In the sandy folds of a wind sculpture,
under a crimson sky, her shadow gets
lighter and lighter as the sun sets.

Sukhpali, a thin 30-year old with
a long, luscious braid, walks briskly
into an arid expanse.

Racing on top a rocky mound,
she watches over what shimmers
like infinite gold –

The Great Indian Desert in
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Sukhpali was the first female guard to be recruited on the field in the Sudasari range of Desert National Park (DNP) in 2013. She reminisces of her early days – patrolling over isolated trails, with only male guards at checkpoints for company.

None of the women wanted to go because they knew they would have to stay in the desert. Everyone wanted to work in the office or in nurseries. But I decided to take up the role. It wasn’t love at first sight, but now, it is home.

Sukhpali with her daughter Navneet at the DNP.(Photo courtesy: Ranger Ranger/Vibhor Yadav)

But things have changed for Sukhpali since she first joined, much like dunes that shift shapes with the gale.

Now, there are six more female forest guards on the field, three in her Sudasari range in the DNP. Initially posted alone, she now lives with her husband Harpal Singh and her year-and-half-old daughter, Navneet.

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