Picture it. You wake up in the middle of a night to find a snake hooded in front of you with its venom trickling down the fangs ready to paralyze every little tissue in your body. Then you turn to see a thick rattle snake on the window pane rattling incessantly causing a sharp pain in your ears. It will take a minute or two to realize you are just being paranoid. Well, I had this nightmare coming every time I had witnessed a snake in my life. I could remember few incidents where I had been grossly stuck in a position where the snake could almost bend down and kiss me saying, “Howdy baby!”
I love watching snakes so much, yeah, on TV. I stay glued to the seat whenever they air those shows in the Nat Geo or Animal Planet about the deadliest snakes in the world. They portray the lifestyles of different kinds of snakes such as Russell Viper, Rattle snakes, Inland Taipan, and Black Mamba and measure their deadliness based on few attributes. I wish I were a person who knew which is poisonous and which not, because for a layman like me, all snakes look poisonous. It’s ok to say that you determine whether a snake is toxic or not by the scales it has. But the moment I witness a snake, all I could see is a man dressed in a black suit knocking at my door to give an invitation to hell.
Snakes have that power – the power to instill hallucinations in your mind once you have seen the real one. Anything you see in the form of a wire, you imagine a snake in it. Phone cords, earphones and even Maggie noodles seem to transform into a snake. What makes them so deadly? Their presence is very secretive. It’s also the way they move that rearranges the fear inside me to different scales. Since we live in a cement world, snakes are hard to find. Hence I could easily list the incidents where I had witnessed the snakes in such a limited blog. Imagine the situation of villagers near farms or swamps, and also people in suburbs. Maneuvering snakes is part of their routine.
This happened sometime in 1989 when I was in BHEL, Trichy, doing my 1st standard. Though this incident didn’t involve me directly, it was the first time I remember seeing a snake. That lush green colored snake, coiling itself around the wooden stick that the capturer used, still stays fresh in my mind. It happened in my neighbor friend’s house. My friend’s father had found the snake neatly coiled around the water tap (water snake, I suppose) in the toilet. Luckily he found the snake before he settled down for the job. Imagine otherwise – it would have been a NO-GO situation for him. My friend narrated me the entire incident as if his whole family had been possessed by the ghost of the snake. I mention ghost here, because they killed the snake and buried it on the grounds outside the block. I also remember they caught hold of an innocent kid riding his BSA champ bicycle and asked him to ride over the buried area to level the grounds. People from all the houses in the street gathered to witness the burial. The poor snake wouldn’t have got a better send off. But what I still don’t understand is why there were so many people shouting around the kid’s ears maniacally while giving the directions to level the exact area. What were they thinking? The dead snake was going to rise and spray venom like a fountain?
This gets closest to my heart as for once I can quote one of the fewest books I have ever read in my life. This happened in 1995 when I had already lived in Chennai for 5 years. In my school, there used to be library classes. This is significantly related to the snake incident because of the word “slimy”. In those classes, we were asked to take a novel home so as to encourage our reading habits. My friends pounced on the books written by Enid Blyton (Famous Five and Secret Seven), Hardy boys, Nancy Drew as they were the serie that gave identity to reading habits of a middle school kid. But I picked one book called Water-babies written by Charles Kingsley. Believe me; this is supposed to be a primary school moral fable novel. I didn’t care since I just wanted to fill the quota of taking a book for the weekend. But I was thrilled to read that book. It’s about a small boy working as a chimney sweeper. Dirty all the way, he becomes a subject of abuse for everyone. He accidentally drowns in a river and dies. Then he transforms into a pure water baby. The adventure of the pure baby underwater with all the creatures inside is the story.
I was narrating the entire story to my friends in my apartments on a rainy night of power-cut which had always been a strong reason for us to slap the school books shut and gather downstairs for an incessant chat. We narrated horror stories, said one-line jokes, got into conflicts about the run stats of Sachin (He was sensational, wasn’t he?) in every match he had played so far.
There is one scene in the book where the author would describe the baby’s skin as clean and slimy. As I was saying that with a juicy mouth, under the moonlight, I saw something huge, slimy, black and shining, silently snaking past me into the garden behind.
“It’s a snake! Snake! It’s into the garden”, I shouted as the other residents started getting fidgety about it. Kids went berserk screaming at the top of their lungs. I saw all of them galloping here and there as if that single snake had coiled around the legs of every single person there. People then started building their own stories about the snake’s color, size, and scale patterns and even went onto throw details up to the level of phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Squamata, suborder Serpentes. Actually, I was the only one who saw the snake that night. The youngsters then rolled up their sleeves and came down with big wooden sticks to show their heroics in front of the girls. Nobody could find it under the poor flashlights. When one guy claimed he had killed the snake, another guy would come up saying, “No, no, he is lying, I found the snake in another place”.
One thing was sure – the residents in the ground floor of the block near that garden would have had a sleepless night. I tell this because I was already able to see the old people from those houses settled outside on their reclining chairs chanting Kanda Shashti Kavasam.
This happened so recently that I can quote the date and time of the incident. It was the day when India pumped a humongous score of 413 against Bermuda who later on was requested by the Indian team to win against Bangladesh for India to reach the next stage. Kudos to Bermuda!
It was the day after Pakistan Coach Bob Woolmer died and the whole media was in the money making spree. Channels speculated different things about the death as they were so fussy to remove the tag “murder”. It’s fair to say that the media made more money with that episode than the entire World cup. The funny thing was how they used the footage of Shoaib Akthar pushing Bob Woolmer during a practice session for sensation. It was being repeated across all channels with a melodramatic BGM, as a probable root cause of the murder.
I was in a resort called NIPM in ECR, Chennai with my family. We go there for a weekend once in a while. I just woke up that morning around 11 after having watched the scandalized news for the entire night. I didn’t want to get up from the bed. I wanted to be as lazy as possible and it happens when you go for a vacation. The remote controller was inoperable, so I had to reach the TV to change the channels. I saw the silhouette of some tree branch behind the window curtains and it looked strangely twisting and turning. Intrigued, I opened the curtains as a long snake almost thin as spaghetti shot closer to me viciously. I fell down instantly and scampered out of the room in no time calling for help. Then, as usual, the capturers did the job.
Though this incident had the snake hissing closest to me, it gave me the least shock because the shock of India losing to Bangladesh few days back seemed heartbreaking.
These incidents speak of only one thing. I can’t tackle a snake on my own. All I know is to run and call for help. Hope I don’t find myself in a stranded situation in future. Whatever said, snakes hold a special place in my memories than any other animal in this planet. Any programme on snakes, I am there to see it. Even a yawning hippopotamus doesn’t intrigue me. Snakes are such a beautiful creation.
The rapid urbanization is like a slow poison to that species. I wish they were left in their own territory which I shamelessly accept is not possible too, because they are not as harmless as cows.