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NAGAPANCHAMI – TORTURE, IN THE NAME OF WORSHIP?

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The above could just as well mean ‘Torture, in the name of worship!’

Wondering how? Ask snakes!

 

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Or us at the ‘Friends of Snakes’ (FOSS), self-appointed mouth pieces of these fascinating beings.

Snakes have always been very much a part of Indian mythology and worship. Thanks to decades of baseless myths and the consequent fear shrouding these beings, they are subject to much misunderstanding and falsified beliefs.

One such belief is that offerings of milk and eggs to the Spectacled Cobra can redeem worshippers of their sins and bring them immense luck. Another predominantly associated myth (among others) is that these species of the snakes possess Nagamani, or a precious stone which is believed to have many magical properties.

So on the Hindu festival of Nagapanchami, offerings of milk and eggs are made in many households, to anthills in the hopes of appeasing the Nagadevatha and earning his/her blessings, little realizing that these anthills never or very rarely contain snakes in them.

While such practices may induce in the devout a feeling of well-being and contentment, a very extreme case of this is the offering of milk to a live Spectacled Cobra. The most basal logic begging to be realized in such demonstrations is the fact that snakes are reptiles and do not suckle their young ones. So the concept of ingesting milk is just as alien a concept to them, as is eating bricks to us humans.

Alas! All logic and elementary school learnings go for a toss in the name of blind beliefs and common hearsays on Nagapanchami, thereby translating to some ‘quick money’ to swindlers who hood-wink the ignorant masses by resorting to some very inhumane means to achieve their end. Here’s how-

About a month or a fortnight before Nagapanchami, Spectacled Cobras are caught by “Snake Charmers,” their fangs removed by inserting a hot rod and other such means, the bleeding mouths switched, and the writhing animal itself kept captive for several days together under very unhygienic and infectious conditions to go hungry and dehydrated.

On Nagapanchami’s day, these highly emaciated snakes are brought out among the devote masses. The hapless snake by then is so bereft of hydration and sapped of all energy that it is pushed into sipping from the milk being offered by unsuspecting believers, who pay the ‘Snake charmer’ handsomely for his/her services. A very pitiful point to be noted here is the fact that the snake is reduced to such a sorrowfully dehydrated state that it might just about sip any liquid – oil, Cola, and so on.

We beg to bring to your notice that milk is highly proteinaceous and constitutes as ‘whole food’ only for humans and other mammals. As already mentioned, a snake’s system was never programmed to digest or process milk, especially after such long periods of forced abstinence from its natural meal. Add to the fact that in their frenzy of paying obeisance to the gods, believers often adulterate this milk offering with sugar, camphor, vermillion, turmeric, and whatnots.

A snake’s nasal system is many times more sensitive than ours, and these additional ingredients when they enter its respiratory tract cause further inflammation of the already sore sites.

Consequently, the snake suffers tremendously – and not just from one infliction. So much that many of them succumb from the sheer pain and infection that spreads throughout and further from their mouth cavity, rendering them completely incapable of deriving their nutrition directly and miserably weak.

Snakes that die this way are perhaps from the luckier lot, for a more gruesome fate awaits their less luckier counterparts. If you, like us, think the treatment so far is inhumane, then that which might follow is one we bet was orchestrated by the devil himself! For the day come to an end and all their vasool ‘milked,’ these snakes are sold to have their skins ripped off them while they are still alive, to superior the quality of the finished product to illegal leather makers. That, or released back into the wild where it’s only a matter of time before they meet their most tortuous end, from all the puss, infection and complications arising from it. 

 

Here’s where FOSS steps in, to save these hapless beings from having to pay with their lives so a few selfish individuals could make some easy dividends. Apart from actively educating people against such practices through our awareness programs, we work in close collaboration with the Forest department to curb and eradicate such inhumane means of ‘worship.’ On Nagapanchami’s day, FOSS members scout the cities starting from the wee hours in search of ‘Snake charmers’ to seize the emaciated Cobras from them and discourage them from indulging in such means, again.

The seized Cobras are then brought to our facility at Sainikpuri where they are rehabilitated, before being released back into the wild. This treatment takes anywhere from some weeks to several months, depending upon the severity of the case and infection penetration. The first step is to bathe these animals in luke warm water to cleanse them of the vermillion, turmeric, and other irritants that they are smeared with and remove their stitches with the aid of surgical means. The infectious cavities are cleaned and treated with betadine and other ointments as deemed fit. The snakes are then weighed to check for their body mass before proceeding to meet their nutritional requirements. As these animals are by no means in a state to fend for themselves, they are force-fed with a special diet which caters to their dietary requirements while they recuperate, with the means of a tube suction mechanism. Care needs to be taken that the ‘recipe’ is just right so it provides these parched beings with the required supplements without at once, overwhelming their system.

