly to Edinburg to complete my masters in wildlife biology and conservation. I ploughed through different jobs before finally landing on my dream job here at Madras Crocodile Bank as an education officer. Here, I conduct shows and educational tours on reptiles especially snakes and snake bite mitigations.
For someone who had never worked with animals in close quarters, this opportunity was a dream come true. We all have our own preconceived notions about animals – that they bite! But, we are speaking about an entire species of animals who do not have the ability to communicate verbally. So their way of expressing discomfort is through self defense. It took me a long time to get them to warm up to me and there was a lot of learning involved – to understand how to hold them, to how to behave around them, etc. Even on a bad day, when something bogs me down, I just remind myself of the privilege I hold. Upon waking up every morning, the first thing to greet me are animals.
We as a generation are out to rebel against the norms of the society but my belief is that, one shouldn’t do something just to spite the society but out of one’s own curiosity and interest. I didn’t exactly set out to bust any gender stereotypes but I do remember this time after a show, a lady walked up to me to say that she was so proud that a woman handled a snake with such courage and grace. While everyone speaks about making a change, I am someone who believes that, in order to make the change, we have to be the change. My parents had a hard time letting me go and they still worry because this is a risky job but, at the end of the day, their love for me overtakes their worries. Day by day, my love for the animals only keeps intensifying and I hope, I continue to do what I love.”