Yesterday evening I was teaching our five-year-old granddaughter the utility and usage of a microscope using slides of a mosquito and an ant. Then I got the idea of writing this article about my experience with snakes, scorpions and insects. For several years we lived amidst these creatures; or have come across them often and remember those times. By experience; I do not mean from any serious or scientific point of view, but just the way we coped with them.
As I wrote earlier, I was associated with the coal mining town of Kothagudem for over 27 years. As a child I was there for 11 years and then all through high school and college I spent my vacations there and I also worked at Kothagudem for some time. We stayed in a huge company bungalow with a large garden in front of the house and an equally large backyard. The house had plenty of trees and plants. The front of the house had wire fencing on all three sides with Mehandi plants all along the fence and the rear side of the house had a walled compound. The distance between these company bungalows was large with wild trees and bushes between them. Birds, squirrels, lizards, garden lizards, frogs and a variety of insects, butterflies, dragonflies, ants, termites, etc. could be found in plenty in our compound. Towards dusk hundreds of birds would come on to the trees in our house making a very loud noise and settle down for the night. Such noise also existed briefly in the mornings before the birds flew out in the western direction for food. After securing our dogs inside the house our gardener used to sometimes let the people from nearby huts to leave their hens in our garden so that they would eat the termites. Termites usually preyed on the bowers of creepers and plants making them collapse.
Immediately after a summer rain or with the commencement of seasonal rains several varieties of insects swarmed the house in the evenings. As the lights in the house are switched ON the flying insects came in followed by the crawling ones. The flying ones circled the lights and ultimately fell on the floor and the crawling insects were ready there on the floor to devour them. All we had to do in this situation was to switch OFF all the lights inside the house and keep the lights outside the house ON. Then all insects would fly out of the house to the lights outside, when we would shut the doors and windows of the house and switch ON the lights inside and stay indoors. And outside it would be a riot of insects and a big feast for the crawling creatures, frogs and lizards. The next morning there would be insects spread all over our open verandah and outside the house.
Then there were the lovely and friendly ones with which we played a lot like the large variety of small and big colorful butterflies, dragonflies, fireflies and the red velvet mite.
With snake pits in the vicinity of our house, sighting of snakes outside the house was common. They also came into our compound and sometimes into our house. Once they are sighted in the house it was sure death for them. Especially every summer as it is very hot in their pits they came out and into our compound and house for insects and we had to be very cautious at such times. The scorpions too would come out in large numbers in summer. I remember an incident when three big scorpions were killed in front of the house within minutes one evening. There were our dogs to warn us of the movement of these creatures. We relied on our watchman, the family of our domestic help staying in the servant quarters and the people from the huts behind our house to take care of such situations. When snakes were killed, they used to be burnt outside the house after placing a copper coin in its mouth!
There were some very close encounters with the snakes, I will just mention two. Once when my father was going out of town we bade him farewell at the porch. And as we went in we found a large snake coiled at the center of a bedroom where my sister, then aged about ten was sleeping on a cot at a corner. We were not in a position to wake her up and we did not want to frighten the snake out of its position for the fear that it might get on to the cot. As our servants began to group up people to tackle the snake my sister woke up and casually walked out of the room to our utter relief. Later the servants trapped and killed the snake. The other incident pertains to me. Once at my factory some important data was required and as none of us had it with us I decided to retrieve it from the documentation our Japanese collaborators left with us. This documentation was in a box in our electronics spares stores. The box was at a height and I was handling it from a lower height without being able to look into the box. I took out few books and as I was about to take out more books to search for the required data something sprang out of the box brushing over my hand. As it jumped out and fell on a huge cardboard box I realized that it is a five feet long cobra snake. It soon vanished behind many boxes in that store room. I rushed out of the room. The next day we called a snake charmer to catch the snake and to our surprise he caught six snakes in that room!