While living in the Ramathapur along the banks of a water tank, our house was on a Dolerite Dyke with red soil and partly with alluvium. Near our house about 80 meters away, there was a snakes hill or nest, locally called ‘Pamula Putta”. The terrestrial snakes prefer to reside especially in the red soils, which are more comfortable and relatively remain dry during the rainy season. These are the original resting places of the ants or termites after they have abandoned occupied by the snakes. The Hindu women especially workshop snakes. Especially, once every year during the Nagula Panchami. The putta mannu or ant hill soil has a great value for maintaining – biomass stoves, the earth floor and the mud walls in the traditional houses.
It was during the summer vacation; I was studying in 6th class. It was a hot day. As we were living in the asbestos corrugated roof house, it was even hotter. The electricity was never continuous to run the ceiling fan. It was very hot outside, as it was afternoon. My mother did not permit me to go out and play in the scorching heat. She asked me to sleep for some time. So I have chosen a room partitioned in our kitchen. This place was relatively cool. Although there was no window, the floor was plastered with cement.
I slept on the bare floor, for about an hour. My elder sister woke me up, telling that kerosene has come in the ration shop and I should go and get it. In those days one need to hurry up to collect the Kerosene as and when it arrives at the ration shop. Otherwise, it will be over soon. We don’t know when the next stock would come. The shop owner also sells some of it in the black market and always creates a shortage. Some people use it as fuel in the autorickshaws and other vehicles, replacing the petrol or diesel as it was low priced due to the subsidy. So there is always the shortage of kerosene. We had two kerosene wick stoves and also a biomass stove in the courtyard. LPG was limited, and it was a luxury in those days, so we could not afford one LPG stove. I left to Narsing’s ration-shop with the empty Kerosene Dabba, i.e., five liters reuse Castrol tin can. Even for getting kerosene we need to stand in a queue. Getting sugar, kerosene and sometimes wheat from the ration shop was a big task for me, especially waiting to get it.
I returned home, as I was close, I saw a huge crowd around the house. At first, I thought, there must be some street fighting going on a typical scene. But my doubts were clearing, and anxiety was increasing as I saw people turned towards our house. Someone told me that there is huge cobra snake inside our house.
It happened that when I left to the ration shop, my elder sister Subhadra, started cleaning the room with a broomstick. She went into the place where I was sleeping in the afternoon. As she reached the corner of the room, she heard some sound. She was afraid and called my mother. My mother, she also heard the hissing sound, for her it appeared as though two cats were fighting and making the hissing sound. This room was dark at that time, and there was no current. She at first thought that the sound might be coming from the trunk box in the corner. She opened the hinged door, on the top, there was a cloth cover, which fell backside of the trunk box. She did not find anything. Still, the sound was coming, and it was even louder. She slowly dragged the trunk box and saw the cloth which fell backward in the corner. Now she lifted the cloth, suddenly with a shock she saw a huge cobra it stood on its hood. She ran out of the house out of the house in fear. Called some people to do something about the snake. That is when I have arrived.
Many people have the experience of killing the snakes, but they were not interested in killing this particular snake. Because in this room one of the shelves was used for praying. All the idols and images of the gods were there with a small lamp lit. This snake pointed towards that shelf with its full hood was not moving at all. Everybody said it is a gods snake and they would not kill it. Traditionally we also pray Cobra, consider it as Naga Devatha or Cobra Snake God. So my mother slowly approached towards the snake from a safe distance prayed it to go away. It was not moving at all. She thought of finding someone who could do something regarding this. She left the doors open and was walking briskly towards the temple. The priest of the Satyanarayana Swamy temple was preparing himself to go to the temple. He was putting the vermillion on his forehead and body at that time in the courtyard. He saw my mother rushing, asked her what the problem is? She told the situation. He said although we consider it as a god, it is a poisonous creature, we cannot live with it. He stated that he would come and see himself. He also tried let it away from the room; it did not move an inch, it was still focussed and remained the same. Now he took the task to himself, he said, I do pooja and pray God every day, so if I kill it, there is no problem to him. He took a boulder and from behind climbed the separating wall in the room and just dropped the boulder on it. With a thud, the snake was killed, and there was blood splashed all over the place. Now people slowly came in to see and pulled it outside. Someone put a copper coin in its mouth, and the people cremated it with due respect. The burnt copper coin later is tied to the thread tied around the the waist of children. It was considered as auspicious. The traditional belief is that if they burn it, its soul will not take revenge. Later in the life of the poojari, there were many problems, and he became very poor and sold his house and left the temple too. My mother used to say that because he killed the snake his life became worst.
Finally, the surprising thing is that how I could sleep with a cobra in the same room. Because when I left, my elder sister immediately started sweeping the floor and the snake was there already. Some people said I passed the pamu gandam or threat to life from a snake which was supposed to happen in my life.
Another time, a small baby cobra entered our house. In those days the power cuts were for hours together. We used to have a kerosene lamp. It was around 7:30 pm. My father was also there at home. We just returned from the ration shop and kept the bag leaning against the wall. My mother lifted the bag to take out the things from the bag and found this baby cobra. My father killed it.
Another time, my mother was doing the gardening work during the rainy season. She saw a small banded krait snake emerging from the hole of our neighbor’s house basement. She saw this and, with the bricks lying nearby, she killed it and went out to throw it outside the compound wall. When she returned saw another one emerging out, killed it too. She was waiting to see if any more would emerge. On the whole 18 snakes appeared, including a big snake, probably its mother. She killed all of them. With so many poisonous snakes within the compound, it would have been risky to our lives too. We still appreciate her courage to deal with the poisonous snakes.
The GEO research center started at Jangaon is surrounded by fields. In the beginning few days after procuring the land, one day, I was walking towards the GEO Meet place. This place had very dense plants. I was observing the birds and looking upwards. Suddenly with a hiss, a cobra opened its hood. I turned and saw just behind me a big cobra. I still remember the pipe in its mouth opened during the hiss. It immediately went under the asbestos sheets placed on the ground. I realized, we are in the natural habitat of the snakes, so should give respect to their space. Since then, whenever, I walked in the wilderness or bushes, walked with caution and with full presence of mind. Sighting of snakes in the GEO Research Center has become common, have seen many varieties of snakes.
After completing one of the rooms at GEO Research center, I decided to stay at the center. The first day I stayed is memorable. I came with my two kids. Mr. Mahesh was working with me was staying in the town. This day I said we are going to stay tonight at the center. Having seen so many snakes around, he was afraid. There was no power and the room was just completed. My kids feeling secure in my presence did not have any fear and they agreed to stay tonight at the center. There was a lamp made with an empty liquor bottle by inserting a wick. The light wobbles with the slightest of the wind. My children slept in the middle, Mahesh was searching for a place guessing, if snakes enter into the room how and in which direction they would move. After about 10 minutes of planning, he had chosen a place which is safer for him to sleep. Later we bought some foldable beds, whenever I stayed there, I always slept on the foldable bed laid outside in the open. Letting the snakes pass by without any hindrance to their natural paths. No animal harms humans unless they are threatened, or else it is just and accident.
In one of the rooms which was constructed with the earth walls, there appeared a huge termite mound about 1.5 meters above the floor. Initially tried to remove it by chiseling away the soil and also sprinkled Kumkum and Haldi. But it appeared again. People said it would attract snakes and could become a habitat. I left it as it is. Considering that this house is situated constructed in their habitat, and there is nothing wrong in giving some space for them to live with us.