Ten years ago I lived in a place which was 45kms away from the city inside the jungle. That is where I first encountered one of the most beautiful creatures – a snake, and right away fell in love with it. As a child, I little knew that the creature which I loved was the most misunderstood one. Everyone including my parents were keen on keeping me away from them, only to fail at the end because the love that I had for these fellow creatures could not be contained in between the four walls. Criticisms only made me love them more. I am 23 now, and I still love them and help them in all possible ways by creating awareness and clearing the myths concerning these creatures, as a proud member of the Friends of Snakes Society (FOSS).
It was the monsoons – the clouds took over the sky, the speeding wind diffused the sweet fragrance of the moist soil. It was not the regular sight one can see in the cities. All the animals were searching for shelter – peacocks were calling out at the top of their voice as if they were calling their friends to come enjoy the rain. I was standing in my balcony looking at the abundance and the joy that rain brings with it. Suddenly I heard mynas screaming, at first I assumed they too were thrilled by the pleasant weather but it didn’t take me long to realise that it was no normal voice of the mynas but instead, an alarm call. As a curious child, I always wanted to be the first to witness any incident that occurs nearby. My mind followed the sound, leading me towards the location and on my way there, all I was thinking about was what could have alarmed those birds and the quickest and most common guesses I could come up with were- a dog, a cat, an eagle, the worst case scenario being the birds fighting among themselves.
Running like a swift footed hare, I quickly reached the spot, and looking in all the possible directions saw that the birds were continuously striking at something. I rushed down to have a closer look at it but still I could barely see anything moving. It took me almost five to ten minutes to locate what it really was. Even then all I could see at first was what seemed like a colourfully decorated bangle. But it hit my brain as to why a bird would be scared of a bangle. So I went few steps closer to it and to my astonishment, I saw the bangle striking back at the birds. I got scared for a second and I realised that the bangle-like thing was none other than a juvenile snake trying to flee away from the striking birds. Though it was very small, it was still looking magnificent for its colouration and the way it was protecting itself. I felt like helping the poor creature, so I dared a few steps closer to the snake with a small stick in my hand. All I wanted to do was to push the snake inside the hole near my house safely without hurting it, and with the stick in my hands I gently tried to drive the snake in the intended direction. But the moment the extreme end of the stick touched the snake, I heard a loud whistling sound as if there was a pressure cooker blowing in the immediate vicinity. Within a blink of an eye I was inside my house, and then I realised how super humans might have evolved – because they were once chased or scared by animals!! 🙂
I also remember my father telling me once that spotting a juvenile snake is a good indication of the mother being somewhere nearby – I now realise that it was just another of his attempts to keep me away from them. It took me 15 minutes to again gather my strength to go finish what I was wanting to do. That’s when I realised that the hissing sound was made by this small bangle-like snake. I was amazed by the ability of such a small creature like that and that was my first face to face encounter with a snake which is feared across the world because of its being none other than the venomous Russell’s Viper. After that day I saw the Viper on multiple occasions and saved it from many people, but as they say – ‘The first experience is the best experience!’ I can never forget that day because that was the day when I fell incurably in love with what I have now come to think of as my life long passion – getting to know and saving these beautiful and fragile beings – snakes.