This exercise comprises of almost 10 people in its entirety, and requires the greater part of the day and a lot of care and meticulousness. ‘Job satisfaction,’ (if we can tag it the term that is) is perhaps never more evident than when these snakes gain in health and their body mass (as measured at every pre and post force-feeding session), redevelop their fangs (although there are cases where the fangs are permanently damaged), and regain their magnificence with time, and are ready to be relocated in the wild.

Thanks to these measures, with the Forest Department’s support, such incidences have greatly dwindled over the years with over hundreds of such Cobras seized some 10 years back to the less than hundred in the recent years. FOSS is constantly striving towards that day when such a practice will cease to be existent for good.

Spectacled Cobras are protected under Schedule II, Part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and their illegal possession or any cruelty towards them is an offence for which the perpetrator can be penalized with imprisonment. Moreover, such a spectacular being is best worshipped, not by subjecting it to such harrowing experiences but rather, by not interfering with its natural instincts and conserving it in its natural environs.

Here’s how you can pitch in – By spreading the word among your circles to abstain from such practices of worship to discourage snake charmers, and calling the Telangana Forest Department on 18004255364 or the Friends of Snakes Society helpline on 8374233366 in case of spotting snake charmers in your vicinity, or getting wind of any such activity. Rest assured, your call would be deeply appreciated, and quickly responded to.

Come, join us in our endeavors to promote true worship, for as the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson has quoted, ‘The happiest man is he who learns from nature, the lesson of worship.’   🙂

 
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LIGHTS, CAMERA, WE SHY AWAY FROM SUCH ACTION!!

 

  

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Fantastic transfigurations, magical voice modulations, testimonies of extra sensory perceptions, past life regressions… No, we are not dwelling into the delusional makings of a schizophrenic mind, rather, only attempting a teeny weeny peek-a-boo into the silver screens of mystical-snake-portraying cinemadom!

According to Carolus Linnaeus’ ‘Hierarchy of Classification’ all organisms can be broadly grouped into taxonomic ranks comprising of Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, and Species ( Often memorized as the pneumonic – Dear King Phillip, Come Over for Good Soup). Snakes diverge from humans starting from ‘Class’ in this taxonomic classification, the former being part of Class Reptilia and the latter, falling under Class Mammalia. While this difference can be easily understood as snakes being cold blooded, having dry, scaly skin, and do not suckle their young ones, as opposed to humans who are warm blooded, have hair, and suckle their young ones, there’s more to it.

That humans are far advanced is quite evident from the fact that our brains are super accelerated than that of snakes and the other species of Animalia. In fact, in the pyramid of brain evolution, snakes would very well suit the lower, primeval base, as compared to humans who would rule the top most rung, thanks to our highly advanced brain functions.

For instance, humans can engage in intellectual functions of problem solving, strategizing, pattern finding, analyzing, deducing etc. which require very complex brain networking.

Further, our highly evolved amygdala (the part of the brain which is responsible for emotions) facilitates our feeling a plethora of emotions such as joy, jealousy, excitement, betrayal, and so on, which are way beyond the most basal ones required for our existence.

Whereas snakes are yet to move away from their ‘reptilian brains’ which primarily revolve around the ‘survival and species propagation’ instincts such as the urge to satisfy feelings of hunger, thirst, to mate etc.

Thus it comes as no surprise that our species have churned out the likes of path breaking inventors, literary geniuses, and soul stirring artists, while snakes have a zero track record of the same.

So when Archimedes ran the streets of ancient Greece shouting euphoric cries of ‘Eureka! Eureka,’ his eloquence was lost on the ancestor of the present day snake which had managed to slither into a rat hole and succeed in the coup.

And when an almost deaf Beethoven finished his 9th symphony and the whole world erupted in encore, only the grandest aunt of today’s snake counted among those who could relate to his physical challenge.

That notable mathematician Ramanujan made significant contributions to the infinite theory was of negligible priority to the fore father of our contemporary snake, as it blissfully basked, unaware of a time sense.

