Saturday, December 13, 2014

Life midst Fear and Risks

It was a trip in the mountains to a hamlet in the Kumaon valley placed in the middle of the woods. It was not a typical touristy set-up; in fact the place just had one hotel which too was under construction. We managed accommodation at this property that belonged to a part-time zoologist, rather a herpetologist. This man was a pure daredevil, at least to me, considering that I am a wrecked case of herpetophobia (fear of reptiles – snake and lizards). Jigendra was studying the king cobras in the region since past 7 years. As much as I had an aversion towards the specie, the more he was in love with the serpentine family.
On the second morning of my stay there, I woke up to the commotion and noise outside my room. I stepped out and saw a few villagers standing outside asking for Jigendra. A snake had bitten one of the village residents and they had come to seek Jigendra’s help. In the meanwhile, Jigendra also came in and all of us sprinted across the winding roads to the victim’s house. Almost the entire village had gathered outside the house and they were spelling out curses for the snake. Jigendra went in and I had to follow him inside with the first-aid kit unwillingly, considering the culprit animal was still inside the house. Jigendra assessed the manifestations of the bite – inflammation and coagulation and gave him antivenin (antidote for snake’s venom). Once the patient stabilized, Jigendra reported that it was bite from a mildly poisonous snake, so the patient was safe.  In the meanwhile, I had already gone pale at the thought of co-habitation with the snake in that house. The entire while, I had been thinking of the dingy nooks and corners the snake might be hiding in or may be it would just drop on my head from the roof. Laden with goose-bumps, I could almost hear my heart thumping midst the hullabaloo around. I almost became frantic with fear when I saw Jigendra searching for the snake in the house. And before I could make an escape from the scene, Jigendra had the animal in his hand and he was holding it out towards me with an amusing smile. I almost screamed at him to keep that thing away from me but he asked me to touch the animal just once saying it was harmless. I would have walked out from there had there been a fewer people around. So with my eyes shut tightly, I just touched the snake with one trembling finger. To my surprise, the animal felt velvety smooth. I opened my eyes. Even the snake appeared to be scared and it was shying away from the crowd. Seeing this reaction of mine, Jigendra did something incredulous. He handed the entire animal to me and I could feel it squirming on my forearm. I was numb and could not utter a word out of distress. Jigendra asked me to calm down and handle the animal with both hands. With all the courage I could gather, I used my second hand which felt heavy as a rock, to pick the animal from the other arm. It was that moment when the futility of the fear dawned upon me and I could appreciate the beauty of the animal. It was a cat snake and it looked beautiful with its scales glistening in the sun. Finally we set it free in the forest to avoid its intervention with human life. The self-assessed risk that I had subjected myself to came in as a life changing experience for me. So much was the impact of this episode on me that I picked up reptilian immunology as my research topic for my doctoral thesis. Overcoming this fear proved to be a milestone for my career. The mountain dew film brings out the essence that risks have to be taken in life to succeed. One may also refer to their facebook page for more such stories-

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