It appears like I had requested God before he put me on earth, that no matter what happens in my life, it shall not happen without a great deal of drama, twists & turns or adventure (with a choice of picking any one or all of these)….
…to which he consented!
And thus began all the trouble for my near & dear ones…
One (not so) fine day, when I had to go to college to collect my hall ticket, I realized I had no friends for company and as a last resort, I asked my mom to join me. My mom is always wary to involve herself in anything that involves me! She at first tried to politely excuse herself, but soon realized that she wasn’t given any choice. Not happy at all and with a grumpy look, she joined me but not before giving me her customary warnings. Happy that I now had a company, we hailed a rickshaw to our college.
I joined the queue as fast as I could (‘cos I wanted to be done with this task as early as it ever could). My mom stood beside me. I could see that she was trying hard to avoid the many professors who were walking up and down the corridor like caged lions and equally menacing.
Just then, there was a commotion outside, on the campus. I was very, VERY curious to go see what it was all about, but couldn’t risk losing my turn in the queue and in turn prolong the entire ordeal. That would amount to too much of a torture. Unable to contain my curiosity any more, I got my junior to go see what was happening and then let me know (yeah, I occasionally used to show my ‘seniority’ around ).
She came back saying that a snake had slithered on to the campus and there were attempts being made to rescue it.
‘Rescue’? Did I hear her right?
Now, this was quite hard for me to believe. Many animals, among which snakes top the chart, are revered in my country. But this does not guarantee their safety or well being. The irony is, the stone idols of snakes are worshiped & respected, but when people come across a real one, it is almost instantly clubbed to death without even giving the poor creature a chance to escape….
Maybe the times have changed and the people have evolved I thought. However, I wanted to be sure about this thought of mine. I was only 6 persons away from getting my hall ticket, when I decided to bolt across to the campus outside, lest it becomes too late. My mother was flabbergasted. Not able to figure out what she should do, she decided to come after me. I reached outside to find a 25 something group of men surrounding a small Indian cobra. I joined them eagerly, to see how they’d rescue the little fellow and was scanning the group for anyone who looked like a professional snake catcher, especially since a potentially dangerous snake was involved. To my disappointment, there was no one in that group who looked professional nor a snake catcher, forget ‘professional snake catcher’ with snake catching forceps in hand. I was still trying to figure out what exactly was happening when one of the persons from that crowd, threw a massive stone at the little one, narrowly missing crushing its head. This made the little snake extremely furious and it starting hissing menacingly & delivered several bites to that stone & the ground. That was when I was horrified and realized that there was no ‘rescue’ operation going on there. No wonder I had my doubts about it! I decided to give that junior of mine, a piece of my mind the next time I meet her. This group was actually discussing amongst themselves, if it was fine to kill a cobra and if not, what would be price for committing such a grave sin. One ‘wise’ man from the crowd said it was okay to kill it as long as its head is instantaneously crushed, failing which the killer shall be damned for many births (I think its 12 number of births) & rebirths with immense misfortune, childlessness & other stuffs that would guarantee a miserable life.
I freaked out! So, the poor snake had managed to stay alive all this while, only because of the many superstitions that surrounded it. The ‘to kill or not to kill such a revered snake’ discussion by the insane crowd had kept it alive for that long. That little snake should really be thankful that it was born a cobra and not some other, like a rattle snake or something, as that crowd wouldn’t have spared even a wink’s time before bludgeoning it to its death. The reason being, there isn’t any special provision for rattle snakes in the ‘Indian Superstitious Beliefs’, unlike the cobra. I was now pitted alone against these 25 or so ruffians like hostile men (hostile to the snake). The snake had only me in its favour.
My mom was equally worried too, worried for the snake and worried for the only person who sought its welfare- ‘me’! How was I ever going to save this little reptile? It then occurred to me that even new born baby cobras are equipped with enough venom to kill an adult human being (thanks to channels like NGC, Discovery & Animal planet). These dreadful things are sadistically reminded to you by the brain when you least what them. I don’t even know how to go near a snake without getting bitten by it, let alone attempting something as foolhardy as trying to catch one and that too a cobra! I wished I had taken some training in the same and mentally topped it on my bucket list.
I was desperately browsing my phone for numbers of some of my animal activist friends, when another person from the crowd, a uniformed cabbie- who was carrying himself like Tom Cruise trying to the save the only living planet, walked in front of the snake with a huge wooden club in his hand. How the hell did he find such an effective snake killing equipment so quickly? He was about to do what he wanted to do with a big club in hand and a venomous snake on the ground… when I yelled at him. Words came out my mouth like reflex action, even before it reached my brain for any editing. I glared & yelled at him to get back and leave the snake alone. The startled crowd only then took notice of me and that was when I noticed that mom & me were the only two from the opposite gender. From the corner of my eye, I could see that the little cobra was exhausted from all the ferocious hissings & the fake bites (or maybe real) that it gave as an act of self defense.
The crowd was not happy at all with my interference. One of them menacingly asked me if the snake should be allowed to remain on the college premises, to which the other tightened his grip around the club. This was starting to appear like a losing battle to me. Not knowing what to do & how to do, I told them that I would take the snake away from there and ensure our mutual safety. That was when I think I distantly heard several laughter emit from within the crowd. The ‘wise’ man of that crowd spoke again- ‘this girl is going to get herself killed, so before she does anything suicidal, let us kill that snake & be done with it!’. My mother was beginning to get paranoid and started calling out to me.
