| Neeranjan Bhaskar eats a snake in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Painters are known for their idiosyncrasies but Neeranjan Bhaskar is dead serious when it comes to snakes.
The 35-year-old has snakes, in all shapes and sizes, alive and slithering, round the year, one everyday.
Bhaskar, who is a vegetarian otherwise, claims to have gobbled up more than 4,000 snakes, including different types of cobras and kraits, since childhood.
Every morning, Bhaskar hunts for snakes on the banks of the Ghagra. The first time he ate a raw snake was when he was seven.
“It was the monsoon of 1977. I was a student of Bal Brahmachari High School in Ranchi,” recounted Bhaskar, “A dhor snake attacked me. I tried hard to fight it off, but the snake did not leave me. When I did not find a way to get rid of it, I bit the snake, in a fit of anger and pain. I continued biting it and finally ate it.”
The first experience was interesting, said the painter, and added that the snake’s blood tasted like raw milk. “Since that day, I started eating a snake everyday,” he says.
Bhaskar’s parents remained ignorant about their son’s appetite for snakes for at least seven years. “My father noticed it when I was 14-years-old. He tried to stop me. But I had already developed an addiction for the snakes,” he said.
He gave a live demonstration before a team of journalists in Ranchi by catching a dhamin from the banks of the Ghagra.
He finished chewing the reptile in 15 minutes. Amused people looked at him as the painter looked around for snakes in the holes, under the rocks and in cracks on the riverbank.
Finally, he caught a pair of dhamin but let one go. Then he realised that one of the snakes had bitten him on his right hand. But an unfazed Bhaskar said it was nothing serious, as the venom would cause him no harm.
Bhaskar, originally from Arah district in Bihar, wants to get himself into the Guinness Book of World Records. “The present world record of living with deadly snakes is for 32 days. But I am sure I can stay with the reptiles for 40 days at a stretch if given a chance,” he said.
He had to face problems because of his eating habits. “Doctors at Sadar Hospital did not entertain me when they came to know that I ate live snakes,” said Bhaskar, who had gone there to get treated for typhoid.
Bhaskar is married and has four daughters, whom he has trained to deal with snakes without fear. “They do not eat snakes but play with them,” he said.