If you think these major setbacks to effective existence dear reader, then think again, for although not equipped with such far-fetched capabilities, snakes also don’t have to ‘sweat it out’ (another distinguishing characteristic!) about developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other memory affecting conditions, for they are devoid of a memory in the first place!

 

But what we see portrayed of snakes in our movies and tele serials are a farthest cry from actual reality, to say the least! For these ignorant beings are dramatized (and my my! with what effects!) as being revenge seekers, possessing super human prowess, harboring a weakness to flute music, having a vengeful memory surpassing lifetimes, being skillful seducers…and counting!

The below is a rather light hearted account of such renderings.

Kindly Note – All characters, names, and events in the following lines are purely non-fictional portraits of highly fictional works. Any felt resemblance to actual events, entities, or persons, whether living or dead, is indicative of your requiring immediate intervention.  🙂

 

SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH…

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SNAKES ARE NOT!!

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TALKING WHILE DRIVING KILLS…

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BRAKING WHILE DRIVING SAVES…

 

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Take 1

A petite belle, her long hair still damp from the recent shower, steps out into her garden (A magical garden no doubt, for summer sunflowers and winter pansies are at once, in abundance) to walk among her scenic flower beds (Yes, to the accompaniment of Tralalalas, moonbeams,…what nots).

Lost in the act of chasing a flitting golden butterfly (Duh??!!!), she is bitten by the ‘Oh so vile’ snake hidden in the grass (Please note a change in the background music track from ‘balmy’ to ‘blasphemy’ to the senses, as the snake’s strike – obviously not meant for children, carrying mothers, heart patients, as the disclaimer goes, is cast in repeat action). An ear splitting shriek erupts (How such a fragile looking thorax can muster such a ‘tectonic plates shifting’ scream is a mystery paralleling the Taos Hum mystery and its likes for me!) and the delicate darling swoons (A scream like that would wipe all the air out of a tornado’s vortex, the seemingly bone china head being a puny match! Nevertheless, my ‘Fiercely backed by logic’ theory has just as much room in this scene, as does an elephant, in a pinhole).

Our ‘Out on a stroll in the springtime weather’ Hero, in matching red shiny pants and a green shirt (Dare I miss the yellow tie? This is perhaps what they tag the ‘spring collection,’ heh?) hears the scream (And most notably manages to get away with only a flinch – which is perhaps why he is the ‘Hero’ amidst lesser mortals like myself who are still reeling from the aftermath of it – ear plugs and all), and is at the spot just in time to catch the damsel in distress in his waiting arms before she falls in a disgraceful heap on the ground (My, my, how sweet!!)

The camera angels on her long eyelashes, coral lips, unblemished complexion (On screen of course!) and can we grudge our knight in shining pants as he falters in his step and is momentarily transported to that celestial place where we are given to understand, they manufacture the golden sun, moon and shining star dust, to play peek-a-boo with the angel of his dreams, now in his arms? Anyways, reality gatecrashes in the form of a gentle tremor in the swooning maiden’s nape (A fast dying pulse, for those of you unscientific lot) and our hero pulls himself together (understandably with some effort), retrieves a Swiss knife from his pocket (Given to him by his dying guardian some 20 years back for just such an incident, amidst a fire engulfed backdrop as their only home, where the ‘soon to be strutting hero’ passed many happy hours, is perishing. At this juncture, one cannot help but wonder what our ‘Mr. Always Resourceful’ would’ve pulled out if the scene had the heroine stranded on the 14th floor of a building caught on fire….a light weighing, foldable ladder perhaps?), makes a slight incision (little realizing that he is only further aggravating the situation, were this to be real life) at the bite site and sucks all the venom out (At no point take lightly, the affect created by the background track, dearest reader)

The attempts not eliciting any response in the sleeping maiden, our hero decides to kiss her one first and last time before stabbing himself with the same Swiss knife (yes, you read that right!) that failed to save his beloved’s life (Intended to serve as a cue for the spectator to reach for a tissue box).

And hey presto! The ‘Kiss of true love’ (Delivered by the same mouth that just some minutes back had sucked out venom and blood; Word of caution – Don’t be thrown off your chair by the rose bud that springs out of nowhere to cocoon the ensuing action!) miraculously saves his dearest’s life from the clutches of the ‘Kiss of death’ and she awakes ….to his melting eyes and trruuueee loooovee, to the violin’s serenade.

Take 2

The duo dancing around a mulberry bush as the heavens rain glimmering stardust and gold.

