The Scientific Indian

The (snake) charms of India

In India snakes charm you. Yes, they do, especially if you are a legislator in Orissa state assembly.

Have time to hear a personal anecdote of the charms of snakes? Here we go.


When I was about 6 or 7, I used to roam around the fields in my mother’s native village (google map). There were two rocky mounds, each about the height of a four storey building covering perhaps five football fields. It was a magical space for young children. At times, the magic would be enhanced by a fight between a snake and a mongoose (mongoose eats snakes, there were days as a child when I wanted to be one). So there I was one summer, poking around, turning-up small boulders, getting in the way of dung beetles, riding on bullocks–the small scrawny ones that would not throw me off–, and generally burning my backside in the hot sun. In the distance I see my grandmother coming to call me home. There was very little time before I can accomplish my mission of checking out every rock. I get busy, my grandmother is getting nearer and nearer. One last rock; I turn it to find a long slithering whitish thing, pick it up to examine it. I hear a scream issue from my grandmother, for the first time in my life I see her run like a mad women towards me. I am scared witless and start to run myself. She is closer now and I catch the words: Throw that away! Throw that away!

Throw what away? I can’t work out what it was as I was more occupied with the riddle of how my grandmother covered the large field so quickly to reach me. It was late when I realize her plan–to distract me from my mission with mere words. She comes panting, grabs me, pulls the moulted snake skin out of my hands, it crumbles and pitifully floats away. I was grounded. Few days later, I was out again and I got stung by a scorpion. I think that was when I stopped putting my hands under rocks to check what lurked there.

Most of the snakes are non-poisonous, so the few ones you may meet in your life are probably going to be harmless. However, one cannot rest assured by probabilities. Probablility being what it is, there is no assurance that you won’t be bitten.


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