Sarp (Snake)

By Anuradha S. Bannore

Ramlal lived with his wife Gainda in Sarp, a remote village. It was so named because various types of weird snakes were found in this village. It had muddy hillocks, thick bushes, trees; in fact it was full of all sorts of vegetation. People never dared to venture out of their huts after sunset not only for the fear of wild animals but mainly because of the snakes. Many believed that most of them were non poisonous but the very thought of a snake chills ones blood.

There was a thick bushy area one of the hillocks which the villagers couldn’t avoid crossing and its here that there lived a pair of Nag (Cobras). It (the pair of cobras) was a very old one and had developed whiskers. What was surprising was that whenever anyone desired to cross that patch they would carry milk in a coconut shell bowl decorated with turmeric/ vermilion tilak around it. Placing it down they would call out to the Cobra saying, ‘Nag Dev (God) I’ve brought milk for you, please let me pass.’ The snake would slither from just nowhere and allow the person/ people to go from there. Though unbelievable it was the fact.

Ramlal and his wife had prohibited people from killing that pair of Cobra. It seemed to them as if the Cobras in some way had a connection with them because    whenever Gainda sat on a chair in her field the Cobra would come and sit near her feet. She would talk to it as if talking to her own child. She would ask, ‘So where have you been today? Hope you haven’t been naughty and bitten someone. Are you hungry? Do you want to play?’

Hearing her talk in this way with the snake lying at her feet frightened not only the villagers but also Ramlal, her husband. He would very often scold her saying, ‘Are you mad talking to a snake as if it were your child? It sits at your feet doesn’t that scare you? What if it bites you? Don’t you know how very poisonous Cobras are? If you die what will become of me, have you ever given a thought to it? It’s not a pet. It’s a Cobra! A Cobra! An extremely venomous snake! For God’s sake stop being naïve and don’t you ever again go and sit in the field on that chair.  One bite of it is all that one needs to say good bye to this life forever.’

Gainda would listen to this same ranting everyday with a smile and nod her head from side to side saying, ‘Why do you waste your energy unnecessarily when you know I’m not going to listen to you? It’s my friend and child and I’m sure it’s never going to ever hurt me. It loves to hear me talk to it. So just forget it. Stop bothering your head and worrying like this. I won’t die till God wishes me to nor will you or anyone else as a matter of fact’ Saying so she would laugh it off which scared the life out of her husband. He thought she was becoming senile.

He was frightened for her sake. Actually they were childhood lovers who finally got married. They still loved each other immensely and couldn’t imagine life without one another. The very thought of it was a nightmare to both of them.

Anyway life continued the way it was, with Gainda spending a few hours daily talking to the Cobra after she had offered it milk. Ramlal would keep praying to God while she was away, ‘O God, please don’t let anything untoward befall my beloved Gainda. She doesn’t listen to me. Please protect her from all dangers. I can’t live without her.’

Unfortunately one day when Gainda who had gone to the field didn’t return her husband was sure something terrible had happened to her because she was never late in returning home. He literally ran to the field where he found her lying on the ground. She had probably stepped on the Cobra and with its characteristic temper it immediately bit her in self defense.

She seemed to be breathing her last. He held her tightly in his arms sobbing like a babe, ‘Dearest didn’t I warn you a thousand times not to play with that snake? I told you it was a deadly Cobra but you always laughed it away and now see what it did to you. He snatched you away from me. O my beloved Gainda how will I survive without you! It should bite me too so that we can be together once again. Where has that coward run away? Where is it hiding now?’

Hearing him shout and cry the villagers came running. They had to literally fight with Ramlal to take Gainda from him and rush her to a nearby hospital where she was declared dead after a few hours. Ramlal was a completely broken man. He could neither be consoled nor calmed. While lighting Gainda’s funeral pyre he got a heart attack and the flaming wood that he held fell on his hand burning it awfully. He had to be immediately rushed to the hospital. Though after about a fortnight he had been discharged, his hand was still in a pretty bad shape. When everyone would be sleeping he’d switch on his mobile staring at his beloved’s photo with tears rolling down his eyes. He would talk to her as if she was there with him.

What really surprised the villagers was that after Gainda’s demise the snake would daily come and sit near her chair looking listless as if missing Gainda.  The villagers on the advice of a lady put a piece of Gainda’s sari near the chair. To everyone’s shock it would lie languidly on that sari and one day they found the Cobra lying dead curled up on that piece of Gainda’s sari. It seemed as though the pain of biting and killing someone who cared for it was too much for it to endure.

Snakes can never be pets. They believe in the theory of self defense for survival. They are well known for their temperament but somehow this particular Cobra seemed to behave in quite a different manner. Its behavior is really quite amazing after it bit Gainda. This is something that really happened in one of the villages in our country, India. The story is based on it.

About the Author: Anuradha S. Bannore is a prolific writer and an alumni of Jabalpur University with M.A in English. She retired as a teacher and currently lives in Vadodara India. 

 

3 Comments

  1. mrs bannore,your story reminds me of Kushwant Singh’s similar story ‘Mark of Vishnu,’ where a simple village man placed a saucer full of milk for a cobra regularly but unfortunately he was stung by it and died.
    this is a well written story which also warns people not to be led by false superstitious beliefs
    after all snakes are reptiles and not humans
    in this world man cannot trust man … so snakes are but snakes … you cannot change their inherent nature

  2. i posted a comment on this story where has it vanished after moderation?

  3. Thanx Ms Diwakar. I haven’t read the story you have mentioned but I’ll try to find it & read. In reality ‘snakes drink milk only when they are dehydrated.’ I was surprised to read this recently because in India many people offer milk to them especially on Nag Panchmi & the snake does drink it but as per my reading it’s only because the snake charmers dehydrate them for quite some months before Nag Panchmi. Just as in my story the villagers offered milk to the Nag & said it did drink it so may be it was because of dehydration that it drank the milk. Snakes drink only water..Read it on Google

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