P.S. – In the meantime, the whereabouts of the poor snake, anyone? Ah, who cares that it narrowly missed being maimed for life by our gentle Diana’s ‘not at all gentle’ heels and has slithered off to a spot farthest from all the action? No no, the jingle jangle of the heroine’s bangle as she dances on a freezing mountain top in a short skirt makes for a much more interesting watch. This most sensitive writer begs being excused from describing hero Sher Khan’s attire. Amen.

 

Action!

A village setting with farmhands engaged in transplanting rice stalks amidst lush greenery, the cuckoo’s call, and vibrant sun rise. A curly haired, moon faced infant strays away from the watchful eyes of his mother (who is engrossed in discussing drumstick Sambar recipe and the last night’s fight in the locality with a fellow farmhand) towards a nearby anthill (which is subjected to being showered with flowers, milk, eggs, incense…the whole deal during festivities, but is otherwise off limits for the remaining part of the year).

A nearby dove takes flight all of a sudden, and the cows tethered in the vicinity take to some frenzied mooing in the dusk-verging-on-becoming-dark (Time sense is just as prominent a feature in these scenes as is common sense, so no surprises there!) and the infant lets out a sharp cry.

Roused midway from describing the addition of diced onions and sautéing it, the ever so vigilant mother realizes that her child is no longer under the banyan tree where she had left him sleeping in a makeshift saree juulaa (which is like a good 3 feet above the ground, so how the toddler got out of it unscathed is of little concern now).

Everyone runs in the direction of the infant’s cry (lost in the din being created by the mother’s shrill decibels filled lamenting) and the horrific scene that greets them could well be traded with being struck by thunder a hundred times.

For a coiled serpent, in all its hooded viciousness is within striking range of the infant, and the baby, sensing his mother’s presence starts wailing more lustily, little realizing his precarious perch, as the scene would have us believe (In truth, the infant’s feisty cries could’ve been easily avoided if his mommy dearest had concentrated more on fixing him his bowl of Cerelac than in perfecting the right drumstick Sambar, but tis too late!).

In a matter of minutes, naïve turban clad farmhands going about their daily duties, magically transform into spade wielding, blood-seeking avengers, and just as abruptly have their self-proclaimed super powers come to a halt when they encounter the cornered reptile (The fact that they outnumber the snake 50:1 is no consolation at all – for them, or for the terrified ophidian).

As lesser mortals quake and are mulling over resorting to more nonviolent means of appeasing the gods with an offering of milk and eggs, a flying spade which narrowly misses one of the huddled member’s ear as it goes swirling in unimaginable formations, crashes into a hundred splinters in front of the hooded reptilian.

As the viewer looks to the source of the rotating weapon expecting a martial ninja, they encounter – A shoe. Yes, the flat side of a shoe raised high in air for impact, and it slightly shifts, to uncover a cigar and a supposedly rakish smile-sporting face in summer shades (remember tis getting dark? But huh! Who cares for such nonsensical trivialities?).

As the crowd watches agape, all attention now riveted from the crying infant to this modern day messiah in jeans (and of course shoes), the path on which he walks suddenly transforms into see-through glass (God Almighty, Take me now!). For how else does one explain how his every footstep (in slow motion, as he walks with swinging arms and the ‘melts rocks, hearts are no match’ smile) is captured from beneath – every speck of dirt and pebble in the sole of his shoe, with such prominence that any budding actor would die or kill to share in that kind of screen space.

The hero walks towards the child’s mother who with folded hands, is crying alternate tears of incoherence and deliverance, and smiles (The kind that one reserves for viva examiners or the traffic police when caught on the wrong side of the road). Deliberately (As though he was deciding between red wine and white wine from the menu at a restaurant), he removes his shades, revealing penetrating eyes (If we are talking of penetrating a slab of melting, gooey butter on a simmering pan that is) and hands them over to a nearby bowing vassal, in full isstyle.

Next, he turns his expert (For nothing else will do!) attention at the wretched serpent and stretches his arm (Whoosh!) and magically, a levitating log (Yes, those are here to stay) appears from nowhere (whoosh whoosh whoosh) and shoots in the direction of his doomed victim – a nearby coconut tree (#@%!@@). Hold on, simple beholder, for the tree in turn is shook violently (as birds freeze midair from the impact and ocean waves momentarily pause in their motion of crashing into one another) by the impact and releases a big coconut which comes crashing on the snake.

