Have you not seen a cobra? You roam around so much in forest how come you have not seen one?
A question many would ask when I claimed not to have seen a cobra in the wild. Having handled and seen various venomous and non venomous reptiles till date, I somehow never had this chance of seeing a spectacled cobra, let alone handling one!
Yesterday, Tapan, my roommate in the hostel came all excited into the room carrying something in the book. Known for not having the habit of exchanging pleasantries, i went directly for the book and asked him what was in it.
lo behold! A small cobra between the pages of the book!
As I saw the seemingly lifeless snake, many things went through my mind as to how it died, how he found it and the way he had carried it to the room! One by one, all the questions were answered through systematic bugging if I may call it; Parallely pulled out my camera to photo-document the snake. He very picturesquely and emotionally explained how a cyclist passing on the road ran over it (intentions not known!) and how himself and Sharon, a senior stood helplessly watching the snake writhing in pain and doing death rolls like crocodiles until it lay still on the road where it was run over – in front of Pillai Vinayagar temple (what a place to die I say!! It would go straight to heaven!). Another passing ecologist confirmed the snake to be dead and safe to pick up following which, tapan got the snake to the room between the leaves of his book.
Partly listing to tapan and cursing those idiotic people who do such harm to these harmless snakes, I kept shooting the snake holding it in my hand, for a moment something told me the snake was not dead but kept the thought to myself not telling it to vivek or tapan. A while later, I dug out a forceps from my bag (Pandora’s Box if one could call it!) and forced open the jaws of the juvenile snake, a clear examination of the teeth tongue, breathing tube etc were done and observed with a lens and the length measured with a thread. The cyclist had neatly gone over the head and jaws were almost sealed.
I wanted to take some more pictures of the eye before calling it a day and put the snake down. The next moment the snake came alive! Started coiling and writhing in pain, each time rolling on its back and doing loops. Tapan’s joy knew no bounds! I quickly started a video, also debating with vivek on “humane” ways to put an end to the snake’s misery which was followed by a heated argument followed with Tapan - a true die hard activist and optimist wanting to release the snake and let nature take its course where as us, practical optimists who knew the snake was suffering and would not make it in the wild.
Not being one of those to listen to others opinions, me and vivek decided to kill the snake ourselves. By the time, the death roll was over and the snake fell motionless again, the only movement happened when I picked it up again, the death roll went over again lasting for about half a minute after which there was no movement. May be it breathed last that time, but to ensure the misery has ended, I got some cold water from the freezer and put the snake in it into a specimen collection vial. In a few minutes, the cold blooded snake must have met its end for it dint seem to move. Much against the will of my room mate who had found it and got it to us…
Having felt happy myself to have done some good, I continued with the days work not worrying about the snake but got a shock when another senior of mine pulls out a snake from his pocket and shows me the same snake and tells “Look, Cobra”!!
How it exchanged hands and ended up there I wouldn’t know! Not do I want to!
Not bothering much of the snake, me and vivek asked him how he found it and how it had died-
“Someone found it, it was impaled with something in the neck”
I did want to pretend to curse the one who killed it and portray myself as a good gentle caring soul…But decided not to, for reasons not worth mentioning here.
So much so for seeing and eventually having to kill my First Spectacled cobra!