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June 18, 2007

Snakes and me

As a child and while I was growing up, snakes held a fascination that bordered on the obsessiveness for me. I was born in the rural parts of Bengal that is the natural home to so many snake species and numbers that one leaves count of them and refers to all as 'shaap'. It was in this environment that I met up with real snakes and snake stories that never seem to end.
Now so many years later, i feel that snake stories are buut an integral part of all communities in india, everywhere there is a snake god or snake gem and so on. It was in those days of those movies Nagina and Nigahein where the supremely beautiful Sridevi did all those snake dances and brought the lore of the snake deeply within millions of small and growing children like us. I was made to believe that snakes if killed, would return and definitely target you sooner than later. Ineffect, a snake's patner or some next of kin would come and take it's revenge before your own lifetime comes to an end. This installed fear was so overbearing that even now I think of it to be true. Second, was the power of snakes with respect to its economic benefits. Even in this, which I still sometimes consider to be true, the snake was considered to be the forebringer of valuable gems that lay somewhere above and behinds its outstretched hood. This gem gave the snake the sobriquet of neelkanth. Neelkanth or not, neither did I nor anyone I knew had the courage to search for the gem in its hood. Yes, but of course for Sidharth, who in his infinite wisdom and courage had even done this. He had claimed that he or someone from his illustrious friend group had indeed had a snake in their vast godowns that was a neelkanth. I never did get to see them, neither did he show us his pet blue whale or baby elephant.
But the snake stories lay inside me all the time. And in addition to the stories was the real happenings that continue till today.
I experienced snakes all through my childhood and being in the present profession, I manage to come across them once in while presently. Of all, the most abiding memory remains that of the snake in my birth place, a cobra, a cobra that gave me the fear of life. It was one moring when I was sitting and studying on the driveway that comes up from the main gate in Girmint colliery. It was early morning and mummy called me to take my glass of milk. I had been sitting since early and was focussing on the studies. However, in my half sleep and partial drowsiness, I absentmindedly came upon the chair and sat on it with a thud. It was afyter a few seconds that I heard a hiss, a real hiss that no human could have possibly made. Turning back, half expecting a snake below my chair and getting more excited at the thought, I turned back and saw to my greatest scare, a snake was coiled to my chair and was hissing on my turned face now.
AAAAAASSSSSSHHHHHHH ..............and I was off to the ground, leaving the snake saping in shock, much as I was in shock... What happened next, wfter my hysterical shouting had woken up the entire country was a sad demise of the snake and with it, one of the stories of its partner coming back to take its revenge against its killers. For, the bhaiyas that had killed the poor snake are still running and doing fine..... But I did learn a lesson, never cause a snake to die because of your shouts....
I still think in disbelief and wonder aloud, how did the snake coil itself around that broad chair and why at such an early morning that day... i still wonder.....

MY SNAKE STORIES TO CONTINUE IN THE COMING MONTHS