24 Jun 2022  |   06:58am IST

The yank that saved me from a deadly sting

Hariharasastry Narayanan

Harking back to the days of my childhood I remember a ghastly incident that occurred in the mid-forties at Salem Extension, a residential locality in Salem district. Ours was the first house in a street where every house was in the middle of a vast open ground enclosed by a compound wall. 

In the house that stood cater-cornered to ours, Bajhans were performed regularly by devotees while classes for young boys and girls studying in the fourth to the seventh standards at various schools in Salem and residing in the neck of the wood were conducted in Sanskrit at late vespertine hours and yours faithfully was unfailingly one among them.

In December every year well before the crack of dawn devotees from the neighbourhood numbering about fifteen, dressed in white dhoti with a woollen shawl wrapped tight around the upper half of their body would assemble within the compound of the house. With one of us at the forefront of the knot of devotees reciting Slokas in Sanskrit line by line for the rest of us to chorus, we would as a group start ambling to the Ramakrishna mutt that was about one and a half kilometres away from there. 

When our school broke up for the Christmas I would rise earlier than usual and join the clutch of devotees with, for certain, the consent of my mom. Departing from our street we would move slowly to the mutt. During the predawn hours roads in the Salem district of the bygone days being absolutely barren of vehicular traffic facilitated our movement. Well before the sun could spread its rosy veil on the horizon our procession would get at the mutt to join the other devotees already remaining seated there. 

The sprawling frontage of the mutt would be covered with carpets. There were sandy aisles between adjacent carpets all around. That day as we chanced to reach the mutt a tad earlier than usual, we quickly began advancing towards a carpet in front of us. Alas! When almost everyone in the front row was about to take a step forward, the flesh-creeping sight of a very big cobra entering the aisle between the carpets startled them to retreat a step or two. As they stood almost skipping a breath, as a boy on the right side of nine I was standing in the front row and looking at the petromax lamps on either side. When I was all but taking a step ahead someone from behind clasping my right arm all on a sudden, yanked me back and saved me from a possible sting by the snake. For a couple of minutes I stood with my hair standing on end with untold horror.

Soon after the venomous reptile went wriggling into the kutcha ground on the other side, we moved forward and parked ourselves on the carpet before us. I sat among others fixing my gaze at the movement of the snake till it entered a burrow at the foot of a tall mango tree close to the compound wall.

Later it transpired from one of the priests in the mutt that the cobra never stung anyone, its dwelling in the precincts of the mutt for donkey’s years notwithstanding. 


Idhar Udhar