The villain thus assassinated, our hero now pacified, returns his magnanimous attention to the stupefied crowd (can we dare blame them?) who in a moment regain their ‘senses’ and cheer their savior to the heavens.

Post accepting like 5 rose garlands, flashing his poster smile and stopping an aged person from touching his feet and instead hugging him (For the scene would be incomplete otherwise), our most tender hearted hero lifts the infant (who by now has stopped crying, perhaps recognizing a strong contender for attention in the hero and giving up) off the ground and hands him over to his mother (The full-paisa-vasool scene)

Action 2:

The entire village gathers to celebrate the season’s harvests and to make offerings of sweet Pongal to the village deity (Yes, you guessed that right, the backdrop for a song in praise of our hero as he walks, on a path strewn with flowers by starry eyed girls).

Epilogue:

The toddler grows up to become the apple of the entire village’s eyes as he wins umpteen bull fights, fights goons processing country liquor in his village and for teasing the women folk , and would move mountains to get drumsticks for his mother’s special sambar. That a snake died – both a literal and a figurative death on his account is but an insignificant memory, long forgotten in this upcoming hero’s (part 2 of the sequel) glorious story.

 

Scene 1

This time, the action takes place some 20 years thence as a teary eyed hero recounts his most guarded and sorrowful flashback (To a gathering crowd comprising of the heroine who is nursing a glowering cheek – evidently slapped by the hero in response to a playful rebuke she made which deeply hurt his sentiments, inspired the slap, and the barrage that is to follow).

‘A small hut by the sea side, a happy family of parents and our ‘still waiting to shed the baby fat’ hero who takes it in turns to go piggy back riding on each of his parents.

That theirs is a family which is low in materialistic gains but richest on the more, meaningful assets of life is undoubtedly demonstrated … All in one song (Father buys mother bangles with the meagre pennies earned from toiling day and night, the mother foregoes her morsel to ensure her family is well fed, they visit a temple and share a coconut piece amongst themselves, sleep on a coir bed and point at the full moon as they complete each other’s lines and the waves gently crash in the background….and all that seemingly never ending saga).

And then one day, calamity strikes.

In the form of a large, black snake which would’ve struck our little hero (and thereby saved us this entire litany, but hell! Life’s unfair like that) as he is returning from the village fair, having bought his most priced passion – a wooden horse, along with his dotting mother.

But no, the epitome of sacrifice pushes her son away from harm’s way and instead of making a run from there (as ‘common sense prevailing’ folks might do), throws herself on the snake’s way, suffers a bite, froths from her mouth within seconds (easy there lady!), makes her miserably crying son promise to be good, grow up to be great etc. etc. and dies.

Thereby resulting in a shattered home from the heartbroken father taking to drink, and the son having to relocate from their most beloved ancestral home, and all that jazz.

The story finished, the hero looks to the heroine, and she runs into his open arms, crying her apologies for provoking him into slapping her. The crowd (though with some super human effort) manage to swallow the big lump in their throats (God be with you if you mistake it for puke, dear reader) and wish the couple years and years of togetherness (no doubt of some slaps and make ups) and happiness.

Take home from the story – Never judge a man for raising his hand on a woman. Dig deeper (And take leave of your thinking part of the brain while you are at it) and you’ll realize – that a murderous snake invariably always has a hand (okay, a fang, a tail, a scale, an anything!) in it.

 

The above citings would only constitute part 1 of the evidence, if snakes could ever file litigations against the cinematic denizens. For part 2 would be entirely dedicated to the pitiful allegations made by just one particular species of the snake race – The Spectacled Cobra, or the ‘Icchadhari Nagin’ as our most lucrative film industry has portrayed it to be.

Trust me, if the ‘Icchadhari Nagin,’ which translated means ‘A shape shifting serpent’ could really perform magic tricks, as popularized by our Indian cinemas, its trademark would’ve been the ‘Vanishing trick’ – far from all human interference!

Alas! The mere witless being that it is, the Spectacled Cobra has unknowingly and most blamelessly, invited the contrary and consequently been subjected to much untoward attention.

Snakes aren’t shape shifters, vengeance seekers, magical beings in possession of precious stones, and all the other fantastic portrayals that our media and folklore hear-say has painted them to be. Rather, they are simple beings which are some millions and billions of years away (if the evolutionary need ever arises that is!) from developing more complex characters of a complex memory system and emotions – traits that are a given among us humans, and form the crux of ‘being hurt,’ ‘holding grudges,’ and ‘subsequent plotting.’

