a russell’s viper, RIP

It so happens that we live in a outskirty area of Bangalore – near a lake, orchards and meadows and fallow fields all around us, but with very few houses near ours and happily so, only a few human beings. So – birds, reptiles and rodents make merry while the stunning greenery forever tries to encroach upon ‘cleared’ lands.

So much for happiness.

With us beginning to occupy the lands that once all happy animals literally roamed free (in fact just 5 years back there were a siginficant number of rabbits in the area, not to talk about the wild boars), the lives of these animals are forever threatened.

Among all these endangered animals, poor snakes are the worst hit. Practically every week some snake or the other gets killed for no reason. Most of these are rat snakes, sometimes I am able to release the rat snakes from a definite doom, but not always. 

Today it was the case of a splendid Russel’s Viper, it must have had a hearty meal before it was mercilessly executed, as the snakes tend to be sluggish in responding after a heavy meal – it looked so majestic, some good 1 metre long. I was late in responding to the commotion in my neighbour’s place, and got to see only the battered and crushed snake, with its life slowly ebbing out. Of course the blood splattered road was cleaned rather religiously with Dettol (whatever) by the killers  even as the snake was consigned to flames.

Our children were disconsolate for quite a while, and we had a tough time trying to explain, but how can one explain away a cold blooded murder?

Our friends in Thekambattu were able to see to the safe-slinking away of a Russell’s Viper at their place. We were not so lucky.

What is poison? What is NOT poison?  If I bite into you (ha, most of you know by now that I am rather rabid, to say the least!) won’t you run to a hospital for some antivenom injection? Everything is poisonous and does some harm if taken in sufficient quantities. I am poisonous. You are poisnous. But we never talk of poisonous human beings. But we talk of poisonous snakes!

What about the constant poison that bleaches our brains clean every day? It also constantly fills our head with toxic thoughts and at best with mighty useless trivia. Like how Shahrukh Khan has named his pet dog. But we never break the monstrous TV sets for how poisonous they are to us. Instead we give then a primary place in our living rooms! Oh sorry, I should not forget that the living rooms are those rooms were people die along with their TV, good riddance too!

I don’t understand the extreme and illogical fear that Snakes generate in us human beings. I think it is some kind of racism, apart from the learned suggestions of erudite scholars of these anti-snake feelings, that they are allegedly part of our brain make-up, ever since homo sapiens sapiens started evolving and all that.

I consider this, the worst case of racism because it follows the same kind of thought process that made the Auschwitz possible;  snakes inhabit the same earth, but they move differently – they slink away; all the other animals in our neighbourhood can walk or at least can take a few baby steps. Snakes cannot, They are different. They look different. They are helpless and relatively in a minority. They are therefore despicable. So, we can get rid of them with impunity!

This anti snake feeling also part of our schizoidal nature. We worship them at one level (naaga devata, naaga raaja and all that) and at all the other levels, KILL them. We worship the mother goddess (many of us exclusively so) and treat our womenfolk, like excreta.

One of these days, in the distant future, some other ‘slightly advanced’ beings may descend on planet earth during their interstellar travels, and may do to us what we routinely do to snakes. We would definiotely look different compared to them, you see…


But, tell me – what could one do? Would educating the few folks that live near us would help? Dialing up some soul that would remove the snake to safety – such as some feller from some snake helpline or something, everytime a snake dares to slither within our eyesight? Devoting one’s life to saving snakes in distress? Can some Pied Piper take away all the snakes to some good countryside?

… Or Killing the people who kill snakes?


Postscript: NammaShaale kids, I hope, would be different. In fact, last year, I had taken a couple of molted snake skins – one that of a rat snake and showed them to the primary children (thanks to the enthusiasm of young Anjana, the adult there) and did a demo of how molting happens. To give credit to the  children, they enthusiastically took part and weren’t afraid of touching the skin at all! In this context I am really happy about our children in NammaShaale. Hope they would become resposnible & caring adults, unlike us.

By the way, it is my experience that, humans generally are afraid of even the snake skin! I have seen guys with their eyeballs bulging out, with froth literally coming out of their mouths, whenever they saw any part of the snake,including a long dead one! And they think I am some kind of a fearless guy, well I don’t want to dispute that! Ha!

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  • Sipayi  On June 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Shameful, I agree. However, I, personally, am not devoid of such feelings. I am very afraid of snakes; even of the ones in cages and zoos.

    After a bit of browsing, I ended here:

    So, I assume, however deplorable and atrocious these acts are, these acts are to be seen from genetics/evolutionary perspective.

    Humans, like other animals, respond to snakes (perceived threats) by either running away (flight,) or by killing the snake (fight.) Agreed, arguable, I still feel that instinctively the killing is registered as putting up a fight against the threat. May be to encourage flight over fight, Hindu religion promoted the snakes to divine status.

    I wonder if it really can be classified as racism: the animal instincts do not undergo rational processing.

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