I always talk of how I grew up with two lives, one, that of the familiarity, simplicity and the virgin beauty of a village along with the connectivity, modernity of a town. Madikeri, though very small with a population of just around 45,000, is very modern in outlook, something I miss in the restrictive attitude of the place I am posting this from. The merits of growing up in a mixed environment like Madikeri is not the point here.
The point is that my house in Madikeri is in the middle of the town, but we are sort of away from the town as a small estate surrounds the house. So, it is like a village mansion in the middle of the city. We play hosts to a number of beautiful, and sometimes exotic, birds, insects of the kind that I have never seen elsewhere, very very rarely to a mongoose, a koala bear (this was years ago. My dad tells me the story often but I dont remember.Wonder where that came from? In Kannada we call it 'kaadu paapa'), turtles, huge frogs and snakes.
Snakes have been regular visitors to my house. During the summer when we would keep the doors open to let in a wiff of air to ruffle up my frock or blow the hair from ma's eyes, someone had to be stationed at the door to keep an eye on these reptiles. They would be soaking up the sun in the lawn and lazily crawl in to cool off on the red-oxidised floor. Most of them were are the ones that still come in are rat snakes, more scared of us than we are of them. On two occasions, if I remember right, we have had cobras inside. We got someone to shoot the first one that had hidden in the prayer room and repented by offering puja to it. Brahmins are not supposed to kill cobras apparently and my granny insisted on a ritual. This was when I was in my second grade. I remember my dad had come late to pick me up from school while ma had been keeping a watch on it.
The second time around, I was in high school and I still remember how it had got into the dark store room, all shiny black and glittering under the 40-watt bulb. Try as we might, we could not chase it away or kill it. After a while, it just slipped away between the tiles and was never seen again. Then there have been 'kat-havu' (I dont remember its English name) with marks on its body that made it look like it had been cut into pieces. These are mildly poisonous snakes and while most of the time, we just let them go, we had killed them too. Now let me make it clear. We are all animal lovers at home. We hate it when we have to kill a snake and I know all of us utter a silent apology for doing so, but sometimes in the fight between us and them, the 'us' have to survive.
I have a lot of snake stories that I want to write about. A couple of them have been making our kitchen and adjoining room their mating place for two years running. More on that tomorrow.