While Capt Suresh was serving with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, in 1988, he came in contact with Satish Bhaskar at Chennai, who has been well known for his work about marine life, especially the sea turtles. This was the turning point in Captain’s life; Satish introduced Capt Suresh to Dr Indraneil Das at Madras Croc Bank, Mammallapuram. Also, Suresh expressed his curiosity to Satish to let him get a peep into how wildlife films are produced. At that point of time, Romulous Whitekar and Shekar Dattatri were filming `Silent Valley – An Indian Rainforest’ (a wildlife film). Suresh met Rom and Shekar, to express his desire to work as a volunteer on the film under production, to which he got their consent. Capt Sharma applied for `leave without pay’ from the Indian Army and got to work for three months on the film. He fell in love with wildlife filming – `love at first sight’. He decided to bid the Indian Army adieu, which he loved the most till his this very exposure to nature films. It was all for his love for nature and photography that he hung his uniform, though a tearful separation from his uniform. He worked with Shekar Dattatri on three films, two of which were produced for the National Geographic.
For some personal reasons and unforeseen circumstances, he had to abandon filming career abruptly, at its infancy stage itself, and moved back to Chandigarh. Suresh has never loved working for money. The bitter truth, no one would like to hear is far different from what you see. On seeing wildlife film makers, who were also chasing money, were hypocrites, had vast difference between `preaching and practice’; dissuaded him from pursuing wildlife filming as a career. He had not bid goodbye to the Indian Army, to be in this world of `dog eat dog’. What it looks on the face for common man, its completely different, when one scratched only the outer thin layer of masqueraders. Almost, all wildlife film makers are compelled to be like that by the commercial side of this profession, supposed to be so noble in the eyes of common man. With no job in hand, Captain faced serious financial hardships for two years but decided not to get back to doing `9 to 5′ jobs. At this point, he discovered that to remain in touch with nature, he should start `Nature Conservation Through Education’, which needs no money to begin with and that will be his contribution towards nature. He offered free lectures at schools and colleges. While pursuing his dream to educate people about nature conservation, Capt Suresh felt that people will not come forward till they have apprehensions, myths, misconceptions, fear, about animals. So, he decided to speak to people with snakes on his side – SAVING INNOCENT SNAKES, IGNORANT PEOPLE’. And he offered his skill of snake-handling to rescue snakes, those stray into houses. He discovered that it’s the best way to use snakes to dispel misconceptions about all animals. People get convinced with this message for nature conservation through education that when snakes do not mean harm to man, therefore all other animals also don’t mean any harm.
Capt Suresh Sharma requested his old friend Dr Indraneil Das to be the scientific adviser to the Snake Cell. In 1999, Capt Suresh met Dr Rajbir Kaur, when he was requested to conduct a programme (co-ordinated by Rajbir) to educate village women about snakes and snakebite. After this programe, Capt Suresh proposed Rajbir to work as a volunteer with the Snake Cell. Their association grew and later both got married, as Rajbir’s father proposed to do so and to share their mission as well and to become a force to reckon with in the field of nature conservation. Now, they devout most of their time to educate and motivate people about nature conservation. Both have been rescuing snakes in Chandigarh and around, ever since they first met. After they got blessed with two wonderful children, Dr Rajbir started staying at base, to lookafter the logistics for the Snake Cell and the family chores. The Snake Cell is working to understand and assess the problems of humans and snakes in inhabited areas and then design better methods to educate people, also to design training programmes for snake handlers, as well.
All these years, this trio (Dr Indraneil, Capt Suresh, Dr Rajbir) has worked relentlessly to raise own funds to support the Snake Cell and have been supported by their friends and well-wishers for the cause. They have been printing wildlife T-shirts (the best in India till now) with their own hands and organise special interest tours of quality to raise funds. Now, Capt Suresh sells his photography images in support to raise funds.
It has been an uphill task for all of them and they had to negotiate with many hurdles to bring the Snake Cell to this level. They pursue their passion with extraordinary missionary zeal. The Snake Cell, as a nature conservation education project, has been very successful. It has shown very evident and encouraging results and the programmes are most sought after by schools, colleges and public.