In other words, snakes are purely instinctual beings striving to satisfy their basic existential instincts of hunger, thirst, mating, and self-defense. Their wiring is so primeval that even ‘Motherly instincts,’ commonly witnessed among other species of the animal kingdom while birthing and nurturing their young ones, are present in ‘minimalistic to verging on null’ degrees in these beings.

So while ‘Humanifying’ snakes may seem like a great fuel to the imagination, we urge your attention to the fact that such a tendency has targeted the poor snakes to practices, which are far from ‘Being human!’ That said, in our efforts to scale over the walls or ‘Deewar’ of apprehensions built around understanding the real snakes, we appeal to your more ‘delicate movie-goer senses thus –

 

# Vote for saving snakes, choose conservation. 🙂

 
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Snakes are here to stay. Fear need not!

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Snakes bite. Well, so do shoes.

Snakes have a rather startling hiss. Same applies to a pressure cooker indicating that your favorite biryani is cooked.

The scales of a snake are ‘Eew! So slimy!’ By the same logic, shouldn’t nicely set blackcurrant jelly be discarded – as yucky?

Snakes pose a threat to one’s safety. As if the electricity in our sockets, flame in our stoves, and the kitchen knife are any less harmful (More so, if truth be told)!

As we gradually cut into the dense fog of misconceptions, myths, and fears shrouding these fascinating beings – Snakes, we can perhaps match a parallel from our daily life to every one of their characteristics.

Why then don’t we jump at the thought of conserving snakes, as we might go at a shopping spree for new shoes? Or why isn’t the scenario of coexisting with a snake as welcome as a plate of steaming biryani? Ever tried acquainting yourself with the beautiful world of these slithery beings, as you might aspire to perfect, just the right jelly recipe?

If you find yourself answering the above questions with a resounding NO, stating that it isn’t their morphological and behavioral characteristics (some real, most perceived) in silos, but rather, the combination which has you bringing down the gavel in the verdict against these fragile beings, then please take note – snakes play just as crucial a role in balancing the ecosystem (of which humans are very much a part) as do your essential amenities of electricity, warmth etc. to facilitate your everyday wellbeing.

That said, why are we so given to loathing and fearing snakes, our evolutionary contemporaries?

Are snakes such beastly beings that they evoke and instill sheer dread at their very wake?

Then please take note that it’s also been said – ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder!’

Is it that we are ‘Genetically engineered’ to fear snakes?

 If yes, why aren’t babies instinctively scared on encountering images of snakes, as studies have shown?

Let’s dig deeper beyond our pre-conceived notions and resulting apprehensions about snakes, and turn to sound reasoning in our quest to unravel our fear of these fascinating beings.

A research by leading developmental psychologist Vanessa Lo Bue and et al has revealed that just because the fear of snakes is almost universal, it needn’t necessarily mean that it is innate.

Based on experiments involving very young children, some of the salient features of this research are:

1)    Babies are not born with a fear of threats in general.

In other words, environmental conditioning has a major influence in our developing and manifesting fear.

2)    Humans have a perceptual bias resulting in their quick detection of evolutionarily relevant threats – in this case snakes, and associating them with fear, in quick succession.

This finding was arrived at as a result of an experiment by De Loache and Lo Bue which involved the subjects (both infants and adults) to view an assortment of images, which also included the image of a snake.

Invariably, the participants (adults and infants alike), found the snakes more quickly than relatively harmless objects, such as say for ex: Trees.

A proposed explanation for this deduction is that the early man might have been wary of snakes (along with lions, tigers, poisonous toads, spiders etc.) as a potential threat to life, and passed on these genes to the subsequent generations. Moreover, evolutionarily, those possessing a ‘wary’ nature in this relation were more likely to pass on their genes to their progeny, than their ‘less wary’ counterparts.

Thus, we can conclude from the above statements that we are ‘programmed’ to be ‘wary’ of snakes, and pre-disposed to associating them with fear with subsequent life encounters, as opposed to evolutionarily harmless stimuli such as flowers.

That said, an interesting takeaway from the above and related series of exercises was that this recognition of the snake’s image in infants, was not accompanied by the generally expected corresponding fear.

This leads us to the third deduction which is –

3)    To develop an actual fear, learning is required.

The early man was wary of several stimuli, for ex: other wild animals, as evolutionary threats…then why doesn’t the thought or image of say, a lion, produce the same alarming phobia as does that of a snake in us, the resultant gen?

