Sunday, 09 December, 2018

slithery sagas

The scorching heat also brings with it some very unwelcome guests to our homes as snakes try to get some respite from the blazing sun too. A few snake rescuers in Goa share their strangest experiences while on call

Story: PRADNYA | GAONKAR | 06th May 2018, 02:50 Hrs

With rising temperatures, its not just ice cream parlours and juice centres that are in demand. The snake rescue teams phones have been constantly buzzing. Indeed, the scorching heat has seen snakes coming out of their holes and searching for cozy cool places to take shelter in instead. Often, unfortunately, these places are the homes of people.  

The worst part is that snakes have the habit of making themselves comfortable in the most odd of places. From kitchen to bedrooms, tiny window creeks to toilet commodes and air-conditioners, no place is spared, admit snake rescuers in Goa. “On one occasion I have rescued a Whitaker’s Boa (Konkani : Malun) and four Spectacles Cobra on five consecutive days in the same house!” says Johnson Stephen,Vasco. “Similarly in another instance four Bronze back Tree Snake were inside a Spilt AC unit at the same time. These situations happen during their mating period where rescuers encounter more than one snake.”

“I once received a call from a man in Shiroda who informed me that a cobra had lodged itself in the glove compartment of his car,” states Charan Desai and then cautions, “It is important therefore to check our cars before we begin our trip. Snakes always make me crazy with their amazing adaptation and hiding skills.”

Divine intervention

What’s even more bewildering for these rescuers however is the mentality of the people they encounter sometimes when they are on call. On a rescue call at Priol, Desai bagged a cobra. It was then that the owner opened up about what they had been upto before we arrived. Turns out that they assumed that owing to the size of the snake and the fact that it wasn’t spreading it’s hood, that it was a rat snake and had tried driving it away with a stick. “One of the wise men, found a supernatural technique and sprinkled holy ash(vibhut) on the animal. Miracle! The cobra started hissing and they in turn realised that it was dangerous and called us,” discloses Charan Desai. “The owner then concluded that Lord Baba (very famous) had sent us to rescue the snake and that he saw the divine image of the saint(baba) whose vibhut he had sprinkled on cobra. Such experiences always boost my love towards my work. I get to learn many things and get to meet wonderful people.”

The snake visits a barber

Another call found Desai at a men’s hair cutting salon in Ponda where the divad (rat snake) was taking a stroll in the salon while all the hair cutting professionals were standing on the salon chairs. “Unfortunately a customer was getting a shave done and the guy who was attending to him had stopped half way and climbed the table. The customer however seemed more afraid of the possibility that he would have to leave the place only half shaved!” recalls Desai. After he bagged the snake, the owner presented him with an interesting deal- a lifetime free haircuts. “Considering my barren plot above, I admire his business skill and calculated offer,” says Desai chuckling.

The case of the blue tongue

Charan Desai recalls another instance when he was trying to rescue a snake with his bare hands while the locals cautioned him about getting bitten. “Upon noticing that my tongue was blue which was in truth because I had just eaten some jamuns, an old lady concluded that this was because of all the snake bites,” says Desai.

Hero of the day

However there is no place as crazy as getting a call from a bar. “Many self- proclaimed snake catchers induced by alcohol take it upon themselves to play hero for the day,” says Desai. “A few days back, at a bar in Shiroda, one spirited soldier managed to catch hold of the tail of the snake. However, when they asked him to show the snake, there was nothing in his hand!” The snake ( a rat snake) meanwhile had entered an open box where post worship flowers had been thrown. “The snake’s act of entering the sacred place resulted in naming the snake as cobra and devacho(godly)! The customers then decided to keep the box in the middle of the road outside the bar with no one watching it. Thankfully the snake did not move or escape for 40 minutes till we reached and rescued it,” adds Desai.

A snake with a beard?

“The locals of a village I had once been called to witnessed a snake shedding it’s skin, something that they had never seen before. Finding it strange, they informed our team that the reptile was very old and has a beard. We had to later explain to them that this is a natural process and there was nothing to panic about,” narrates Kedar Pandurang Marathe, who has had his share of strange on call experiences. In fact on another occasion at Dhavali, a cobra was stationed on the rooftop of a house. “As it so happened there was a funeral happening in the house that day and I was told by the residents that the soul of the departed family member had now entered the snake,” says Marathe.

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