Frustration & desperation got the better of me, when I confidently told, rather lied to the crowd that I was trained in catching snakes and that I knew exactly what I was doing. My mother’s jaw dropped and she was dumbstruck. What on earth was her irrational daughter planning to do now? She looked like she was about to have a nervous breakdown.
To me, the fear of having to see this beautiful snake’s head crushed was far greater than my own fear of getting bitten by it. I couldn’t imagine having this precious little one brutally killed right before my eyes. My mom didn’t know what to do and was very, very worried about what I had gotten myself into. As the crowd suspiciously watched me, I looked around for anything that would help me get this little reptile out of trouble. Not finding any, apart from an arm long twig, I said a small prayer & gently slid it under the little one and picked it up (I hoped the little angry snake wouldn’t strike me, esp. not after I told the crowd that I was a trained snake catcher. That would amount to too much of an embarrassment to die with on your head).
Anyways, that act of mine was enough to unnerve the crowd and many hurriedly left the place. Thank God, I thought, lesser idiots to deal with! I now had to find something to put the snake into. A close to fifteen minute search of the entire campus went in vain, for I could find nothing to put the snake into (all the while I was hoping & praying the snake wouldn’t either voluntarily or involuntarily fall off the twig that I held it on). Suddenly, a young boy who seemed concerned both for the snake and me offered help by offering me a white color translucent plastic bag. I was immensely grateful. He held the bag open, while I quickly managed to slide the angry little creature inside & tied a knot to it. I thanked the young boy and ran to my mom who was as worried as anybody could ever be. We quickly made our way out of the college, as I did not want any more confrontations with any more idiots- be it the old or new ones.
We boarded a rickshaw and hurriedly left the place. My mom sat at a distance, maintaining a healthy distance from me & the plastic bag that I held, as she felt that the little snake inside was so furious that it could actually strike her from within the plastic bag, by puncturing the plastic cover with its venomous fangs. As the sunlight passed through the cover, it was easy for us to see the shadow of snake, sitting inside the cover with its hood raised, alert & hissing. This only freaked my mother more and she scolded me to hold the bag away from both her and me. Since it was a hot summer afternoon, I felt the temperature inside the plastic bag could soon rise to fatal levels; I loosened the knot of the plastic cover a little bit, in order to facilitate some ventilation for the creature that was inside it. Seeing this, my mom was so horror struck that she looked like she would fall out of the rickshaw we were travelling in and this attracted the driver’s attention, much to my embarrassment.
We stopped near a densely wooded, deserted ground where we had decided to free the snake. I paid the driver and ensured he was off with it. Mom & me then found a suitable place amidst dense shrubs to let go of our little reptilian friend. But then I realised there was another problem. How was I going get the snake out of the bag? What if it decided to bite me on its way out, as it was very mad with our kind…? Thank god, this same though did not occur to mom too, else she would have raised an alarm herself! So, pretending to be very confident about what I was doing (again), I asked her to maintain good distance between us. My mom, with bated breath, was looking at me, like as if she was watching a bomb that would soon blow off. My mind was continually chanting all the little prayers it knew in the background, hoping that I’d live to see the next day and to tell the tale. I cautiously held the plastic bag away from me, untied the knot first & held it. Then with my other hand below the bag, I quickly turned the bag upside down, so the snake inside would fall off from within. It worked!
The little cobra fell on to the soft grass below. I tried to get the mobile phone out from the pocket of my jeans, as fast as I could so I could capture its picture in memory of this day, like an autograph from it or something. To my greatest surprise, the little cobra, stopped in its tracks, turned back to look at me for one last time, before it disappeared into the woods like lightening on a typical rainy day. I did manage to click its picture just in time & before it left, rather vanished.
Excited, I ran back to my mom & showed her the picture that I managed to take of the snake’s on my phone’s camera & hugged her. She had tears of joy in eyes, happy to have both her daughter and the little snake alive & doing well.
Whoever would have thought that a simple task of collecting my hall ticket would manifest itself into an adventure this fatal and that we’d return from my college with a snake in a plastic bag, instead of a duly stamped hall ticket! phew!
As for the hall ticket, I collected it the following day (with my friends for company of course, ‘cos I couldn’t dare to ask my mom to join me again, not after what I had put her through the previous day!).
When I turn back and look at this incident, I’m always left baffled, for I know for certain that this deadly little snake could have bitten me more than twice throughout the entire ordeal, if it wanted to (first, when I tried picking it on a twig; next- when I was scouring the campus ground with ‘the snake atop a twig’ in hand, for anything that I could put it in & lastly, when it was finally released), but it chose not to! I wonder why? Could it say the difference between my intentions from those of the crowd? Could it really understand? Did it actually co-operate with me, for it knew I wasn’t going to harm it, but instead would take it to safety? Any harassed creature would flee at its first opportunity to freedom. Why then did this little snake stop and turned to look at me for one last time before it left? Anyways, there shall always remain some questions, the answers to which shall never be known…
Today, although I still haven’t managed to train myself at snake catching, I do keep the phone numbers of professional snake catchers handy at all times.