While the evolutionarily plausible reason is that the relative frequency of our encountering a lion in our day to day life isn’t as much as that of our encountering a snake, there’s more to it.

Media portrayals of vengeful transfigurations, surrounding mythology, internalizations of misconstrued fear, literary references….snakes have been cornered everywhere, as allegories of ghastly beings intent on causing distaste and havoc.

Add to it the set in stone fact that of the 2500-3000 snake species across the world, only about 500 or 25% are venomous.  Furthermore, two independent researches conducted by Chippaux JP. and Snow RW. have revealed that a whopping 80% of snake bite cases in developing countries first consult traditional practitioners before seeking medical intervention, and consequently, most fatalities are recorded during transit to hospitals owing to the delay.

Equipped with these facts, can we really blame snakes for all the man-made hype construed around them? We are angling for a ‘realization-dawning No’ for starters, before we work towards turning the initial resounding NO against snakes, to one that is a straight thumbs up in their favor!

The write ups following this will all examine several angles – the above mentioned media portrayals, literary inferences, cultural citations and more, to present to you the real snakes – beautiful beings which never cease to fascinate and enthrall.

And in doing so, if we can get you to ponder over (with silly potshots, staunch research findings, unravelling of baseless myths etc.) and overcome your initial stigma towards snakes, and come to think of them as vulnerable species best left to their own ways with zero or minimal human intervention, we’d consider ourselves half way there, in our constant efforts towards effortless conservation.

 
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The Friends of Snakes Society – Who We Are & What We Do….

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‘You ought to be really tough to save snakes.’
A member of the ‘Friends of Snakes Society’ might smilingly tell you otherwise.
For, to feel for a cowering being, cornered into a tiny crevice and outnumbered manifold (as might sometimes be in a typical rescue situation) – that’s more along the lines of a sensitive heart.

So what if the ‘cowering being’ is a snake-a species that’s held in utmost fear (thanks to centuries of reinforcement), despised even, and tops the list of ‘Definitely don’t want to cross paths with?’
We’d still request you to hold back the fireworks.

Coz, albeit unseeming (going by the hiss, the raised hood, or a defensive posture as may be the case), snakes are just hapless beings, probably more shy of human interference, and bearing the brunt of skewed misconceptions and being ill quoted, since time can tell.

The Friends of Snakes Society (FOSS) is an NGO, founded by Late Sri Raj Kumar Kanuri in 1995 to conserve snakes, and in doing so, standing up for these limbless beings.
What started out as a fledgling (or should we say snakeling?) attempt with a close knit circle of just about 4-5 friends in a makeshift garage, has today branched out to span over the state of Telangana, with hotspots in Hyderabad, RangaReddy, Karimnagar, Adilabad, and Medak.

Founded with the core objectives of rescuing & relocating snakes, mitigating snake bites, creating awareness, and actively engaging in Herp research and Behavioral studies, we’ve come a long way – thanks to our current relentless base of 150 members, and growing!

Testimony to our remarkable feats is our equally impressive stats. For instance, we rescued and successfully relocated close to 3500 snakes in the last year, and reached out to about 1 Lakh people through our awareness sessions in some 250 locations, including schools, housing communities, and MNCs, to name a few.

Needless to say, we have carved out a niche for ourselves in active conservation and work hand in glove with the Forest Department to curb poaching, recording wild life census, and other wild life relief related activities.
Our rescue activities have grown to encompass the treatment of tottering birds injured by the synthetic ‘Chinese Manja’ during the kite flying season and other wild life as well over the years. 
We have earnt ourselves bragging rights in this regard, by rescuing around 100 non-snake species such as Peafowl, Tortoises, Kites, Monitor Lizards etc. in the year 2016 alone.

Our most salient breakthroughs in the recent years was to publish a paper on the Indian Egg Eater- A very rare snake species, conducting research on the Stout Sand Snake – another golden find, being granted blanket permissions by the state govt. to carry out our operations across the entire state, and recording the birthing of a two headed Russell’s Viper, caused by a very unusual genetic anomaly, that made it to the papers.
Furthermore, we play a key role in the rescue of exploited and emaciated Cobras from snake charmers during the Indian festival of Nagapanchami, owing to the umpteen exaggerated and falsely circulated myths surrounding these snakes, making them target to some very inhuman treatment.

We are presently looking at expanding our operations across the entire state of Telangana and having our very own state of the art Reptile Park which will be a first of its kind in the state, in the next 5 years. And going by the leaps and bounds by which we have progressed and the milestones we have achieved in the recent years, we are definitely on the path to realizing our collective dreams.

