I live in a metro called Pune in India. Though my home is located right near the center of the city, my house is situated at the border of some hills which is protected under forest law. There is not much construction here and some peacocks, snakes, rabbits can be found. Snakes are abundant here and I have had my encounters with them since my childhood. In the whole animal kingdom, I had been scared only of snakes until I overcame that fear due to my photographic hunger.
A year ago, I was as usual taking out my dogs for a walk. I stepped outside my house and suddenly saw one of my dogs trying to block me from walking to a certain spot.
I immediately understood that something unseen might be there. When my another Labrador went near the spot, I heard a hiss. There it was, a 4 – 5 feet long snake snapping angrily at me and my dogs. It was dark to know what kind of a snake it was. I pulled my dogs back and went ahead with my walk leaving the snake alone to go away to its territory. I came back and saw my mom standing at the door inside, asking me to wait at the gates because the snake was sitting right at the corner of the gates.
There was no way I could stand there for so long, so I gathered courage and somewhat went inside fearing about the snake snapping at us. Preliminary investigations of my family said that it was a rat-snake as it was brown in color with some patterns on it. We wear a bit relaxed then as they are not poisonous. I took out my camera and went out to try some shots even knowing that it would be useless clicking it in the dark with only one flash on my camera. I went and stood on the gate as I was damn scared. I took one picture with full flash and then the scary thing happened. I saw diamond shapes on this huge snake. It was 5 feet long and something like 3 inches thick. I fully grown Russel’s Viper. This is the most unfriendly and poisonous snakes found on the earth. It doesn’t bite just once but has 4-5 fangs lined up in its jaw for multiple attacks. Not only its poison makes your blood clot, but the attack itself is snapping (jumping 1/3rd of its length) and biting the victim. I was playing a dangerous game.
Some instincts told me that this snake was quite disturbed. Normally vipers make so loud hissing that you can hear it from a distance 60 feet away. This snake wasn’t hissing much, but it was flicking its tongue to set me at the right position of attack. Sensing all my moves. I started to be careful and climbed on a vehicle with a stick in my hand. Trying to move it away from that place and move it out of the house. I took a bamboo, 2 inches in diameter and some 7 feet long. I tried to lift the snake, but no use, it was so heavy that the thick bamboo was bending too much. The snake was just looking at me in anger. My dogs were barking too much because they were to unhappy about the fact that they were not in the snake play with their master. I gave up and left the venue and decided to keep a watch all night. Thankfully after 2 hours the snake went to my backyard and I hoped that it leaves my compound.
In the morning, my hopes were turned down. The snake was still roaming around freely in my garden getting all the wild birds panicky. All birds come to my garden everyday for food which we keep for them. It was a panicky situation now. Its not cool to have a russel’s viper roaming freely in your house. I called up the snake park officials. When they saw the snake they also panicked and had to called a senior experienced person to catch it. That’s another drama which I wont go into. Once caught, they took my name & number, invited me to their snake park later. The head there scolded me for playing a risky game with such a dangerous snake. I told him that its my wish to photograph them. He gave me a special permission to click one of their most prized possessions, a King Cobra.
Wow, that was the day. I clicked the king cobra with my analog SLR and then clicked many other snakes with my point and shoot digicam. Too bad that I couldn’t submit the king here because there are no good negative scanners available in my city, and the images that I scan on my scanner always get rejected. But I clicked many other cobra’s, ratsnakes and vipers which I have uploaded here. I also clicked some crocodiles. On that day I learnt a lot about snakes, especially the most important part that King Cobra is the only snake with brains. The zoo officials were actually pampering him on his head with their heads. He was very calm to the hissing of other vipers and cobras that were trying to threaten him in vain.
My fear about snakes is almost gone after closely clicking so many snakes. I learnt to befriend them and understand the beauty in their structure. But still I won’t take a snake in my hands with love unless it is unavoidable or the snake is too friendly :P
Photo credits: Nikhil Gangavane.