The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Coiled up in fear of the adder
- Nightlong search for reptile in writer’s room proves futile

Shaken by a snake’s entry into her room, the author recounts a night of horror

From the threshold of the room, I saw all my things lying in a mess. The manner in which my books and utensils were scattered around gave the impression that a battle had been fought inside the room. But I did not have the courage to go in. My limbs turned as cold as ice.

My teacher, too, was hesitant to urge me to enter. When I asked the people what snake it was, they said it was an adder.

But two young boys standing at a distance, with staves in hand, said, “It was not an adder! It was what we call a goala, for it drinks milk from cows.”

From amid the crowd, a panda’s son added, “Brahmakunda is infested with adders and goalas. Your Bengali newspaper boy recently chanced upon a pot of coins buried in the ground. He denies it, but we know it for a fact. An adder was coiled around the pot, we’re told”.

My teacher and I then gathered the courage to enter the hovel.

The room was dark even by day. We searched every nook and corner with a torch, which my teacher’s wife, Ms Lekharu, had brought from her room.

Although we rummaged through the room, turning over each and every article, we could not trace the reptile. But everyone had seen it enter. Which way, then, could it have slipped out'

My eyes fell on some holes in a wooden beam, and I inspected them closely to see if the snake had crept into any of them. But some of the men said the snake was too big to enter those holes.

After about two hours, we were all exhausted. It was evening by the time I finished tidying up my room. The enthusiastic young boys who had come to kill the snake had all gone away. So had the hordes of onlookers.

“You cook only once a day and what you had prepared has been spoilt after all the hullabaloo. You needn’t cook again today. Eat at our place and stay with us tonight,” Ms Lekharu told me. My teacher echoed her.

Later, as I approached my room, I broke out in a cold sweat. I had assured my teacher that I would not be afraid, despite the possibility of the snake lurking somewhere in my room. But now I felt doomed and sat huddled up in bed. I did not even have the courage to get off and walk to my reading table. I jumped even at the slightest sound or motion.

I was at my wit’s end. My eyes peered searchingly into the dark corners of the room. After sometime, as if convulsively, I darted out of the hovel and stood in the courtyard, and saw the clear, starlit sky. I was struggling ceaselessly to overcome my peculiar fear. I saw the rusty iron rods of the fencing glittering in the moonlight like sloughed skin. The moon, nestling in a mass of brown clouds, looked entangled, as it were, in the firm grip of a python. I imagined there were snakes and only snakes around me.

It was the first time I had looked up at the sky — after such a long time. But now, there was no pleasure, even in the sky. All I could think about was the snake.


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