33 year old Suraj Bai Meena from Bhuri Pahadi is first naturalist at Ranthambhore’s National Park and has conducted over 7000 guided tours.
Suraj has started her training when she was just 16. Growing up in a village where power cut was an big issue and education of girls was unheard, Suraj chose her path in 2007. Her brother who is educated among all of her siblings inspired her to choose path of becoming an naturalist. He recognized some spark in her and moved in Sawai Madhopur with her and there he enrolled her for school.
“I grew up on the periphery of the Ranthambore National Park in a village called Bhuri Pahadi. Here, girls were not allowed to go to school or study. Their only role was to cook, clean, and reproduce. In fact, if a girl was educated, the dowry her parents had to give would be doubled,” she said in an interview.
After defying all odds and challenging a number of stereotypes today she is the first woman naturalist to work at Ranthambore National Park. “Aaj mere ghar ke sabhi ladkiyan padhi likhi hai, yehi mere liye sabsi badi baat hai.” She has not only lighted up her life but encouraged many women to choose this path. She also conduct and join seminar with many NGOs to raise awareness about girl’s education.
She proudly shares her journey and inspires many. Suraj pursued to work after being married for 12 years and having two children. She has also completed her BA, MA, and B.Ed over the years.