I was preparing a tooth for a filling and my assistant, who was mixing the filling material on the working table near the window, suddenly dropped the instruments and started gesticulating wildly. When I went closer I heard her whispering “snake” and following her pointing finger, noticed the creature on the stone tiles in front of our portico. On an impulse, I dropped my instruments and ran out to get a better view. That was foolish. Snakes don’t hear but they sense the vibrations in the ground and move away. If you intend getting closer to a snake you need to tread slowly and lightly. Our snake however seemed to be still young and not well versed with the ways of snakes and hence, had remained where it was.
I had a closer look. It was greenish brown or brownish green which ever you like better, about two and a half feet long and as thick as my thumb. It was stationary, had its head raised and was facing my clinic window. My next impulse was to get a picture of it for posting it on face book. Day in and day out I see all my friends posting pictures of birds, bees, beetles, bushes, butterflies, flowers, plants, clouds, sun and moon and I had not found anything worthwhile. Here was my chance. I ran in to get the camera. (If you are searching for the snake in the pictures, please don’t strain your eyes. The snake is present only in the story and not in the pictures! Pictures only show the spot where I found the snake and where I lost it) That was foolish again. If you want to do anything with a snake, never take your eyes off it. If your eyes are away even for a second the snake performs the vanishing act. But this was a very considerate snake. It pardoned my foolishness and had remained in the same place and pose till I came back with the camera. But I don’t know what made it suddenly change its mind, may be it noticed the camera in my hand and saw the ‘Paparazzi’ in me, it had slithered away sometime between me shifting the focus from the natural eye to the camera eye. Frantically I searched for it and just caught sight of its tail disappearing into the jasmine bush.
This jasmine bush is right next to our portico and from there it is just another step into the house. Now the impulse was to forget the camera and the face book and see that the snake is lead out of our premises before it claimed resident status in 139/6, Curti- Ponda. When your intention is to prod and coax a snake out of your property the camera is of no use and so, I ran in again to get a stick. Third time foolish. It had not taken more than ten seconds for me to get back with the stick (we keep some sticks next to the front door because I take one for my morning walk and we use them to shoo off dogs, monkeys and when the situation arises, a snake) but by the time I got back, the snake, probably fed up with my foolishness, did not want to have anything to do with me and had moved away. I did not find it either in the jasmine bush or anywhere around.
Now there were three possibilities. It might have gone deeper into our compound and reached the back of the house, it might have gone out the way it had come or it might have followed me and entered the house unnoticed. The floor of the portico and the steps are polished and snakes usually do not prefer polished surfaces. And if you believe my wife, our veranda is so cluttered with compressors, inverters, shoe racks and book shelves and looks so horrible that nobody would feel like entering it. Assuming that the snakes harbour similar sentiments, I ruled out the third possibility and decided to make sure that it was not anywhere within the compound.
First I beat the hell out of the jasmine bush and proceeded slowly towards the back of the house. After trying to prod and coax a length of flexible rubber pipe, a strip of cloth and the exposed root of the papaya tree to move out of our compound, I realized the futility of trying to chase a snake out without my glasses and - no, I did not run back for my glasses. I stood where ever I was and called for it. I was getting wiser! (Though there was no point in getting wiser at this stage) Now, fully equipped with my glasses and armed with the stick I proceeded in a methodical search.
I searched the gaps between the stone tiles placed on the ground,
overturned the stones supporting the papaya tree and made it lose its balance,
rolled out the discarded car tyres disturbing the lizards relaxing in their houses,
and went through all other places which may welcome a stray snake. My efforts only produced half a dozen cockroaches, few lizards, an army of ants, and a centipede and having found no sign of the snake or its tail anywhere and I declared our property free of snakes.
My wife and son refused to accept my word. My wife said that she has more faith in my son’s contact lenses than my glasses and directed him to repeat the search. My son went around the house once again with extra care under the expert guidance of my wife (who was directing the operations from the balcony) and after another exhaustive search disturbing some more members of the peace loving fauna residing with us, endorsed my declaration.
I went back to work (my patient was even more considerate than the snake and had waited in the chair all the while) and within another two minutes found my assistant dancing near the window once again. I went to the window and believe it or not, our snake was there again in the same place on the stone tiles looking at the clinic window! I believe that snakes do not have eyelids but I felt that it winked at me as if challenging me for another game of hide and seek. I could afford to lose the goodwill of the snake but not of the patient (‘paapi pet ka savaal hai’) and so, I just stood there watching it and not displaying any eagerness about starting another game. The snake waited for a moment and having concluded that I was not sportive enough it glided out beautifully as only snakes can, through the water hole in our compound wall towards the thick bushes growing next to our house and disappeared from my sight.