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A way with the slithering kind

The origin of our irrational fear of snakes is too old to be tackled rationally, but there are exceptions and this account is about one of them.

About five years ago, before the deafening sounds of traffic conveying children to their school at one end of our colony began, a sudden uproar in the garden downstairs prompted us to leave our comfortable chairs on the veranda to investigate.

Paambu!” Snake!

Since an overgrown park lies close to our house, we hoped it wasn’t a cobra fleeing from early morning walkers or a contingent of stray dogs that might have alarmed it. But no! It was a brilliant translucent green “garden” snake. Fearing for our playful Labrador and unsure of the mood or degree of danger the visitor posed, we wondered what to do.

“Shall I kill it,” asked the driver.

“No-no,” said my husband, who went off to find a number of the Chennai Corporation. Holding back my strong and panting pet dog who had sensed there was something he should be looking into, I overheard the phone call. “We have a snake in the garden; is there anything you can do?”

A professional snake-catcher was alerted, and he arrived within half an hour. He looked too young for the task. The union of gardener, peon, security guard and driver looked at him without enthusiasm, but their faint scorn was to change very soon.

Meanwhile, the snake had made itself invisible lying so still amid the 15 different shades of green in the garden that it was impossible to spot it.

The young man from the Irula community stood like a statue while his eyes swept the trees and bushes. Very quietly, he stepped up to the biggest tree in the garden and held out his arm as if to receive or retrieve something. The snake glided towards him and settled on his arm.

“Look! Its harmless. You can treat it like a pet,” he said and held it out to the rest of us unfamiliar with the inner lives of snakes. A while later the catcher very gently guided the snake into his backpack.

When my husband offered him ₹500, the young man declined payment saying all he wanted was a letter stating how he had distinguished himself. Letter in pocket, he left whistling, the snake in his backpack.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 10:10:48 AM |

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