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Just a dose of painkillers to beat cobra bite - Manipur snake catcher eyes a place in record books and a zoo to keep his reptile friends

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  • Published 27.01.08

Imphal, Jan. 27: Snake poison does not kill — if you believe that it won’t kill, that is.

That’s snake catcher Dijen Laishram’s thesis, after he “ate” poison and let a cobra bite his thumb for eight whole minutes. And all he needed to get back on his feet again, believe it or not, were painkillers.

A college dropout, Laishram, better known as “daaku” in the Ningthoukhong neighbourhood of Manipur’s Bishnupur district, began catching snakes to prove his parents wrong.

“When I was a child, my parents used to say that I would die if bitten by insects. They told me not to touch them. But I did not believe insects could kill us. So to prove that insects are harmless I started catching them,” he said.

He soon graduated to catching snakes and it was not long before his “obsession” with reptiles threw up a career opportunity and ignited the desire to earn a place in the sundry record books. “I want to make a career out of snakes. I want to become a professional snake catcher and also own a farm of reptiles, snakes, insects,” said Laishram.

This 30-year-old lean man claims to have caught more than 200 snakes, including the king cobra, in the past 15 years.

“I tried keeping the snakes at home for my zoo, but I had to release them because my parents would not allow me to keep them,” he said.

His immediate plan is to find a way into the Limca and Guinness records for his expertise in the art of snakecatching, which he learnt by watching Discovery and Animal Planet.

Laishram discovered his other “special” ability — he can consume snake venom — again while trying to prove that snakes were actually, well, harmless.

“Once I caught a cobra and ate its venom. I felt sick for about one week, but nothing happened,” he said.

He removes the venom into a glass and eats the venom once it turns to powder.

Not satisfied with “eating” poison, Laishram let a medium-sized cobra bite his left thumb in 2004.

“The cobra did not leave my thumb for about eight minutes. I again fell sick and recovered after taking some painkilling tablets. You will die if you think you will. But nothing will happen if you believe that nothing will happen,” he said.

His dream of finding a place in the pages of record books and establishing a private zoo may or may not come true, but reptiles, especially snakes and lizards, are benefited from Laishram’s obsession. “People at Ningthoukhong no longer kill snakes or lizards if they enter their homestead. We call Laishram and let him catch it. He then releases them in the wild. Our area is filled with snakes, as Ningthoukhong is on the fringe of Loktak lake,” Rashi Devi, a housewife from the area said.

Now Laishram is busy monitoring the food habits, mating patterns and lifestyle of the insects. “Without knowing them, you cannot run a zoo. I have enough land for setting up one. Once I learn enough, I will set up the farm,” the snake-lover said.