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Thackeray to unveil first photo exhibit on top heart surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda's 'wild-side'

IANS | November 20, 2023 01:27 PM

MUMBAI: The country's top heart surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda will showcase 100 of his best wildlife photos at his first-ever solo exhibition – 'Heartbeats' - which opens here on Tuesday.

Former Chief Minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) President Uddhav Thackeray – himself a wildlife enthusiast and ace photographer – will cut the ribbons at Jehangir Art Gallery, to unveil Dr Panda's wild-side, far away from the sanitised confines of his operation theatres at the Asian Heart Institute (AHI), in Bandra.

Little known to many, Dr Panda, 69 – who performed a heart by-pass surgery on former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, 91, some 15 years ago – quietly nurtured his private passion for wildlife and nature photography, for more than a decade.

Every month, Dr Panda goes into the jungle mode, armed with his Nikon camera system, and then trudges into the forests of Maharashtra, different parts of India and even abroad.

With immense patience – as with his cardiac patients – Dr Panda silently waits for the 'right' moment for his stealthy camera kill, stunning and awesome photos of rare, exotic birds and animals, including some of the most dangerous ones that roam the planet in their natural habitats.

"There will be a collection of 130 photos shot in the neighbourhood of Raigad (Karnala Bird Sanctuary) to the Pench, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Satpura, Bharatpur, Chilka and other tiger or bird sanctuaries to the Maasai Mara and Amboseli National Parks in Kenya, " Dr Panda told IANS.

Though he started shooting for over a decade, the pictures on display from November 22 were mostly shot in the past three years and post-Covid, his jungle outings have become a regular feature.

The proceeds of the exhibition will contribute to unite individuals desirous of contributing to wildlife conservation through the AHI's Asian Wildlife Trust (AHI-AWT), he added.

So far, the AWT has donated an ambulance for wildlife or animal rescue in Mumbai, set up a petrol pump at Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh) for the welfare of the wildlife staff and the sanctuary, distributed food to foresters during monsoons, gave sewing machine to tribal women to earn a living by stitching school uniforms, donated 180 steel beds for a hospital, financial help to the staff of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to set up an eco-friendly resort, helped set up a parking lot at Bharatpur, etc.

At Chilika Lake, Mangaljodi bird sanctuary in Odisha, the AWT donated a camera and computers system to track the bird activity there and even carry out a Census of the 300-plus species of the feathered residents or migratory species that throng what is known as a "paradise for birdwatchers".

Dr Panda promises that the exhibition would be "an inspiring fusion of art, awareness and action", and the visitors would be transformed into the enchanting world of wildlife, being reminded of our collective duty to safeguard it for the future generations.

A self-confessed self-taught photographer who learnt from blunders, Dr Panda prefers groups of like-minded wildlife enthusiasts in his adventures, but occasionally his daughter Sonal joins him in the forests as he 'shoots' at wildlife to "kill the professional stress" as a leading heart surgeon, with over 200, 000 surgeries to his credit.

Recounting a memorable experience, he said once in Kanha, he was informed that a famed male tiger, Munna, was so smart that the moment he espied a tracking elephant or tourist vehicles, he would quickly emerge from the forests.

"Exactly that also happened with us. As soon as Munna sensed our vehicle and the tracking elephant, he leapt out of the forest, came in front of us and quietly sat down for nearly half an hour. Like a professional model on a shoot, he gave us all possible angles and poses and we returned delighted, " chuckled Dr Panda, who has clicked more than 11, 000 wildlife-nature photos.

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