Not at all surprising, considering the endearing zeal with which each one of our members share and work towards our common ethos.
Whether it be scaling heights in the pursuit of a dangling bird, slushing in some one’s underground tank to rescue an astray Pond Terrapin, meticulously working on a Rat Snake trapped in fresh tar, or bathing and force feeding an emaciated Cobra……our members have risen up to every ambiguous situation, thereby leaving no stone unturned, in our efforts for overall conservation.

An extended family comprising of people from all walks of life, we tackle cleaning animal poop and receiving prestigious awards such as the Title of ‘Jeeva Yvidhya Rakshak’ by the State Biodiversity Board, and a Letter of Appreciation from the US Consulate, with equal panache.

One can catch us in action between 1 PM to 5 PM on Sundays at the Nehru Zoological Park where our members conduct awareness sessions to the masses, or simply drop by our facility for a visit and to befriend some beautiful beings. In case of spotting any ‘unexpected visitors’ at your premises, you can give us a call on our rescue helpline number 8374233366 and be rest assured of having one of our members over in no time ( In this, giving Pizza delivery a run for their money, as one of our members jokingly remarks).
For more, such as a detailed presentation on the identification of the commonly found snakes in India, the Big Four venomous snakes, first aid measures in the event of a venomous snake bite etc., you can reach out to our Awareness Coordinator at 8374233377.

Easy comradery, strong kinship, an undying passion for conservation….the Friends Of Snakes Society is one love, that’s for here to last. For, in living up to our spirit of ‘We Save. We Serve’, we do much more – We ROCK!!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 
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Snakes – Scary, Nasty, Awwwful, Kill-at-sight, Enemies of man, Soooo not happening!

If you harbor feelings akin to the above about these limbless beings dear reader, this blog is just for you!

For we at the ‘Friends of Snakes Society’ (FOSS) understand that it is difficult to connect with (forget like!) that which has been shrouded in mystery and presented to you as vile, for ages now.

Think Snakes. Think – Shy, Nature’s bounties, Awe-inspiring, Key to ecological balance, Eternally fascinating, Salient species.

Find yourself resonating along these lines in describing these fragile beings? Then know dear snake enthusiast, this blog was designed keeping just your interests in mind!

For we know that your kind of love and revere is one, that’s broken free of ages of shackles.

An NGO working to conserve snakes and other wildlife, we’ve been tagged several colorful descriptions – ‘Snake charmers, Weird, Brave, Hippies…’ being some of them.

But just like our cold-blooded friends, we shy away from most attention and emerge only to engage in activities that are in line with our ethos of being ‘Passionate conservationists’ – a tag that we collectively self-identify with.

Staunch missionaries set out to spread the message of conservation, we plan to stop not until our goal is reached – a goal which is towards a planet, minus the man vs wild conflicts. So what if we have to scour places far and wide to give live demos, overcome odd terrains at odder hours to rescue wildlife, and spend indefinite hours immersed in observational studies and in penning research papers?
We take attempts like these and more in our stride, on our road to effective conservation.
 
Starting this blog is one such attempt. Although germinated in the physical form (or e- form is more like) from the communion of a lighthearted suggestion and an ensuing serious discussion, the initial seed was long before sown, to connect with a crowd, which believes in the power of the written verdict.

A picture is the equivalent to a 1000 words, and words are the leeway to one’s expressions. But none can equal the magic that is experience. To witness the hatching of a delicate snakeling with bated breath, after following its developmental course from the embryo, or reveling in the warmth of watching a recuperated Kite take flight and soar in all its magnificence…….these are moments best experienced than described.

And so through this platform, we will be donning on all the hats possible and beyond, to share with you our experiences and learnings, from getting to know these beautiful beings, for the better.  And in doing so, we hope to preach to you, our undying love for all things conservation, and see if we can make a convert of you.

The plan is to channelize and leverage upon this space to serve as a discussion forum on wildlife and conservation. And in doing so, to move away from formal knowledge sharing, and introduce connective story telling.

In other words, to marry pure research driven logic with unparalleled passion.
That’s our outlook towards our dream of effortless conservation. And we cannot achieve it without – YOU.

So come join us, as we attempt to etch out a happy story of conservation, by saving snakes.
For as Nicolas Cage has aptly quoted – ‘Every great story seems to begin with a snake.’

 
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