The above image was extracted from the Wikipedia web site – Rat Snakes
It was one of those dry and dusty Sunday summer days in Pune, India. The abundant greening of the nation during monsoon season had long passed and been replaced with a uniform brown dust and rock where grass had recently grown so abundantly. Flame trees kept a brave presence in searing dry heat, providing shade to itinerant dogs and ruminating cattle. Punkers (fans) whooshed the air around high ceiling houses behind locked doors and windows as residents tried vainly to keep heat out. Servants moved languidly around their places of work grateful they had a retreat during the day from their small living cubicles, and the omnipresent band of relatives living there in semi-permanent residence. It was one of those days when you fought to keep eyes open so you could deal with jobs needing attention.
So it took a while to register there was something of note happening outside. One of the servants slowly made their way to the window and drew curtains aside to peep out, turning to beckon the others who, in a sudden burst of energy, sped to the window to see what was happening. Everyone loves a *tamasha!
The excitement at the window eventually sparked our interest and we joined the cluster of servants peering at the direction of the noise. In the distance we could hear shouting; then a small army of children burst into view, plunged across the road and burst through our front gate.
The servants looked at each other in fear. * “Sap hai!”
Well it was more than a snake. This rat snake was a giant, and even from a distance as its coiled body thrust it forward it was travelling as fast as those children were as they ran at breakneck speed shouting behind the monster. Snake and children rushed through our yard and headed for the hospital next door.
Now at that precise moment nurses were going about their business in the autoclave room and the snake seeking to escape that mass of shouting children spied the open door and an assortment of equipment which could provide shelter from which it could defend itself from danger. Nurses shrieked in terror as the giant sped into the room and lodged itself among stainless steel hospital equipment. They fled sending trays and instruments clattering to the floor behind them.
Nurses, doctors, children and whoever could rise from a hospital bed gathered outside the autoclave room to discuss the situation.
“Call Kunk Sahib,” suggested one of the children.
Now Kunk Sahib was considered to be the resident *shikari of the community and it was known he owned a licensed hunting gun. His wife was professor at one of the colleges in town, but Kunk Sahib preferred the open spaces and the hunt.
It was agreed calling Kunk Sahib was the best course of action under the circumstances.
So the mass of children evaporated in the direction of Kunk Sahibs home a kilometre away while their place was taken by the complete staff and as many patients who could move from beds, along with residents of the community and nearby village who’d now heard of the entertainment at the hospital. The sap watched them from behind equipment and contemplated its next move.
Then after ten minutes Kunk Sahib appeared dressed appropriately in hunting attire with a substantial hunting gun slung over his shoulder. He was followed by a rapidly swelling army of children shouting in excitement and pressing in to touch the gun. Kunk Sahib stood straight and tall and moved forward with the commanding appearance expected of his heroic reputation.
Then at last he stood before the door and considered the situation. One blast from that gun would probably do extensive damage to hospital equipment so that was out of the question. The sap must be brought into the open again so Kunk Sahib could demonstrate his skills. He pointed at one of the watching *Mali’s.
“Bring the snake out!” He commanded
All Mali’s standing in the crowd evaporated instantly as the men standing in the crowd looked at each other in alarm. Would they be picked next by their shikari to perform this noble act? The men followed the example of the Mali’s and moved rapidly to the perimeter of the crowd out of harms way.
Kunk Sahib surveyed the crowd with distain and produced a long stick. Advancing into the room he gave the snake several nudges, but this only made the giant try to retreat further into crevices between the equipment. But as the prodding pain became more intense that giant snake in desperation lunged out of the room toward the crowd which instantly disbursed in all directions.
Kunk Sahib emerged from the room sweating and in hot pursuit of the snake.
“Bahar Jao!” he yelled to the departing crowd as he lifted his gun
There was a loud report as the gun went off and the shattered snake flew into the air in its death moment.
The crowd immediately congregated to discuss the event over the broken twitching body of the snake. Everybody agreed that Kunk Sahib was a hero indeed and his formidable reputation was deserved. He was accompanied back to his home with cheering and a promise that his name would always be remembered as a man of great honour.
“© Ian Grice 2011 All rights reserved”
Tamasha – There’s probably no accurate English translation for this word. Let’s say exciting event shall we?
Sap – Snake
Shikari – the Urdu/Hindi word for hunter, from shikar ‘hunt’ (compare with sicarius, Latin for “assassin”),
Mali – gardener
Bahar Jao – roughly equivalent to “Get out, or perhaps move aside!”